Editor’s Note: It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys, and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.
Working in education is completely new this school year. I’ll bet you can say the same about your workplace, too, whether you work at the bank, at Walmart, or in medicine. Even though I’ve worked at my job in the same school for the past 22 years, teaching this year has come with some challenges that I’ve never faced before. Will it be possible for us to learn to find contentment in our workplaces, even in times like these?
In 22 years, I’ve found a good deal of enjoyment in my vocation; otherwise, why would I still be at the same place? I’ll admit, though, that I’ve gone through days or weeks of doldrums, discouragement, and discontent, too. Most of the time, looking back, the deciding factor between the good days and the bad days has more to do with my attitude or disposition than with any circumstance or challenge in my job.
How do you see your workplace? To maintain contentment there, it has to be more than a paycheck: it needs to be a mission and a calling. Colossians 3:23 tells me, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” When I consider that I’m working for Him, my work becomes a calling and a ministry, not just a job. As a teacher, the last line on my contract says, “Other duties as assigned.” To me this means that there will be divine appointments taking place throughout the day, and I’m in that school to meet needs that may have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching kids to read or write. I might get to pray for a co-worker, comfort a student who has had a loss, encourage another who is struggling, or visit with a parent who is worried about her child. What kinds of divine appointments do you see at your workplace on a daily or weekly basis?
Thomas Merton wrote, “Before the Lord wills me to do anything, He first of all wills me to ‘be.’ What I do must depend on what I am.” God’s Word has some great advice about contentment in all parts of our lives. Philippians 4:11 says, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.” If Paul can learn to be content in his work, we can learn the same in ours. He continues in verse 13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Let’s look at some practical ways that we can not only be content ourselves but create an atmosphere of peace and contentment within our places of employment and among our colleagues.
The words we speak are creative. They are either creating a positive or negative environment around us. In John 6:43, Jesus tells people, “Do not grumble among yourselves,” and Philippians 2:14 advises us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” A workplace where employees grumble and complain about the job, about co-workers, or about the boss is going to be stirred up with negativity. Our words feed the spirit of the places we work, and since we spend the majority of our time there, we are submerging ourselves in peace or stress with every word we speak. If we have to complain to someone, Psalm 142:2 directs us: “I pour out my complaint before Him.” Taking our frustrations and aggravations to Jesus will prevent us from muddying the atmosphere at work with negative talk.
Working with other people can be stressful. Colleagues or customers will rub us the wrong way at times. The stress in people’s lives now magnifies trouble. Paul tells us in Ephesians to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (4:32). If we can make the decision to forgive before we have ever been offended, we can walk in peace, no matter what happens. Romans 12:18 in The Passion Translation says, “Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.” Sometimes in workplaces, there can be a lot of drama. The lunchroom or the lounge can turn into gossip-central, if we are not careful. Living as everyone’s friend means that we will allow the Holy Spirit to guard our mouths and let love cover over other people’s faults.
In the workplace, everyone has his or her own idea of what is important. We all want to be recognized for our contributions, but Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, “Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves. Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.” I’ve found that when our staff works as a team, covering each other and helping each other, rather than staking out our own territory, there is much less friction.
Finally, communication is so important for a peaceful workplace. Part of my job this year is to take the Pre-K students their breakfasts every morning. My principal asked me to do this about the second or third day of school. I began going in at 7:30 and getting breakfasts for the students as they came in. I noticed that the cafeteria director seemed more and more annoyed with me every day. Finally, about a week ago, I asked her if there was anything I could do to make things easier on them. She said, “Well, it’s just that I was told that no one would be coming in to get the breakfasts for the Pre-K until 7:45.” I had never been told that before! So, we made a deal right then that I would not come in anymore until 7:45 to get the breakfasts. Sounds like a simple thing, but miscommunication, or lack of communication, was compounding her stress level, and it was a simple fix! If things don’t seem right, ask if there is any way that you can help or make things easier. Opening up communication will prevent so many misunderstandings and save some hurt feelings.
The workplace is where we can let our light shine. If we can walk into our jobs filled with the Holy Spirit, ready to lay our lives down for our co-workers, and prepared to serve people as if we are directly serving God, what a difference it will make in our places of employment. What a witness to the world around us that we can really walk in peace in the midst of chaos.
We would like to thank Sheri Warren for contributing this post!