Written by Chong Mei-Fern, Malaysia
I recently hit a rough patch at work, and it was a deeply agonising time for me.
I have been with my organisation for five and a half years, and troubles started when I began to feel that I was outgrowing my role. It also didn’t help that over the years, the position had evolved to require a different set of skills. What initially started as a creative role had become more administrative, and as it continued to head in that direction, I found myself increasingly restless, disillusioned, and ill-equipped for the tasks at hand.
At around the four-year mark with the organisation, I began praying and asking God about the next season. “Is it time to leave? Where would I go? Should I start exploring other opportunities?”.
What I thought would be a relatively straightforward journey of making a career decision (to stay or not to stay) became a 1.5-year journey that was more drawn out than I ever anticipated it could be, and more painful than what I was prepared for.
In hindsight, I can now see how God was using the situation to purify and refine my heart and character this season. Here are three things that I have learned:
Patience does matter
Good decisions are usually not made in haste.
Throughout my struggle with wanting to quit my job, I thank God for His grace of patience.
It wasn’t easy, but I was determined to wait on God before making a move. I took the time to pray and have conversations with different leaders, friends, and mentors. Many encouraged me to explore different opportunities, which I did. However, what I chose not to do was send my resume to multiple companies in hopes of landing any job. Instead, I prayed over positions I was interested in before submitting my resume.
While no new doors opened during this time, I do believe it was God’s grace that every interview I had was an enjoyable experience and helped me discern further if I was meant to stay or continue searching. It was easy to feel frustrated during this time, but I knew that I had to constantly surrender the outcome back to God, trusting that He would not shortchange me, and that if the opportunity was truly the right one, the doors would open.
During this time, I also had a few friends who were looking for new jobs and we would often share our journey and pray for each other. Through their experiences and mine, I saw how important patience was in the process of learning to walk with God and discern His will in our lives.
I learnt through this experience that the need to be patient very often tests my ability to yield, submit, and surrender to God. Patience is ultimately a test of my trust in God. Do I trust God to work this journey out with me no matter how long it takes, or will I take things into my own hands and try to fix my problems with my strength?
More than anything, I learnt that being patient in waiting on the Lord is an act that honours God, it acknowledges that God is higher than us and our desires.
Scripture says the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him (Lamentations 3:25, ESV), and He’s been so good in giving me friends who would pray with me, and opportunities to help me discern what’s next for me.
The motive of my heart matters
One of my biggest lessons over the year and a half was that God desires a heart with the right motivations.
“Why am I restless? What am I really seeking?” These questions were brought to the fore for me during this time. While being in a role that does not fit my strengths is a valid reason for desiring change, I realised that the primary reason for me desiring a new job was financially motivated.
In my personal life, I had sensed the Lord leading me to move out into my place. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly and something I had prayed about for nearly a year. It was after receiving confirmation from various people and having a real sense of peace that I decided to move into my place.
Yet, what I was not expecting was the panic and anxiety that soon set in because of the increased expenses in my life, which sent me into a frenzy thinking I needed a new job that paid more.
Unknown to myself, money was a means of security for me and until pressure was applied to this area of my life, I had no idea how much I relied on my money to give me a sense of safety and security in life.
Looking back, God was testing my heart to reveal these idols and showing me that my desire for a new job was motivated by fear and anxiety over my finances, not necessarily because I felt called to leave my current workplace.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 says the heart is deceitful above all, and God in His mercy, showed me the true state of my heart, and uprooted my idolatry of money and fear so that I could learn instead to fully trust Him to take care of me in every area of my life—not only in my finances, but also in my work.
In the time I moved into my place, not once did I miss a bill payment, even during months when I had emergencies or unexpected expenses. Throughout this time, God was loosening my grip on all the worries and fears I harboured, and was growing in me deeper roots of trust in Him.
Many times, we may think of provision as an answered prayer or getting something we want or desire but I am beginning to see in this season how the refining fire God allowed me to go through was also a form of provision to grow and mould me more into His image.
It was during a worship service when I sensed very strongly that God was saying I should remain in my organisation. A few friends whom I frequently prayed with also confirmed with me that my sensing of what God wanted for me was accurate.
To be honest, I wasn’t entirely happy when I sensed this. After all, I was still struggling at work and as time went on, I was becoming increasingly unhappy and was still finding the role to be a poor fit.
Hearing from God can often feel like a big question mark and a mystery as believers, but the Bible tells us that God’s sheep (that’s us!) know His voice (John 10:27). Over my years of being a Christian and walking closely with God, I have realised that learning to discern His voice is a process. It’s like getting to know a friend’s voice. The more time we spend with a friend, the more we begin to recognise not just our friend’s voice, but also the way they say and do things.
One of the ways of learning God’s voice is to spend more time with Him through reading the Bible, worshipping, and praying. Finding fellow Christians whom we trust to pray with us and seek advice from is also helpful in discerning God’s will. After all, the Bible says there is wisdom in seeking advice (Proverbs 15:22).
I have been walking with God long enough to recognise His voice, and while the decision to remain with my organisation was something I would have made for myself, there was still a deep peace that came over my heart when I decided to heed Him.
Still in the process of finding the “right fit”
I am still in conversations with my leaders at work about a role change and finding a better fit for me. Right now, my faith lies in the fact that God can use all things and that He will never shortchange His children. If He has called us to something, it means that there is a purpose and good to be found in that place even if it does not yet seem ideal.
Am I saying that it does not matter if we are unhappy at our jobs or if they’re not a good fit for us? Not at all. I truly believe that God wants us to be happy at work and that He wants us to prosper with the gifts and talents that He has given to us at work. But there will be seasons in our lives where we might have to stick it out for a bit as we wait on God.
My resolve and prayer in this season are that as I continue to obey the Lord and learn to navigate this situation with humility, God will, in His good timing bring about the breakthrough that I am longing for—a role that fits my strengths and talents, whether within my current organisation or in a new workplace.
In my mind, there is no doubt that as I continue to seek first His purposes, everything else I need will be added in His good timing (Matthew 6:33).