Finding Joy in Work
Do you ever feel like joy is an illusive place with a closed door? Boredom or monotony can make it seem so. Depression can too. Resentment also locks that door.
In my life, one of the most prevalent joy stealers has been “work without recognition.” I’m not talking about the kind of recognition that receives trophies or pay raises and promotions. I’m talking about receiving a simple “good job” or “thank you.”
Know what I mean?
I have two strong examples of this in my life are…mind if I share?
When my kiddos went to grade school, I found myself looking for purpose. As the dedicated “stay-at-home Mom,” I was bored. I did not excite with producing vacuum lines in the carpet. Laundry cycled round and round without end. The empty rooms didn’t interact and my unstimulated mind felt numb.
At the end of the school day, I would make a snack and eagerly greet the kids, asking about their day.
“What did you do today?”
“Did you enjoy art today?”
“What did you do at recess?”
“Nothing. But Mom?”
“Yes??” I’d excitedly lean in.
“I don’t like it when you put banana in my lunch.”
I volunteered in the classrooms and library. I volunteered in PTA. I enjoyed the people I interacted with and knew I was doing good things for my family and community, but I still felt unappreciated.
I seriously needed a “thank you.”
Feeling as if I was deprived of oxygen, I took an opportunity to work part-time. The company I went to work for was under equipped for their immediate deadlines. I poured my skills into the work, fulfilling those needs, meeting deadlines, receiving grateful smiles.
I felt needed and wanted.
At work, deadlines continued. I found myself in an ongoing heavy-duty spin cycle. I worked longer. I worked weekends. I worked late. Part-time was now over-time. Being a conscientious worker, I always put forth my best work. So, I sacrificed that which I’d determined unproductive…family time.
With my high-achieving work ethic established, the expectations of me were too. So, the boss’s “thank you” became infrequent, the bar set higher, and my heart began to ache once again.
Eventually, I left that job too, unable to feel joy in my work.
Is your story like my story? Have you been ever-squirreling for love and appreciation? Let me pause in the post to say…
“Friend, you are making a difference! Your every good work is noticed. You are missed when you’re not present. Thank you for doing your part and loving on the world.”
I was reading a popular parable found in Matthew 25:14-30. This story is often labeled “The Parable of the Talents” or, as in the photo of my Bible (above), “The Story of the Three Servants.” I noticed, in my ESV version, something I had not seen before that is the catalyst for this post. Let’s read a portion of this scripture (verses 14-21) together and then I will point out what spoke to me…
“14. For it [the Kingdom of Heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21. His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'”
One of the overriding points of this passage of scripture is that God is asking us to be responsible with the resources He gives us. Though this story speaks of coins, God’s resources are not limited to money. Note that verse 14 states, “[He] entrusted to them his property.” (Emphasis mine.)
The definition of Entrusted is: (1) to give a task, duty, or responsibility to. (2) to put (something) into the possession or safekeeping of another.
To be entrusted with God’s property is to have Him trust me with the responsibility and safekeeping of that property. It’s a privilege, not drudgery. Something I didn’t recognize back then.
God entrusted me with His children. I thought they were mychildren. As mine, I believed myself entitled to their devotion. Their gratitude. Their love. I became resentful because I was not receiving the glory I thought I deserved, when actually it was an assignment given for God’s glory and kingdom.
Resentment locked the door of my heart to the joy in the work. I deserted. I took another duty and relived the same issue in an office venue.
We are not entitled to God’s gifts. And that is what the entrusting is…a gift of trust. My story represents the confusion in what we believe we own and what is actually God’s to lend. The attitude we take makes all the difference!
I bet you can count at least five “entrustments” you currently have! Perhaps, like me, you are a stay-at-home parent with children. Or perhaps you work in an office or grocery store or gas station. Perhaps you are caring for aging parents or someone else’s aging parents. All things…people, buildings, animals, land, knowledge, equipment, or skills…all are entrusted by God and are not your own.
Whew! If that’s not enough redirection….
What truly caught my eye in this passage of scripture is in verse 21. It holds the atta-boy I so desperately sought! The Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
(1) Faithfulness is praised.
In my striving to be loved, to have value, and seeking glory for myself, I skipped over the faithfulness part. I was entrusted with babies. Given two talents. My lack of faithfulness presented in the change in jobs. And I did not have my ear to the Lord, listening for His praise….
“Well done!” He says to the faithful servant.
Not only was I misguided in what was mine and skipping out on faithfulness, but I was listening for recognition from the wrong source. I’m not to seek kudos from my kids or blessings from my boss.
(2) God’s task. God’s reward. God is the settler of accounts.
Verse 19 says, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”
God has given me a very long time and many opportunities to learn this lesson. I am still learning. And His teaching is not condemnation for doing it wrong. The Heavenly Father is very patient, giving many do-overs to get me moving untethered.
Finally, lean in, dear friend, to what God says…“Enter into the joy of your Master.”
You know that locked door? Open!
God says, “Enter….”
The door stands wide open to a joy-filled place…a laughing Father with arms wide open to you.
(3) Faithfulness to the work entrusted to us leads to joy. God is pleased. And we are free to enter that joyful place because the door is wide open!
Have you ever cried out…like I was crying out…in the work you are doing? Has depression whispered sour nothings in your ear? Tuck this gem of a passage in your wallet! God wants you to know that your faithfulness is known to Him! It is God’s praise we need, not that of our boss or spouse or child! It is God who entrusts with these responsibilities and it’s His glory He is sharing in return.
The responsibilities of the day are calling me to be faithful. I hear laughter…time to walk through the door….