Back in 1977, Johnny Paycheck (interesting name, huh?) came up with a hit song, “Take This Job and Shove It.” Four years later this inspired the movie of the same name. But more than a song and a movie, the idea that we are all entitled to the “dream job” permeated into the very fabric of our culture. Most, if not all, of us have struggled with our job fulfillment, the people we work with (or work for), and the pay (particularly, the lack of it).
Yet, there’s a line that gets crossed way too often. That’s the point where, in our frustrations toward our job situation, we become disgruntled and start to complain – either inwardly or outwardly. That’s when we lose sight of the bigger picture: that God has been our Provider through the jobs we have.
We in the 21st Century are not the only ones who struggled with God’s provision. The children of Israel were notorious for “grumbling,” in spite of God’s graciousness. He provided water from the rock, manna from the heavens, and quail from the skies. He made it possible for the Israelites to last 40 years in the wilderness with clothes and sandals that never wore out. But they complained, moaned, and whined incessantly.
It’s easy to criticize the Israelites until we realize that when we complain about stuff, we have the same issue that they had.
As we look at how we can become more thank-full, it requires us to look at things that we might not feel a lot of thanksgiving for, including our jobs. I’m not advocating a Pollyannish denial of hardship (like “take this job and LOVE it – no matter what”). Some of us have really hard job situations: like abusive bosses, expectations that are totally overwhelming, or not being able to meet basic needs with our wages. But I am challenging us to look at our jobs differently and to allow God’s perspective and power transform our attitude into one of gratitude. Here are a few thoughts:
1. God has you there for a reason. Nothing in life is an “accident.” Even when we think we’ve gotten ourselves into our bad situations (like a poor or rash decision), as Christ-followers we believe that there is a Sovereign God who allowed this to happen for a reason. Maybe there are people there that God wanted you to touch, to bless, to encourage. Maybe there’s a deep lesson God wants to show you. Maybe your being in this job is the only way God could bring the transformation you need.
2. Give thanks for every way God provides. If you get paid for a job – no matter how menial or meager – God is providing for you. So give thanks. You could be unemployed (and some of our readers might be in that situation right now). You could be unable to work. You could be a lot worse; most people in the world make far less and have much less than you do. Plus, as you give thanks for what you have, you are opening your heart and soul up wider to God. And when our hearts and souls grow in gratitude and love, that is when our God is known to do something amazing – because we are more ready.
Several years ago when I was planting a church, I had to take on a job as a Junior High music teacher (Band and Choir) for one year. I was a very successful HS music teacher for many years, so I thought this would be a “piece of cake.” Rather, it was the “job from Hell” (I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that! But it really was bad). I could not deal with the hormonal imbalance of 12-13 year olds. The 7th grade Girl’s Choir drove me crazy (they actually made me cry a couple of times). I threw a chair across the room during Intermediate Band. I had a calendar where I was literally crossing off the weeks till the end of the school year – and this was in November!
Then one day God convicted me of this attitude. He revealed how it was shrinking my life and putting me on the defensive. So I made it a point to thank God for my job. I thanked Him for the provision of income for my family (it actually paid pretty well). I thanked Him for the opportunity to influence young lives. And I thanked Him for the opportunity to grow in ways I could have never grown before. I also prayed like crazy for His help, so that I could look at this job in a different light.
Years later, one of those 7th grade choir girls became my Tech Director at church. Our relationship picked up and I had a chance to be her spiritual mentor. Another one of those choir members became a worship leader and shared that my being her choir director in Junior High profoundly influenced her direction in life. I ran into parents of one of my band students. They told me that I was their son’s favorite teacher and that he went on to play in the HS band and was now a successful business man.
My being there, in a job that I hated and complained about, somehow made a difference in these kids’ lives. It sure changed me, in ways I never dreamt possible.
So let’s not be so quick to “take this job and shove it.” Thank God for where He has you for now. It may be hard. It may be overwhelming. But know that the God you are thanking is the same one for Whom “nothing is impossible.” Thank Him for His provision. But also thank Him for the opportunity for Him to transform you and transform through you.
Take this job … and thank Him for it!