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A recent Gallup study reported that “unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely as those with full-time jobs to say they currently have or are being treated for depression.”
The same study also explains how psychologists have long associated unemployment with a variety of psychological ailments, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Furthermore, the research found that, in total, U.S. employees who have been diagnosed with depression miss 68 million more days of work per year than their counterparts who have not been depressed.
So what does this research tell us? It certainly speaks to the importance of a person’s employment and their ability to contribute to meaningful work, but the statistics point to much more.
A lack of work goes beyond our inability to provide for our external needs and deeply impacts us internally.
Work has a tremendous impact on us internally. And that’s true whether you are unemployed or currently finding great satisfaction in your work. Every person has an innate desire to find meaning in their work, whether that is a 9-5 schedule or you’re engaged in the exceedingly important work of raising children in the home.
In fact, a Harvard Business Review surveyed 12,000 employees from a broad range of companies finding that 50% lack a level of meaning and significance at work.
If you make work the ultimate purpose of your life – you create an idol that rivals God.
Moreover, the single highest impact on people sticking with organizations came down to employees finding meaning and satisfaction in their work. Those who find meaning in their work report 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and are 1.4 times more engaged in their work.
Those statistics necessitate the question of how we discover and experience satisfaction and meaning in our work. What does the Bible tell us about work and how can we find real meaning through activities that will consume much of our adult life?
Work has existed since the beginning of time, and its purpose goes beyond merely providing for our external needs.
First, it’s critical we look to the Author of work to understand its purpose. Genesis Chapter 1 and 2 describe the creation of the world, the instruction for man and woman to cultivate the earth and how sin has corrupted what was good. Genesis 2:1-2 says, “So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.”
Our work serves as an external demonstration of our internal transformation.
God’s creating of the universe is described as work, and this work is called good. Not only does Genesis describe creation as work, but also says that God delighted in his work (Genesis 1:31).
As you read through the first two chapters of Genesis, you learn that God then commissions humanity to partner with him in cultivating the earth. Therefore, when we connect our work with God’s work, we are on the path to experiencing the internal meaning and satisfaction we long for which is only found through a relationship with God.
Seeking our identity in work is like asking our car to run on water. Cars aren’t fueled by water nor can work successfully fuel our identity.
Scripture speaks to the importance of work, and it’s critical we do not separate God from our work. Hoping work will provide ultimate meaning and purpose is like hoping your car will run on water instead of gasoline. It’s Impossible. Cars weren’t made to run on water and humans weren’t meant to find their identity in work.
In fact, if you make work the ultimate purpose of your life – you create an idol that rivals God.
In his book “Every Good Endeavor,” Pastor Tim Keller states: “Work is not all there is to life. You will not have a meaningful life without work, but you cannot say that your work is the meaning of your life. If you make any work the purpose of your life – you create an idol that rivals God. Your relationship with God is the most important foundation of your life, and indeed it keeps all other factors – work, friendships and family, leisure and pleasure – from becoming so important to you that they become addicting and distorted.”
It’s interesting that King Solomon, the wisest, richest, perhaps most successful man who ever lived, implores his readers to appropriately align their priorities in life to experience God’s best.
“And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
Enjoyment and fulfillment in life are ultimately gifts from God, not the result of a successful career, perfect family, or great income.
This truth had a tremendous impact on my life in 2008.
When you discover your identity and purpose in God, His desires for your life will become your desires, and you will experience the blessing, joy, and fulfillment only He can provide.
I had graduated from the University of Illinois with my Masters in Business Administration ready to rapidly climb the corporate ladder and make my first million by the age of 30 (or so I dreamed). I had big plans which included building a great company and life for myself.
After several years pursuing what I thought would bring joy and fulfillment, I found myself lacking internally as I sought success not so much for God’s glory but my own. I knew the Lord was calling me into full-time vocational ministry and once I submitted to His will for my life – aligning His plans with my plans – I began to experience the joy and satisfaction in my work that only God could provide. I learned many lessons through that season including the fact that
Your work will not provide you meaning until you find your meaning in the One who gave you work.
The biblical view of work encourages us to engage in the world in such a way that our work ultimately points people to a God of order, design, meaning and love for people. Keller also states, “Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives.” Our work, therefore, serves as an external demonstration of our internal transformation.
When you discover your identity and purpose in God, His desires for your life will become your desires, and you will experience the blessing, joy, and fulfillment only He can provide. This then results in a transformation of our attitude towards our work. The Apostle Paul encourages us to cultivate an attitude in our work that honors the Lord:
“Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men. Remember that you will get your reward from the Lord. He will give you what you should receive. You are working for the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
A recognition that my work is an extension of God’s work means it’s no longer “My will be done” but “Thy will be done.”
Scripture teaches that for those who have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, how we view work is counter-cultural. It’s no longer a way to build wealth for wealth sake or pursue our selfish desires. Instead of “my will be done” we express “thy will be done.”
And when we live submitted to God’s will for our work, we will experience an unforgettable journey that the Lord desires for every believer. Our work will then provide the greatest meaning and satisfaction because we’ve found the true source of our fulfillment in Christ alone.
For more insight on the benefits and satisfaction of working for God’s glory, check out this message titled, “Get Working,” by Pastor Brandon Lindell.