Work has always been a tricky environment for me when it comes to dealing with questions like “How does God use what I do?” or “Does what I’m doing day in and day out really matter?” or “Am I making God’s world a better place?” What I spent most of my career years doing looks nothing like the work we do at church, on mission fields, in hospitals, or in inner-city work for the poor or marginalized.
Editor’s Note: Contributing writers at Pacific Crossroads Church in Los Angeles recently announced a blog series for this month that “seeks to address the struggle so many of us feel in connecting our workplace lives to our walk with Christ.” The writers state in their introduction to the series: Pacific Crossroads Church has partnered with PCC members Steve and Margaret Lindsey to start an exciting new project called the Center for Faith + Work Los Angeles to minister to this need. The center will launch this month and the 1st Annual Conference is Saturday April 1st. You can find out more and register for the event by clicking www.faithandworkLA.com.
Previous articles in the 4-part series can be read by clicking: The Daily Grind, Get Rich (and/or Die Trying); But What Is God’s Will? and here: ‘I May Have Carpal Tunnel and Tennis Elbow.’ Also, Together LA’s interview story on Steve Lindsey and the center is found here: Ministry Launches to Help Firmly Place Faith Alongside Your Work. ‘Piles of Bureaucracy’is the final article in the series.
I remember being mid-career as a systems engineer designing satellite communications electronics. As one project wound down, I transitioned to a new group to work in an unfamiliar area on a large research and development project full of future cutting-edge technology. It was an exciting challenge but a bit daunting, as there was so much to learn. I was surrounded by world-class talent, and I wondered whether this narrowly trained engineer could broaden enough to keep up. It took about two years of learning, design work, and trial and error before I saw results confirming my work was paying off. Needless to say, I was elated! My boss, a brilliant systems design engineer himself and pioneer in this field, was also pleased (though I often wondered if he inwardly smiled to himself “What took that guy so long?!”). But something bothered me. Did it really matter?
I think, as Christians, many of us experience the struggle of a long-fought-for-result, pouring our life’s energy and passion into our work, feeling the hopes and fears of whether or not our labors will be accepted, and sensing the nagging concern along the way: “Does God really care about all this?” That was certainly a question I struggled with. Sure, I knew that we work in relationship with a bunch of people God loves and cares about in whatever our work context, and that God can use those relationships for his Kingdom. But what about all those thousands of hours of diligent and focused engineering, the results of which remain mostly unseen by anyone? Certainly no one would ever see the details of my contributions with hundreds of lines of simulation code, massive data files, test results, volumes of work stored on some server somewhere, backed up on another server somewhere, likely never to be accessed again. And what’s worse is all that work was likely to be repeated in the fairly near future by smarter engineers with better tools on a newer project that will outperform the best work envisioned in my project.
The words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes haunted me during times like these: “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccles. 1:8-9)
But, then again, there were also those moments… pure joy, deep satisfaction, a sense of worth and purpose, being part of a larger enterprise, building something, something new, better, more efficient, more capable, and never done before. I could have sworn that in some way God was there, he cared, and it mattered. But why would he care? Yet a gnawing sense that my contributions somehow did matter was very present and very real. Though I’m perfectly capable of regular self-aggrandizement and pride, I don’t think most of what I felt was rooted in a sense of superiority or selfishness. It’s hard to describe, but I think it was closer to a sense of deep gratitude. In some way, I wanted to thank God. To sing about it. Party over it with my believing friends, and not just the office buddies. But I didn’t feel like I should. It didn’t connect well with my concept of what God wanted from me. I didn’t have a language yet for what God thinks of the daily grind of our hard work. You know, the stuff you do when you’re not sharing the gospel, you’re not showing compassion to a colleague in need, you’re not doing some extra-curricular service project, and you’re not leading or attending a workplace Bible study. The stuff you do well when no one is looking; hours fly by and you are buried in a spreadsheet, a complex problem, or tedious piles of bureaucracy. In fact, for a lot of us these kind of efforts take up much of the best of our actual career life. Is it possible the Lord of Glory cares about this too? Is my joy somehow a sharing in his joy?
I now think so, and have been on a journey exploring God’s good purposes for our work. Come share the journey with us at the Center for Faith + Work Los Angeles.
Note: This post originally appeared on Pacific Crossroads Church website blog.
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