By: Leslie Koh
This must be a rite of passage that almost everyone goes through at some point: to be stuck in a job you don’t like.
(If you feel that you’re in the best job in the world—well, lucky you!)
You’ll be all too familiar with the feelings that come with it:
That feeling of dread that starts on Sunday evening and peaks on Monday morning as you wake up and think, Here we go again.
That sense of ennui you get in the office, going through your tasks robotically and listlessly, staring out the window and wishing you were someplace else.
That temptation to sweep everything off your desk, chuck your laptop into the bin, and walk out. (Personally, I’ve also entertained hopes that the office had burnt down overnight so I don’t have to go to work, but that’s a different story.)
So, what can we do in this situation?
What Can We Do About It
If we were not followers of Christ, we would just have to think about practical issues, like whether or not we can afford to quit, or how to negotiate for a better position. Google “What if I’m stuck in a job”, and you’ll probably find tons of articles giving good, practical advice.
But as Christians, we want to respond in a way that honours God. We want to make sure that our decisions are in line with His way and will, so that we don’t say or do anything regretful.
That makes things all the more challenging, because there may not always be a “right” or “best” answer.
What if God wants us to stay in a boring or tough job because He has important plans for us down the line? Or, what if He actually has a better job lined up, but we need to go out and look for it—or wait for it to come?
With God in the picture, many of our considerations will change. Yet, that doesn’t mean we should simply throw our hands into the air helplessly, and wait for the “inevitable” to happen. While the Bible makes clear that we are to subject ourselves to God’s will (James 4:13–15), it also emphasises the importance of wise, careful planning. Proverbs 21:5, for example, observes that “the plans of the diligent lead to profit”.
Some Key Questions to Ask Yourself
I’ve found that whenever I’ve felt demoralised, asking myself two key questions (and the questions that naturally follow) has helped me think through my situation more meaningfully. In turn, that has allowed me to be more targeted and detailed in my prayers, as well as in my practical plans.
1. What exactly don’t you like about your job?
It’s easy to say, “I hate my job!”, but it would be wise to drill it down further and ask ourselves: Exactly what don’t I like about my job? For instance:
a) Can you ask for a change of job scope, or a transfer? Can you talk to your boss about how you can do more of the things you like, and less of those you don’t?
b) Can you consider a change of perspective, remembering that to do a task we like (in my case, editing or writing), we often have to put up with parts we don’t like (administrative tasks like meetings, composing emails)? Can you learn to appreciate more what you like, and accept the other parts as, well, part of “life”?
c) If it’s your colleagues or your boss, what is it about them you that bothers you? Is it a specific behaviour you could talk to them about honestly—but discreetly and sensitively?
Is it possible to avoid engaging someone on issues and discussions that trigger you? Or, if needed, to keep conversations with a foul-mouthed or discouraging colleague to a minimum? Perhaps we can be guided by Paul’s advice in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Perhaps we can be guided by Paul’s advice in Romans 12:18:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Dealing with people in a godly way is always a challenge; it may not be possible to resolve conflict with every individual. However, when we remember our own sinful nature and how we are still “works in progress” who have been forgiven and are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, we can learn to extend grace to others. Remember that they, too, may be on a journey of development.
2. What purpose might God have for you there?
Once, while thinking about leaving a workplace, I realised that God might want me to stay for reasons other than the work itself—like making a difference in the way I dealt with colleagues, and simply staking a Christian presence in the workplace.
Could your work now be a place of opportunity to share God’s love and show the world how a disciple of Christ behaves?
3. Do you just need a break?
A former boss once advised me of the value of frequent leave breaks, and he was right! I used to try to accumulate my leave entitlement for a long holiday, but that meant no breaks for the other l-o-n-g 11 months of the year.
No wonder God instructed the Israelites to rest in the form of Sabbath. And when the prophet Elijah felt burnt-out and demoralised, God’s first response was to let him eat and sleep (1 Kings 19:3–9). Even great servants of God needed mental breaks and physical rest!