Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finding Joy in your Job

In 2002, Sheryl Crow had a hit song entitled “Soak Up The Sun”. In the song she had a wonderful line that said, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”. So can this really be possible? For many years this has been a conundrum for so many people. They end up “wanting” their lives away. They miss so many things they do have and focus instead on what they don’t have.

Recently, I was reading through Ecclesiastes and I was perplexed by a statement found in three different places. In Ecclesiastes 3:13 and 5:19, the Bible tells us that if any man finds satisfaction and enjoyment in his work it is a gift from God. It also says in Ecclesiastes 6:2 that there are times when God gives a person wealth and possessions but does not enable him to enjoy them. This made me begin thinking about the way we address our work, our finances, and our possessions. Do we truly have a healthy perspective on them or have we lost our focus along the way? Ecclesiastes tells us several wonderful truths about them. It puts them in proper perspective.

First, in all these verses it is evident that God controls the flow of money and possessions. He gives differently to different people. The reason why He does this is not shared. All we know is that God is firmly in control. So how does this apply to our lives today? It’s easy to say the lesson is to simply trust in God. That is definitely a lesson in and of itself, but there may be more specific truth here. Our wealth or financial status is not earned or gained from our own hands. God apportions as He sees fit. The Bible does talk about laziness and that we should toil or work and not give in to laziness. However, we have become a world where we live as if our job is going to be paying our next bill and is putting food on the table. The truth is that God Himself is taking care of our needs. Sometimes He chooses to use our job to give us money in order to pay our bills and sometimes He chooses other methods. However, all money, wealth, health, possessions, all are given by God. This applies to every part of our lives. I see many couples come in because their marriage is on the brink of disaster and one of the biggest comments I get is, “She/He just doesn’t make me happy any more” or some variation. In truth, we shouldn’t seek out others to make us happy. We shouldn’t throw our expectations of perfection on anyone, not even our spouse. Our expectations should be thrown on to God. Our needs for affection, intimacy, safety, love, compassion, everything should be sought in God alone. Again, often He uses others to express those to us, but they still come from Him.

Secondly, if we are to find happiness in our toil it makes sense that there are certain jobs that would “fit” us more than others. It is important to know that when you are working in a job that does not match you, it will be difficult to find happiness. You can find joy no matter what your circumstance because real joy comes from God, but finding happiness can be elusive. Happiness comes from yourself, it’s a choice made every day. So many clients and friends have bounced from job to job never finding a job they enjoy. Is it because they haven’t made that choice to be happy? Sometimes it is. However, there are times when the jobs they find are not good fits. Many people chase after monetary rewards or benefits when seeking out work. They take a job because it pays well, but then they find they are stuck in a miserable position and often not succeeding in that position. If we truly understand the first principle, that God distributes wealth as He sees fit and that He alone takes care of all your needs then it is much easier to swallow this second concept. Instead of finding a job with the best pay, we should be spending time getting to know ourselves and the talents, gifts, and passions that God has given each of us. Once we know them then we can begin the process of finding a position that utilizes them. This may take time, but in the end it is worth it. You have found a job that you enjoy and then learned how to depend on God to take care of your financial needs. This is true happiness.

Last, but not least, happiness in your job is a gift from God. God’s love for you is great. He even cares about what you do for a living. When you have accepted and begin to live by the above two truths then you will receive a wonderful gift from God. That gift is the happiness you will find in work and in life. Although the Bible tells us, we know from personal experience that many people never find happiness. It seems to escape them. We often look in to their situation and can see clearly why they aren’t happy, but how many times are we unhappy and yet we can’t figure out why. We fail to heed the wisdom of friends and family and we continue down a path, which is “chasing after wind”. We chase money, wealth, happiness, and possessions. Yet, we don’t have to chase things that are so empty. We can chase after God and He can provide us with everything else.

So how does this relate to our current life? What can we learn from a book written so many years ago? Solomon knew that our human nature is to chase. The question isn’t if we’re going to chase, but what we’re going to chase. Are we going to chase everything under the sun or are we going to chase the one who made the sun. The choice is clear and simple. What have you been chasing after? The Teacher says that if you are chasing after anything other than God then you are chasing after wind. You will spend your life flailing about hoping to catch it. You will never find meaning in anything else, it’s all meaningless. The only time we find true meaning is when we chase after God. Chase after Him with all your might and you will catch something. You will catch joy, love, peace, and happiness.