Are you feeling burnt out at work? Unmotivated? Tempted to use French and German words to describe your plight? Ennui: “A feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” Angst: “A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” Malaise: “A general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.” Weltschmerz: “A feeling of melancholy and world-weariness.”
If you’re dealing with ennui, angst, malaise, or Weltschmerz, you may be suffering from clinical depression. In which case, please seek professional help from a pastor or counselor. (Christians Get Depressed Too can be a good next step if you’re wondering about depression.)
But short of clinical depression, you may simply need to press the “Reset” button on the way you think about your daily work.
Remember that your job is a way to love your neighbor. In fact, doing your job well gives you (at least) three distinct opportunities to love your neighbor today.
1. An opportunity to love your household
If you are a man who is married with children, doing your job well is one of most important ways you can love your wife and children. God calls you to love your wife and children by providing for their needs — not only their spiritual needs, but also their physical needs.
Viewing your daily work as an obstacle to loving your wife and children is a gross distortion of biblical theology. If you slack off on the job, you endanger your household income, your wife and children, and ultimately your Christian witness: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
By the way, this principle still applies even if you don’t have a wife or children. What about your parents, your siblings, and your relatives? Are you burdening them by being a slacker? The apostle Paul urged the Thessalonian Christians to work hard so that they would “be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:12).
2. An opportunity to love your business associates
Businesses come in different shapes and sizes. You may be a solo entrepreneur. You may be a middle-manager in a Fortune 500 company, or an entry-level clerk just beginning your climb up the corporate ladder. You may be a C-suite executive.
Whatever the case may be, you have an opportunity today to love your business associates: your bosses, your co-workers, and your employees. Here are some specific ideas based loosely on the Westminster Larger Catechism questions 123 to 133:
- Employees: Pray for them, teach them patiently what they need to know to do their jobs well, praise them when they do well, admonish them (gently!) when they do poorly, and don’t overload them like the Pharaoh’s taskmasters with burdens too heavy for them to bear.
- Co-workers: Pray for them, cooperate with them, recognize and acknowledge the value they provide to the team, and rejoice with them in their successes.
- Bosses: Pray for them, respect them, learn from them, imitate their good qualities, and bear with their infirmities.
Yes, pray for them all. Pray for them as you work. Ora et labora: Pray and work.
3. An opportunity to love your customers
You also have an opportunity today to love your customers. After all, without your customers, you wouldn’t have any work to do, much less compensation for your efforts.
What you do
The product, service, or solution your company provides is a way to love your customers. Depending on your role in your company, you may or may not have much choice about the product or service your company provides. But even if you are a lowly underling, you can still love your customers by listening to their feedback about your company’s product or service and sharing it with the higher ups.
Why you do what you do
Dig deep. Consider the needs of your customers. Reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses. When you begin to feel burned out and your focus begins to wander, it is time to remind yourself why you’re doing what you do. Always remember God’s goodness in creation and sovereign grace in redemption. God’s goodness and grace are reasons enough to do your job well. But because of our human frailty it is usually beneficial to identify secondary reasons, too.
How you do what you do
It’s not just what you do, or why you do it, but how you do what you do. Do you work diligently? Do you work cheerfully? Do you work prayerfully? We can learn a lot from artist Makoto Fujimura about prayerful, cheerful, diligent work.