When did work become a 4-letter word?
As a young girl, I always did a little happy dance whenever my dad invited me to go to work with him. I’d scoot my tiny body as close to him as possible and kneel on the truck seat to see over the steering wheel as he drove. (I know. I would never let my kids ride without a seatbelt, either. Times were different in the early 70’s.)
Whatever we were doing—feeding elk, shoeing horses, hammering boards, fixing cars—I wanted to be right there with him.
But then things changed. As a teen I worked as an A&W waitress, a dishwasher, and a babysitter. I didn’t love menial tasks.
At what point do we form a negative opinion of work? When does delight in doing become chafing at chores?
We assume work is a cross we must bear in order to make a living (or make a home). But what if our occupation isn’t supposed to suck the joy out of our lives? What if the original idea is to give you purpose and pleasure?
Work Isn’t a Curse
God gave us work to do because He designed us to be creators and producers, in His image. From the beginning, before the world fell under the curse of sin, Adam and Eve enjoyed their work in the Garden of Eden.
Adam was in charge of cultivating Paradise and overseeing the animals. His first recorded job was to name them all. Talk about a creative endeavor!
From Adam and his sons came farmers (Cain), ranchers (Abel), musicians (Genesis 4:21), bronze and iron workers (Genesis 4:22)—just within the first few generations.
We’re created in the image of God and hardwired to take pleasure in creating and mastering our craft. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
So what if we hate our work? How do we give God the glory He deserves if we’re resenting every minute we’re doing our job?
1) Find a position suited to you.
If we’re not in a job that matches our talents and gifts, we’re missing God’s best for us, the way we were designed to work.
I know some stay-at-home moms who miss out on their calling because they believe they have to give every moment to their kids. But what if the woman who desperately misses using her other skills could be a much better mom if she could work part time (even a few hours per week) doing something she loved?
If you don’t know what job best suits you, there are a myriad of tools available to help determine which ones you’re specifically suited for. Taking personality tests, hiring a life coach, or reading books can help determine where to best use your gifts.
2) Find a company with the same values as you do.
If you love the actual work, but not the environment, you might be in a toxic job. Gossip, mismanagement, lack of appreciation, and other factors make for a miserable work experience.
If you’re passionate about your calling and want to give your very best, then you deserve to work at a company that fosters productivity and positivity.
Hunting for a better job can be a daunting task, especially if your current environment is draining you. But you only stand to lose more energy the longer you’re in a negative place.
3) Find some rest
Even if we’re in a job where we’re putting our talents to good use and working with a healthy team, it’s still possible to lose our joy.
In this fast-paced society, we’ve all but forgotten about the beauty of a weekly rhythm culminating with a Sabbath rest.
When God instituted the Sabbath, He gave the command to a horde of bedraggled newly-freed slaves whose worth was measured by the amount of bricks they could produce. How they must have rejoiced to be able to enjoy a rest!
We’re not slaves, so why work like one? Enjoying a Sabbath helps us remember that it’s not us, but God who accomplishes His purposes. Ironically, when I began observing the Sabbath, I noticed my work output increased overall. A weekly rest gives us more joy and productivity on the other six days of the week.
Just Whistle While You Work
But what about those tasks we can’t avoid? I don’t know any mom who occasionally wishes she could fling the dirty dishes into the dumpster instead of scrubbing them all yet again.
I’m reminded of a friend from years ago with several kids and no dishwasher; every night she turned her kitchen into a dance party, where the stereo boomed and each family member did their part. It only took a few minutes, and they had fun!
Any way we can add some fun to doing unpleasant tasks can bring back the joy. Listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts. Gather friends to cook and freeze a month’s worth of meals; share some recipes and a lot of laughs together. Make a game with your kids to see who can do their chores the fastest and most thoroughly.
At the office, instigate a nerf ball war at the end of the day. Collaborate when the task allows. Celebrate birthdays and accomplishments lavishly. Play pranks. (Harmless pranks. There’s a difference between changing your coworker’s screen saver to “My Little Pony” and infecting his computer with a virus.)
Work is a Gift
Ideally, our work is a natural outpouring of our natural gifts and talents. Our attitude towards those endeavors often depends on our perspective. We expect earthly rewards, but they are only a tiny part of the compensation. Paul’s exhortation to slaves in his epistle to the Colossians applies to us as bond slaves of Christ as well:
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24