The Corporate Rat Race
Hate your job? Okay. Maybe "hate" is a strong word.
To be fair, you wouldn't exactly describe your job as terrible. Your co-workers may be friendly, you probably have a good boss, your salary covers your bills and you probably still find the work you do interesting. But lately it's more and more difficult to drag yourself out of bed on a Monday morning. Your energy is waning. By Wednesday, you find yourself physically or mentally fatigued and wondering why Friday seems so far away. Tiredness shows in your eyes.
Add to that endless rounds of phone calls, teleconferences, projects, assignments and, of course, the relentless stream of emails marked "urgent" flooding your inbox. There are processes and systems in place that you find frustrating or ineffective. You get along with most of the people you work with, but the emotional disruptions caused from time to time by the particularly difficult ones just make your job that much harder to do.
When the weekend finally arrives, it speeds by in a whirlwind and then you're back to a routine of 12-hour work days and hurriedly eating lunch at your desk while mulling over documents ahead of your next meeting. The bottom line is: your workplace environment can be stressful, overwhelming, thankless and wearying. Climbing the corporate ladder can sometimes feel like you're going the wrong way on an escalator. In short, the corporate world is rough.
But what does your workplace have to do with God?
If you've spent any time in a church, you know that one of the most quoted passages is Jeremiah 29 verse 11, where God says:
"I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for." (Good News Translation)
It is a verse some Christians are fond of repeating, almost by rote, as soon as they hear bad news in order to offer comfort. They use it to reassure the person they're talking to that God knows what He is doing, which is true. But we don't really think too much about the context in which God said those words.
Verse 1 of that same chapter tells us that the words were written to the people Nebuchadnezzar had taken away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia. The Israelites had been captured and taken into exile, against their will. They were in a place they didn't want to be, working for and living among people they didn't like. Being in exile was a situation forced upon them. Even before God encouraged them in verse 11 of that passage that His plans were good, He asked them to do something. Something that it seems hard to imagine God could have asked them to do. Only a few verses earlier (in verse 7) God had said:
"Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too."
Being taken into captivity was a humiliating blow to the people and their daily lives were hard. Their joy was gone. They were disillusioned and probably wondered why God had allowed this crushing defeat to happen. But here was God saying: "work for the good of the cities." In other words, expend your mental and physical energy to make a positive impact; to benefit the city in which you have been imprisoned. Do a good job. Do your best work.
And if that wasn't enough, God wanted them pray for these people too, this place, the enemy they live among, this alien, harsh environment. They were expected to ask God to bless these people, these people they couldn't wait to be rid of. Here they were struggling to survive and now they have to pray that these people thrive?
Can you understand how hard this would have been to hear and how impossible it would have felt to do?
Working and Praying in a difficult place
In our modern workplace context, allow me to tell you how verse 7 translates.
Don't cut corners in the way you perform your job. Give 100%. Go above and beyond your job description. Be helpful. Be supportive of your colleagues. Be an exemplary worker. Apply your skills and knowledge to the tasks involved.
Pray for the company you work for, its leadership, the management team, its clients, its employees, its products and services, your department, your co-workers...
Pray that they prosper. Pray that it goes well with them.
Why should you do it?
Aside from being a command from God which we as Christians are required to obey, it makes sense to do it. Call it self-interest. God's command in that verse comes with a promise: if they prosper, you will prosper too.
What does this prosperity look like? It doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a big fat salary hike or a bonus, work less hours, or that all things on the job will suddenly become easier; but something will happen inside you. Work will feel less like a grind. Emotionally, mentally, psychologically and spiritually you will change.
Over time, you may notice your attitude getting better. And you may just find the prospect of going into work on a Monday morning a bit less daunting.
Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, having visited, studied, worked and lived in several Caribbean islands. But when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html