Redeeming Work

How can we redeem work and even see that our work is redeeming in this world?  Today’s blog seeks to answer that question. 

Disclaimer:  Today’s post is a bit autobiographical at times just to provide some context.  I hope people go away reading this feeling more empowered, not less in their employment.  I hope that it pushes us to see work from a standpoint that God designed it for our good and not our detriment.  We were created to work, to produce, to provide, and even to create new things ourselves. 

Here’s a bit about me:  since 2002 my own experience has been as a pharmacist working mostly in retail pharmacy.  I don’t know how much the average person sees or understands about this corner of our profession but it is very fast-paced and head spinning at times.  Behind the counter, the day is filled with endless phone calls (from patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies), verifying and checking the accuracy/safety/appropriateness of hundreds of prescriptions, counseling patients, making recommendations and all the while, being interrupted constantly from the thing I am doing to some other, more pressing matter. 

The most intense shifts of 10-12 hours bring me home not so much feeling physically exhausted, but more so mentally and emotionally drained.  But such is the nature of my job.  I’ve nicknamed it “fast food pharmacy” which is tongue in cheek.  Honestly retail pharmacy is a reflection of the state of healthcare as a whole.  Understaffed, overworked, and underpaid professionals, technicians, and assistants across the board.  All the while, I know what brought me into this profession was my desire to care for and help people.  I sincerely believe that is where many of us started. 

Ministry is much the same way for me (i.e. a helping profession) and nowadays pharmacy is a “tent making” position.  Doing music, writing blogs, and being a “musicianary” has become its own thing outside of and apart from pharmacy and I love that.  I know my situation is a little unique but still many of us are finding that balance in life to say, what about our jobs?  Our basic livelihoods?  Aren’t they mission fields as well?  Yes, and my hope today in “redeeming work” is that we see our jobs in the appropriate light as Christ would define them.  I can struggle to look at pharmacy and the balance of it in my life as bigger than what it should be while not giving it over day in and day out to the Lord. 

All of this being said, here are some thoughts outlined about our work and where I think God would have us steer this conversation today: 

1. Your job is not your identity 

I read this quote in a professional pharmacy magazine (from an article on pharmacist well-being nonetheless) and it spoke volumes:  “Many people who experience burnout have nothing other than work that defines them.”  That sad but true statement affects too many of us who, even as Christians, look to our jobs for our source of identity.  When we see work as our be-all, end-all, we are in a place ripe for burnout; a place where hitting the wall is a real possibility.  Burnout comes when we get so wrapped up in our job that our value, self-worth, and general outlook on life is based upon it. 
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:16  Even in his earthly work, Jesus knew and recognized how important it was to withdraw and recharge.  His humanity demanded it and He knew where His continual source of strength must come from:  it came from the Father.  In withdrawing, I believe He could see things as the Father saw them.  As we regularly withdraw, we can see things from God’s perspective and make appropriate adjustments and changes.  Our identity is not in the thing that you or I do.  It’s in Him. 

2. But what you do matters 

So often our perspective on work is that it is a necessary evil.  This is a real sentiment I see over and over again:  “In order to provide for the life I want with the home, cars, family wants/needs, and so on, I must work.  It’s not that I like my job or even enjoy it, but I have to work to support the life we have.”  Sadly, once again this small view towards work is one that keeps genuine interactions and meaningful conversations from happening.  Whether we take the opportunity or not, God is putting before us everyday scenarios in which our work impacts someone, somewhere for the Kingdom.  It matters. 
I’ve been horrible at making this switch in my brain on a regular basis.  I look at pharmacy as the means to provide for ministry but I forget that pharmacy is ministry too.  Somewhere in the busyness of the day, I have chance encounters that lend themself to displaying Christ.  A simple word of encouragement to a stressed out mom.  An opportunity to help someone get their medication covered that they otherwise couldn’t afford.  A chance to encourage a coworker who is feeling aimless in their own career.  If I can see work as not just “a job” but a real mission field, I believe God will give me more and more of those opportunities (remember “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10).  I’m learning what it means to be faithful in the little things. 

3. Become a Joseph in your workplace 

The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.  Genesis 39:2 

A story from Scripture that I’ve held onto in my profession is that of Joseph in the house of Potiphar.  Joseph’s start as a servant in Potiphar’s house grew over the time he was under his Egyptian master.  It was the favor of God on Joseph’s life that made him standout and allowed him to advance in rank.  Joseph was put in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house, save his own wife.  We can assume Joseph didn’t look at any of the work as beneath him or something he was too good for.  And he excelled until Potiphar’s wife started making advances at him — advances which he did not return because he was trustworthy. 
To see how we can redeem work, we must realize that everything we do reflects back upon the God we serve and profess faith in.  Many of our co-workers may know or have a strong suspicion that there is something different about us.  Do they realize it is Jesus Christ?  I believe God blesses our work as we submit it to Him and allow His glory to shine through us.  Joseph did suffer for a time because he refused to compromise.  But God raised him to a higher position; one that he never would have attained had he burned out or taken an easier road in his career path. 

In ending this whole discussion (which is bigger than just a simple blog), I’ve been impressed to leave you with this phrase:  find a place, profession, or career where the work you do becomes more than just about getting a paycheck.  Finding a place with purpose may not seem easy in your current position.  And that might be because this is just a season.  God might be moving you onto something else eventually.  But don’t miss out on the opportunities to serve Him in the season you are in.  The season and the wait may last longer than you care for, but God cares more about His Kingdom than your wait. 

Honestly, I’ve been struggling with this whole idea of work, finding my purpose, and enduring years of waiting for quite sometime now.  And I’m still figuring it out and praying through all of it.  But nothing I write is for sympathy from anyone for the path I have chosen.  We all are on a journey of finding what it is we should do while we have this short time on this earth.  I’m learning that even if work looks different from one year to the next, I’m called to give all of it to God.  He’s entrusted me with a job and I want to do it in a way that glorifies Him.  He entrusted you with a job and talents that are for Him as well.  When we start to see all of this being about Him and not us, we truly turn a corner in our outlook about work.  In doing so, we are able to redeem work and see Him redeeming others through work.  What a joy and a privilege our jobs then become! 

Until next time!  I love walking the journey with you guys! 

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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

Other blogs for further reading:

Profiles In Courage - JOSEPH
Marked By Kindness (The Fruit Series)
The Benefits Of Staying Spiritually Fit

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