More than half of Americans are dissatisfied in their work, according to a recent survey by the Conference Board, a New York based nonprofit. Work can be stressful, frustrating and exhausting. If we are going to spend the majority of our waking hours working, wouldn’t it be nice to make them as purposeful, satisfying and productive as possible? How on earth are we supposed to do that?
4 Truths About Work
As I’ve investigated the world of work, I’ve realized how easily we lose sight of what work is really about. Much of my understanding can be traced back to biblical teaching. If you’re a Christ-follower, these 4 truths can help you finally find the satisfaction you’ve been longing for in your work.
If you aren’t, please keep reading. Perhaps looking at work through the lens of a different worldview will help you examine how you approach your own work.
1. We Are Designed to Work
Many people believe that work is a necessary evil. Work needs to be done and someone has to do it. How else can you provide for the needs of yourself and your family?
Work has existed since before the creation of man. The Bible says that God himself worked. That’s how the universe was created, through work.
While we may view work as an unavoidable chore, we would not be fulfilled without it. In Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller writes, “Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer and sexuality…without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness.” He goes on to say that without work, we quickly discover how much we need it to “thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”
I see this in my grandfather. When asked about retirement, he shrugs it off by saying, “What would I do with myself?” He, like we all do, has a deep desire to contribute, create, produce…to do something.
By grasping this truth, you can embrace the work you were designed for rather than dread it. We have each been equipped with the specific gifts, talents and skills to carry out the work we’ve been given.
In doing so we will increase the satisfaction we find in our work, knowing that work is a basic human need, something we crave. Working is part of who we are created to be.
2. Work is Hard
Whether you are a business owner, construction worker or stay-at-home parent, you know that work is hard. But why? Why must work be difficult? In Genesis, we learn that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought sin into the world. Paul says in Romans 8 that the world is now “subject to decay.”
Thus work has become a way for us to prove our worth, please others, and compete with one another. It is filled with conflict and jealousy. It wears us down. You might say the rat race was born in the Garden of Eden. No wonder we struggle to find satisfaction in our work.
In the Bible, work is referred to as “painful labor.” We labor to create new products, solutions and ideas. Sometimes we’re successful. Other times we fail.
Either way, the process is painful, difficult and taxing. We experience setbacks, surges, promotions and layoffs. One day we are fulfilled and satisfied, but the next is full of disappointment. This is because of the presence of sin in the world.
Keller writes, “…you may have an aspiration to do a certain kind of work and perform at a certain level of skill or quality, but you may never even get the opportunity to do the work you want, or if you do, you may not be able to do it as well as it needs to be done. Your conflicts with others in the work environment will sap your confidence and undermine your productivity.”
If you’ve found work to be hard and difficult, you are not alone. Most importantly it is not a result of your own doing. Embrace this truth and find solace in the fact that ups and downs simply come with the territory. Expect them.
By grasping this truth, you can accept the inevitable. Rather than focus on the frustrations, you can focus on the work itself and the relationships you build along the way. Celebrate the small victories. You’re more likely to find satisfaction if you adjust your expectations, knowing that your work won’t be perfect and it won’t always turn out as good as you intend.
3. Work Has a Purpose
Why do you work? So often we get caught up in working for the wrong reasons.
In today’s culture it is easy to get caught up in the idols that the world of work provides: money, status, fame, notoriety, power, pride. Yet, every time these distractions become your primary focus you soon encounter frustration and disappointment.
The truth is, we come alive when we see our lives contributing to the well-being of other people, making their lives better in some way.
- A teacher equips young minds with the tools to explore and understand the world they live in.
- A lawyer seeks to bring justice and peace to the lives of those who have been wronged.
- A plumber installs the pipes which are necessary for sanitary living conditions in today’s modern world.
By grasping this truth, you can pursue work for the right reasons, the reasons that will satisfy your true desires. As human beings, we long to be valued and that comes from adding value to the lives of others. How does your work add value to people’s lives? Answering this question will help you find the purpose in your work.
As you grasp this truth, you will increase the satisfaction you find in your work, knowing that you are fulfilling a purpose, benefiting the well-being of others and contributing to the world around you.
4. We Work for an Audience
We all work for someone. I don’t necessarily mean your boss. Some work to impress their colleagues, others work to please their parents or superiors, and yet others work to live up to the standards they have set for themselves. Regardless, Keller says these are inadequate. They will lead us to overwork or underperform and certainly not to satisfaction. Like children, our behavior may depend on who is watching.
Who we work for determines the purpose behind our work. The Bible says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Working for God brings a much different purpose to our work than any other audience.
In Ephesians 6 Paul tells Christians to work “as if you were serving the Lord.” Expanding on this, Keller wrote, “Christians are to be fully engaged at work as whole persons, giving their minds, hearts, and bodies fully to doing the best job possible on the task at hand.” Does this describe how you approach your daily work?
This approach to work is possible when our motives are much loftier than money, acclaim, or power. This comes when we view our work as serving God.
Embracing this truth brings to light much of the dissatisfaction many find in their work, as well as the true fulfillment available through our work. It depends entirely on who our audience is and who we are aiming to please and serve through our work.
When we aim to please and serve God in our work, we are more engaged, more committed and find a deeper satisfaction in the work we’ve been given.
Finding Satisfaction In Work
Finding satisfaction in our work is something we all crave. We want to come home at the end of a hard day knowing we made some small difference in the world. We are all equipped with the necessary tools, abilities and skills to be successful in our work. God provides the opportunities for us to develop these talents and assets to become contributors in our society and to serve our communities.
By grasping these 4 truths, you will find a deeper satisfaction in your work than ever before.
Question: What is one thing that helps you cultivate excellence in your work? Share your thoughts in the comments below this post.