With the great “walkout” still occurring and employers unable to hire the people they need to operate their businesses and organizations this is a good time to rerun a blog that ran last year. As Christians, our view of work is different—or should be—from that of our secular friends. I have had several requests for this blog, so here it is updated.
“I Hate My Job but Can’t Quit.” A lot of people—Christians included—feel this way. They are stuck in dead-end jobs, but for a variety of reasons are unable to quit and seek employment elsewhere. They may have kids in school, ailing parents to look after, retirement that has built up with their employer, a pressing need for the healthcare benefits that go with their jobs, or any number of other roadblocks.
The best advice for Christians stuck in jobs they hate but cannot quit is this: look for God’s purpose in your job. Of course, an obvious question one might ask is: “How do I go about finding God’s purpose in a job I would quit tomorrow if I could?” A caveat is in order here before proceeding. If you hate your job and have an opportunity to get a better one, do it. The great walkout has created a lot of new opportunities for people who want to work. This article is for believers who, for reasons of their own, cannot leave jobs they hate.
Now, for brothers and sisters in this situation or fellow believers who want to help someone in this situation, let’s begin with an applicable Bible verse (Colossians 3:23-24). “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” When you understand you work “for the Lord and not for men,” enduring a job you hate becomes less difficult.
Would it shock you to learn that even in the worst jobs there can be hope, satisfaction, and meaning? Would it surprise you to learn there can be fulfillment in jobs that are monotonous, boring, and lacking in prestige? Would you believe even if your supervisor is a tyrant, you can find joy in your job? It’s true. The keys to finding meaning, purpose, and happiness in your work are: 1) Remembering what is written in Colossians 3:23-24 about working for the Lord not men, and 2) Discovering God’s purpose for putting you in the job in question and then committing to fulfilling that purpose.
Ichika hated her job. Her boss was an arrogant blowhard, and the work itself was as fulfilling as watching grass grow. Ichika had the experience, skills, and education to get a better job, but would have to relocate to a bigger city to do so. That was the problem. Ichika’s aging mother lived nearby in the same little town and needed looking after. Their small town was her mother’s lifelong home. All of her mother’s memories were in the home where Ichika grew up. Relocating her mother to another town would break her spirit and might even be a death blow to her.
Ichika decided to approach her pastor and seek his wise counsel about her dilemma. Pastor Akira, whose name in Japanese means wisdom, gave Ichika some wise advice. Her told her, “Ichika, your job is a gift from God, even if you hate it. Why? Because a job—any job—is an opportunity to carry out the admonition in Colossians 3:23-24 to serve the Lord by working heartily for him and not men. A job is an opportunity to honor God every workday by reflecting the image of Christ for managers, supervisors, coworkers, and customers who do not know him or, worse yet, reject Him. Never forget when trying to serve God, you can do the most good in the worst situations.”
Pastor Akira told Ichika if all people at work were angels, her leavening influence would not be needed. “Unfortunately, the people you work with are not likely to be angels. This fact makes your potential influence on them even more important. In a bad work setting, your Christ-like example might be the only sermon your coworkers ever hear. Providing that kind of example for those who are lost can be hugely satisfying when your purpose for working is God-serving rather than self-serving.” This advice applies not just to Ichika, but to all Christians who find themselves stuck in jobs they hate.
Regardless of what your employer’s job description says, as a Christian you have a more important job description that comes from a higher authority. This higher-level job description reads as follows: As a Christian, your job is to serve God by reflecting the image of Christ in how you do your work, treat coworkers and customers, solve problems, face adversity, prevent conflict, behave in a crisis, and comport yourself in all situations. This is a job description you can carry out in any job, even one you hate.
For Christians, there is joy in knowing you are serving the Lord faithfully and well by carrying out his purpose in your work. This purpose is revealed in Colossians 3:23-24 where we are told to serve the Lord by working “heartily” for him and not for men. When this is your purpose for going to work, you have gained a calling rather than just a job. Further, you will have a new and healthier perspective on the various factors Christians cite for hating their jobs. You might still be unhappy about poor supervision, bad coworker relationships, insufficient pay, limited opportunities for advancement, or any of the other factors that can make work difficult, but the joy that comes from fulfilling God’s purpose for your work can cast these factors in a better light.
This is not to downplay how difficult it can be to work in a job you hate. Even with the right perspective about your job and an understanding of God’s purpose for you in that job, slogging away day after day in a job you hate will never be easy. In fact, it will require sacrifices from you on a daily basis. Every Christian knows sacrifice is a fundamental Biblical principle, and we are supposed to be prepared to sacrifice for Christ as he sacrificed for us.
We know that Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for us, not just to save us from our sins but also to set an example for us. Hence, he is pleased when we sacrifice for others. This is the message in John 15:13 where we are told that laying down your life for someone else is the greatest act of love possible. Laying down your life for someone else does not necessarily mean dying for them, the most widely accepted interpretation of this verse. It can also mean sacrificing your happiness by toiling away in a job you hate so your coworkers can have the benefit of a Christ-like example. It can also mean sacrificing your happiness to make sure your family is taken care of.
If you hate your job but cannot leave for something better because of the needs of others—whether they are your loved ones or coworkers—you are sacrificing in a way pleasing to God. For example, Christians who stay in jobs they hate so they can be near aging parents who need their help or to keep their children in good schools or to ensure the best medical care for an ailing family member are following Christ’s example on the cross by sacrificing for others.
No matter why you hate your job, if your reason for staying in it involves sacrificing for others, find joy in your struggle by knowing you are pleasing God. In the final analysis, pleasing God by sacrificing for others should transcend any and all of the reasons you might have for hating your job. Further, if you find joy in pleasing God now, imagine the even greater joy you will feel at that point in the future when you hear Him tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com