Lately, I’ve been feeling a strange tension in my life. I wonder if you feel it too. It’s the tension between my career/external life and my character/internal life.
On the outside, my career is flourishing. I’m getting new business, receiving new opportunities and growing at an incredibly fast rate. On the other side is my spirituality, which at times seems to have a negative correlation with my career. What I mean is, whenever my career begins to flourish, my spirituality sometimes wanes. And when my inner life is strong, it often means I’m in a dry spell with business.
I always believed there should be a balance between career and spirituality. But what happens to so many of us is we give priority to our careers, and let our concern for character and faith lessen because of it.
Our career can easily become a hindrance to our spiritual life.
It’s easy to be swept away in the whirlwind of busyness our career hands to us. It’s easy to give so much concern to receiving a profit that we forget what it’s like to give without receiving any profit.
But our career can also have a positive correlation with our spirituality—or at least, that’s what I’m discovering.
Truly, it’s easier to live like Jesus when the work we do for most of the day is centered on giving Him glory. This doesn’t mean we simply do ministry work. This means we seek the ways our career can add life to our faith instead of live in tension with it.
If you want your day job to make your faith stronger—to stop adding the anxiety and restlessness that oftentimes comes with busyness—ask yourself these few questions about your career. Struggle through them, and let them form and shape your work to honor the life of Jesus in everything you do:
1. Is my career an extension of who I am?
If we want our career to add to our spiritual life, we must consider if our career is adding to our identity, how God made us to be. Today, it’s easy to divorce our day job from who we are. We can simply do a job we’re not passionate about or not skilled in because we only want the money. But this kind of work will not add to our souls. This work will rip us at the seams and compartmentalize our lives between what we love to do and what we hate to do.
The best job is the one that utilizes our gifts, abilities and passions. When we are in these positions, we can give praise to God for what He has given us, but rarely do we give praise to God in positions that don’t utilize our strengths.
2. Is my career all that I am?
Many jobs consume the entirety of our lives. They want us to think about them, live in them and work in them constantly.
The things that overwhelm our attention and devotion away from God are idols. And it’s so easy for our careers to become idols. It’s sadly normal for people to define their identity by their career.
When our careers become idols, they harm us instead of aid us. So draw the boundaries. Stick to who you are without your job.
3. Does my career make me cynical or joyful?
Many people hate their jobs in today’s workforce. This dissatisfaction with their work can lead them to become cynical
—or as I like to call them, buzzkills. These are the people who are toxic to be around because all they do is make you cynical about your job.
When we choose to adopt a posture of cynicism, we also choose to squash hope.
This is a problem when we live with hope in our beliefs. The hope we have in our beliefs should make us joyful in difficult situations. I’m not talking about a cheery and fake happiness. I’m talking about having a spirit that will give praise in all circumstances, even the difficult ones. Being cynical rarely offers this gratitude.
4. Do I see the significance in my career?
As Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
We give glory to God with the excellence of our work. This doesn’t mean that He becomes disappointed when our work is bad. This just means that we have a higher standard to aspire to with our work. Our work should be excellent because we believe that’s how God does His work.
But the only way to do excellent work is to see the significance in what we do. This significance isn’t always doing extreme, world-changing work. You can do small, menial tasks and still find it meaningful if you seek to show God excellence in everything.
Develop the eyes that search for all the ways your job is meaningful in the universe. Once you can see that, excellence will come naturally.
5. Is my career making me lazy?
It’s difficult to be productive in jobs we don’t enjoy. As a result, we can simply waste our time fiddling our thumbs in these jobs. And then, when we come home, we can crash on the couch from being so tired from doing nothing all day.
Jesus does not endorse an idle life. The problem is, we can become idle if we’re working the wrong careers. Find the job that keeps you active and engaged. Sometimes, you might not be able to work this job, and that’s OK. But always be seeking ways to improve the conditions of your work so you can be active in the way God desires us to be.
6. Are my character gifts being utilized?
People always ask if their career is utilizing their skills, but this keeps our attention on our external life. What if we asked if our career is utilizing our character, like our joy or our compassion? For instance, it’s part of my character that I’m slow to anger. With that in mind, I love being in a job that requires me to be patient with people. It’s utilizing my character strength. Does your job use the parts of you that make you unique?
Our career doesn’t have to be at odds with our spirituality. We can give praise and celebration to God for the job that we have. But this often requires that we place a close eye on our job, to make it what it should be.
So be careful with your work. Refine it to allow you to live like Jesus in your daily life. And let these questions add the balance your life needs to be meaningful again.