Do you experience joy in your work?
Whether we perform our jobs in the marketplace or in our homes, we all want to find joy in our labor.
So what keeps joy out of reach, even when we give it our all? What causes us to feel more stressed, pressed, and unhappy than we think we should be?
It might be you're thinking a different job or career path would bring you more joy.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Before you jump ship from your current responsibilities, why not make a quick self-examination of underlying motives for your work?
Motives reveal the real and hidden reasons we do things.
God knows our motives (Pr. 16:2). They make a monumental difference in our lives...including the joy we experience. So it's worth a few moments to test your motives.
Below are three common motives for work. As you read through them, what you may find is that God is calling something within you to change more than he's leading you to new or different work. And more than likely, joy is waiting for you in your transformation.
Three Common Motives for Work
1. Provide for Our Needs
Most of us have learned to relate our work to income and the ability to meet our needs. This is good. Providing for our needs is equal to looking well to the ways of our household (Prov. 31:27).
However, we often incorporate a push to do more often brought on by culture and comparison. So we work harder and longer...so we can earn more...so we can compete and get more. The more we earn the more we fill our cupboards, garages, basements, and storage units with trophies and things we want and think we need. This is how we strive to provide for our children, others, and our selves while draining our bank accounts and spirits.
So for us, provision means we work harder and more. Feeling the joy yet?
Scripture offers a different perspective. Here we're taught our provision and security come from God not the stuff in our closets. The work we're given to do is the way—the means—the Lord supplies for our needs.
In other words, work is not the source of our provision and security. God is.
He provides work as a way to earn income. It's just that placing your trust in the work you do, income you earn, and things you buy does not honor God or offer lasting security.
And security is definitely a component of joy.
What your work produces in product, income, and stuff is pleasant for now but will eventually perish. It leaves nothing of eternal value. Stuff isn't bad, it's focusing on it and away from knowing God, and serving family and community that's the problem.
Kenneth Boa says it this way: It is not the fruit of our labors but the focus of our heart that gives value to our work in the sight of God.*
2. Significance Through Accomplishment
Finding our significance in work is something most of us have leaned into. I, for one, have known it well. When we do this though, we easily over-dedicate our time and attention to work so we can continually produce successful outcomes and feel a sense of accomplishment. We seek to prove ourselves and find validation by our zealous efforts.
But Scripture tells us our worth comes from our relationship with God through Christ alone. Not as the result of our work—no matter how many hours we pour into it and how perfect it is.
Your work is an expression and reflection of God's design and creativity in and through you. Sometimes you will succeed and other times you will fail. Either way, the Lord does not change his thoughts toward you.
You are his child (1 John 3:1) and his friend (John 15:15). You can even boldly say, like John, you are the disciple Jesus loved (John 19:26, 20:2, 21:20).
And realize this, if your goal is to faithfully follow Jesus in all aspects of life, including work, you are a willing slave to Christ—the Joy Giver who loves you. Not a slave to your work.
If God reveals to you, like he once did to me, that your motive for work is to quench a desire for significance remember work does not reflect your value in God's eyes. Work is meant to bless you, not define you.
3. Seek Approval of Others
Many times we find ourselves over-indulging in work to gain approval of others. When we do this, our focus is inward not upward. We feed our own fears and neediness rather than serving God through excellent work done in service to him.
Colossians 3:23 instructs us to: Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
When you work as though for the Lord your desire is to do excellent work for a loving Boss. True, this may sometimes require additional hours, training, and assistance. Excellent work is often hard work but it's always done for the right reasons.
Stop striving to receive accolades and approval of others from your work. Start seeking to please and honor God first. Do excellent work for his glory—not yours—and you'll find and experience more joy.
What are your motives for your work? What do you sense God leading you to change so you can experience more joy?
*Conformed to His Image