Trusting God with the Work of Our Hands
Eight months into my first job after college found me hiding behind a stall in the women’s restroom. I had just left a meeting with the company’s president and vice president of human resources, both of whom delivered a pile of compliments about my performance before promising a promotion on the horizon.
I should have returned to my desk elated, but I retreated instead to the bathroom, burdened suddenly by the praise and the news. My response confused and unsettled me, and in the silence of the stall I sought the Lord.
“You will want for nothing,” He promised.
Immediately, peace overcame me, along with a simple reassurance: No corporate accolades can compare to the joy of knowing You.
That word in the bathroom was one I would carry with me when, several months later, I would turn in my two weeks’ notice to support my then-fiancé, now-husband’s pursuit of a job offer halfway across the country. And I would hear it again when, two and a half years after that, I would prepare to leave my second post-college job, a move that would pull me out of the corporate world altogether.
While the Lord’s word to me didn’t tell me exactly what decision to make when I faced a career fork, it reassured me of His provision for me and gave me the courage I needed to make decisions that wouldn’t always make the most sense to the secular world. Yet my periods of discernment around those career choices have led me to think about work and discernment in new ways. I’ve shared some of them below:
We were created for work.
It makes sense that we should take our career decisions seriously because God takes our work seriously. At the advent of Eden, paradise on Earth, God called Adam and Eve to particular tasks, to tend His creation and participate in the pruning and caretaking of the garden – to work.
Our gifts matter to God.
The God who made us part of a diverse, vibrant body created us with different gifts that He intends for us to cultivate and steward for His kingdom. It’s worth taking time to discover what gives us life, what fills us rather than drains us, and what natural skills and desires we have that we can use for His work. Minnesota pastor John Piper professes, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Our work for the Lord is not a chore but a chance to use our gifts, and the more we exercise them for a purpose bigger than ourselves, the more God will help us hone them into meaningful, life-giving work.
Discernment comes from living in tune with the Spirit daily.
In The Cross and the Switchblade, author David Wilkerson details his experience working with teen gangs in New York City. At one point in his story, the Pennsylvania country pastor had made myriad trips to the city to share the Gospel and convert the youth there but wanted to do more even as he desired to remain faithful to his congregation.
During his period of discernment and waiting for the Lord’s direction, a season that would last for years, Wilkerson recognized that he had failed in following up with the teens he had converted, leading them to relapse into their former way of life. He understood where he had erred and, rather than blame God for a lack of resources, repented for this. Wilkerson also sought the Lord daily in prayer and waited faithfully for His word before acting.
When the Lord finally did speak to Wilkerson, He did so clearly, saying, “The church is no longer yours. You are to leave.” Yet He also did it at a time when Wilkerson had identified some of his shortcomings and could begin his full-time work in New York with a better sense of what kind of work to which God was calling him. Rather than flounder and burn out, as Wilkerson might have done if he had left for New York out of pure zeal rather than a call, he experienced tremendous provision and growth in His ministry.
Our desire for God gives us joy for our work.
Like Wilkerson, we may not receive a word or a sense to act for years, but like the Lord’s word to me, “You will want for nothing” is a promise for all of us. God does more than sustain us in periods of discernment; He gives us opportunities to use our gifts even in times leading up to big decisions. When we see every situation as a mission field, every colleague as a recipient in need of love, and every task as an opportunity for stewardship, God responds by giving us joy for our work. Through this joy, He leads us into a deeper relationship with Him that further reveals our gifts and desires and allows us to live them out in the next season of His work.
Carmen Dahlberg graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Honors English and a minor in Crime and Justice. She currently lives with her husband in Detroit as part of Detroit Community Outreach. Favorites include classic literature, writing, deep conversations, the French language, time with friends and everyday discoveries in Detroit.