Blog - Becoming Christ-Like
How God Used Workplace Stress to Stretch MeSunday, October 19, 2008
The state agency had hired me as a writer in the public information office. Before long, my office assigned me the task of producing the agency's magazine. The role stirred my imagination. Great ideas for stories and articles kept erupting in my head like popcorn. Just one problem. Whenever I presented one of these brainchildren to the boss, he seemed to have an automated answer: No. Yet sometimes my proposal that had died in the presentation came to life again later—as his inspiration.
Wired to create, I felt strait-jacketed and frustrated. After a year or so of living with this response pattern, I began planning my “parachute.” My exit strategy included creating a book illustrating and providing the background on the historical markers along the highways of our state. The sales of these books, I thought, could help reduce the need for the monthly payroll check. I could quit the job and bid my boss goodbye. The file with information on historical markers began to swell.
But the Lord's persistent voice, though still and small, kept urging otherwise. I wanted to go. But I kept hearing, “stay.” Scriptures such as I Peter 2:18 seemed to confirm what the voice was saying: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” Maybe the boss's behavior wasn't exactly “harsh,” but it definitely felt irritating and even painful.
Like a grain of sand inside an oyster, this irritation at work began to produce something valuable. It pressed me toward the Lord to seek strength and guidance. Then one evening, working on the parachute project in my office at home, I surrendered. Flinging the historical marker research file into the wastebasket, I went face-down on the floor before the Lord. There I handed everything over to him: my future, my job, my car, my house, my family—and myself.
In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee relates how, in speaking with a young friend, he once explained God's disabling hand in our natural selves. “There was a plate of biscuits between us on the table, and I picked up one and broke it in half as though to eat it. Then, fitting the two pieces together again carefully, I said, ‘It looks all right, but it is never quite the same again, is it? When once your back is broken, you will yield ever after to the slightest touch from God.'”
I stayed on in that job, remaining a state employee for another 10 years. But God used that stress in that job as part of his lifelong process of conforming me to the indwelling life of Jesus. The experience did not bring me to a place where I never sin. But it brought me to brokenness. And, as Watchman Nee put it, I've never been quite the same again.
Even the sinless Son of God “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). So why should I be surprised when God uses suffering—even workplace suffering—as part of the curriculum in my obedience training?
How has God the Potter been using the hassles and pressures of your work to shape you into the likeness of his Son?