Your Job Life

  • Jeff Crotts
man chopping wood

I want to talk about something more personal to you than you may realize.  I want to talk through the concept of someone’s job being his or her identity.  Some will readily agree with this and some will not.  If you have ever lost a job or come close or between jobs, you will follow.  Our paused economy may have your current job on pause.  Any of these hard grinding scenarios certainly define you right now.  The other side is equally true.  If you have had success in your job or are succeeding, this too defines you. 

I am quick to interject the reality of Christian identity.  True followers of Christ are in Christ.  Employed or unemployed.  It is Christ.  I get that.  With that said there is a hard struggle even for those considered strong Christians that is raw and threatening.  I do not want to come across as calloused.  I am also not trying to be your life coach.  My intent as a pastor is to give voice to an atmospheric issue affecting many people right now.  Something probably affecting you.  This issue is soul stirring.  What needs to be reconciled about your life.    

Back to my premise:  Job is identity.  Some are fortunate enough to have a job right now.  Some, more so, have a skillset that syncs up with their job.  A trade that actually does more than pays the bills.  Most experience a job that combines some “good” some “bad” and some “ugly.”  However, this still does pay the bills. 

I have heard more than once: “If you do what you love then you never have to work.”  There is truth here but think about this statement.  The underlying message actually undercuts the value of what is called work.  “Work” should not feel like a bad word.  God designed image-bearers to work.  Men and women, made in God’s image, create, think, design, build, lead, follow, and produce.  

From personal experience, I know being productive is very satisfying.  Winning the day.  Solving a problem.  Inventing a new way of getting it done!  Think about it.  We were created by God within God’s six literal work days.  God’s workweek.  On the seventh day, God took a day off.  He rested.  Obviously, our inexhaustible God never needs real rest but he did make his point.  Work is God’s original design.  People were created to work. 

Historically the church has errantly confused “work” as fallout from the fall of man.  Man sinned in the Garden so he was under the curse of work.  Working by the sweat of his brow?  Just to clarify, “work” was not the curse.  It is rather the aches, pains, fatigue, and even human limitations and dynamics from working in a fallen world, in a fallen condition that is the curse. 

Remember God had commanded Adam to work his garden and name all the animals all before sin entered the world.      

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15).

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field… (Genesis 2:20).

Work is redemptive.  In fact work-identifications pop up all through the Bible.  The first musical person was named Jubal (Gen. 4:21).  Noah was a man who could build a massive ship. Architects and designers built and decorated God’s temple.  Musicians played instruments and singers sang in temple worship.  Political positions are everywhere in the Bible.  Judges, governors, kings and queens pervade the Old and New Testaments.  Military soldiers, warriors, centurions saturate both Testaments.  There are analogies galore of farmers growing, workers harvesting, athletes running, boxing, and wrestling. 

Wisdom literature prizes clean business ethics for both men and women.  Shepherds guard livestock.  Joseph the carpenter trained his son.  Jesus went after trained fishermen/navigators.  Matthew, a tax-collector.  Luke, a medical doctor.  Lydia, a businesswoman.  Moms, raising children and keeping house.  Teachers, like Gamaliel.  Paul guides masters, servant relationships.  Paul, was a religious leader turned missionary/tentmaker.  There are even full-time pastor-teachers.

Job titles are everywhere in Scripture.  I am leaving out a bunch for sure.  Still, I hope that this serves a basis for my point.  A job is an identity. 

What does this mean for you?  Right now, either you are in a job or you are not.  Sadly, our paused economy has meant that some of you are sitting home furloughed.  Consequently, some of you are feeling full on identity crisis.  Please bear with me.  I am not trying to be a downer. My goal is not to discourage you but to identify with you. 

You might be in a job but lacking job security.  “How will the summer go?”  Whatever the case may be, if you are in an identity crisis related to your job, or lack of one, you are probably not crazy!  In fact, I would say being in a personal tailspin is just about normal.    

Nothing is more energizing an inspiring than engaging someone fulfilled in his or her job.  Someone “swimming in their lane.”  At the same time, there is nothing more deflating than engaging someone out of work or who is failing in his or her job. 

I was just talking to a man in his 70’s, who both owns and runs a service station.  He has been fixing my “well worn” cars for the last ten years.  Suffice it to say, I have seen him in action.  He does all kinds of jobs onsite.  Recently, I saw him refilling the mini-freezer with ice cream bars.  His mechanics are like family.  He knows all their stories. 

My chief observation about him is his consistent energy.  He appears indefatigable.  I heard an energized voice when he called today, problem solving my son’s old and glitchy car.  He was fired up.  Going for it.  I actually believe he will live longer because of his work attitude.      

Assuming some reading this are furloughed or job threatened the last thing I think you need to hear is a  “spiritualized” solution.  Instead of redirecting your problem toward spiritual disciplines or “church ministry”, I want to apply a little shoe leather.  Your circumstance is nothing more or less than a very difficult trial. 

So, what are Christians supposed to do to make it through trials?  First of all, be realistic.  Face this real pressure and acknowledge that God has allowed (cf. Jas. 1:1-5).  Personal defeat will dig deeper than mere ego.  Joblessness throws ego out the door after the first week or so.  Joblessness, certainly can lead someone threatening states of depression.  So, it is important to recognize this reality and seek God’s comfort through soul-searching humility.  Yes, pray more.  Yes, trust God more. Yes, even cry more.

At the same time, remember that losing your job does not mean you should lose your faith.  God uses trials to push us.  To grow us.  This is undoubtedly what God is up to in your life.   

If you find yourself in this situation, you share your immediate circumstances with someone.  Trusted friends or family.  Talk to your pastor.  Perhaps you should share your needs with your church community.  God may supply your needs in unexpected ways. 

Back to my main point.  Do not underestimate the power of job identity.  You were made to produce.  Exercising skills God hardwired in each of us.  If you have a job, be grateful.  It is more than a means to make money. 

If you are out of work, allow me to close with something practical.  While you wait for a new job do not sit idle.  Exert your extra energy into finding a job.  Exert the same energy you would have otherwise used if you were working a job.  Finding a job is your current job. 

Apply for jobs regularly.  Also, use this time to train within a skillset.  Everyday.  Read books about what you want to be doing.  Watch training videos.  Become an expert.  Finally, build relationships with people skilled within your area of interest.  This all takes time and you have the time.  You are running this kind of marathon and you need to know God has built you to run it.  This very difficult trial may be just what you need to develop in unexpected ways.  Lord willing, your faithfulness will make you utterly hirable!