In December of 2012, it finally happened. I finally graduated for the third and final time. It was the culmination of 13 years of primary school, 4 years of college, and 3 years of graduate school. And it all ended with an anticlimactic walk across a stage in the dark thanks to a thunderstorm. The day was filled with excitement and celebration nonetheless, surrounded by family and friends offering their congratulations and proud-of-you’s.
That excitement soon faded as I entered the full-time work world. After only a few months, I found myself coming home frustrated, discouraged, and just not happy. I was doing the job I loved and was certain I was called to, so what was wrong with me? Why was I finding myself so discontent at what seemed to be my dream job?
Sadly, I do not believe I am alone in this. Millions of Americans, including Christ-followers, begrudgingly head to work each day, logging our required hours with one eye on the computer and the other on the clock, hoping time will miraculously speed up so we can finally go home just to wake up and do it all again tomorrow.
I do not think the problem lies within the work we are doing, but within ourselves. See, work was created to be a good thing. Sounds crazy right? But really, it was! God created us and gave us work. We see this in Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it”. Adam was put in the garden to work the soil, name the animals, and have dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). And the work wasn’t just good, the work was downright enjoyable!
But then comes chapter 3. Now sin enters the picture and distorts every relationship, including man’s relationship with work as we see in Adam’s curse: “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”. Now work will be hard and frustrating and sweaty (He must have already created Texas summers.)
Now, in life on this side of the Fall, we struggle to relate to work both physically and emotionally. The physical brokenness is shown in the challenges of work, the sweat and exhaustion and mental overload. The emotional brokenness typically manifests in one of two ways: laziness or idolatry.
If we tend towards laziness, we find ourselves wasting time doing anything but work despite the fact we know deep down that we are created and called to do something. If we tend towards idolatry, we find ourselves placing unrealistic expectations on our work—expectations that work will fulfill us and complete us and make us happy. Expectations that God himself birthed within us but that God alone can fulfill. And placing these expectations anywhere other than upon the God big enough to bear them leads to us feeling frustrated, unsatisfied, even empty because we are giving our work the power to tell us who we are and what we are worth. These functional saviors—that thing that “if this just happens, then I’ll be happy”, will always let us down because they will surely crumble beneath the weight of God-sized needs.
This is where I found myself 4 or 5 months into full time work: full-on idolatry. The reason I was discontent was not because I was doing the wrong job, but doing the right job with the wrong mindset and expectations. I was trying to be a physical therapist instead of being a Christ-follower who does physical therapy. I am a Christian first, meaning I find my identity and my worth in who Christ has made me to be, not in the work He created me to do. And out of my identity in Christ, I go and work and minister in my various roles including physical therapist, wife, daughter, sister, mentor, friend, etc.
Our main job as Christ-followers is found in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples”. All of our other work is intended to build off of this command—to be a disciple who makes disciples. And because of God’s great grace and creativity, we are all uniquely gifted to do this and other works so that the Earth is filled with artists and doctors and singers and lawyers and teachers and pastors who love Jesus and work for His glory.
We are all Christians first, finding our worth and identity and what we need for each day in Christ alone. And by God’s grace we don’t just go to work, we are sent out to work on the authority of the Most High God in order to bring Him glory through the work for which He alone created us.
We are all called differently, but we are all called to the same thing: to be a minister of the Gospel wherever God lets our feet fall. That may be as a stay-at-home mommy or a CEO, a student or a teacher, a businessman or a mailman. But no matter where it is, we go and we minister to others there, sent out equipped with the Gospel and sharing it out of the grace we each have been given. All the while we remember who we are working for: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”, Colossians 3:23. We do all things for the glory of God, including our work.
This post was written by Mallory Behenna. She is the wife to Bo Behenna, one of the student ministers here. She is the new mommy to Griff and Brooks Behenna and works as a physical therapist. She has been an active disciple maker in The Heights Student Ministry since January 2013.