Have you ever hated your job? Even if you have a great job, one you mostly love, there may be times when your feelings about your work sour. And if “hate” is a bit strong for you, I expect there are times when you dislike your job, or at least certain parts of it.
When you’re feeling lousy about your job, you may wonder if God cares. It might seem as if God is hiding. You’re apt to wonder, “Where is God when I hate my job?”
We get a surprising answer to this question from Brother Lawrence, the inspiration for The Practice of the Presence of God. This answer comes in the “Second Conversation” reported by Father Joseph de Beaufort. He was reporting on times when Lawrence had to do work that was difficult or unpleasant. On these occasions, Lawrence found encouragement in the fact that he was doing God’s business. Father Joseph continues,
“Things have worked similarly in [Lawrence’s] duties in the kitchen, to which he naturally has a great aversion. He simply has accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God. And on all occasions he performs his work with prayer, asking for God’s grace to do his work well. As a result, during the fifteen years that he has been employed there, Brother Lawrence has found everything to be easy.”
Part of what I love about this passage is its straightforward admission that Lawrence had “a great aversion” to his job in the kitchen. To put the matter more plainly, he hated his job. He got no pleasure from the repetitive, mind-numbing tasks assigned to him and he did not like them. In Father Joseph’s writing, Lawrence is not portrayed as a super-Christian for whom faithfulness comes with ease and joy. Rather, he is a genuine person, one who can hate his work, much as you or I might do upon occasion.
Yet, as Lawrence learned to “do everything there for the love of God,” his experience of his work changed. Moreover, he depended on God for the “grace to do his work well.” Thus, because his work was an expression of love for God, and because he relied on God’s grace to do his work, “Brother Lawrence has found everything to be easy.” This doesn’t mean he loved everything he had to do. Nor does it mean he didn’t have to work hard at times. Rather, his work was easy because it was an act of love for God, an act empowered by God’s grace.
This quotation from The Practice of the Presence of God meant a great deal to me many years ago when I was the pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. The church and I were going through a rough patch together. I was receiving lots of criticism and feeling heavy discouragement about my work. I wouldn’t say I felt a “great aversion” to it, but there were many days when I thought about resigning and walking away.
During that challenging time, I turned to Brother Lawrence for wisdom and encouragement. When I read the passage quoted above, I felt as if God was speaking to me. Not only did I think and pray about this passage, but also I printed it out, framed it, and placed it in my office at church. Each day, especially in difficult times, I would ask God for the grace to work well, even when I would rather not be doing it. I would confess my great need of God’s help. I would quite consciously offer my work to God as an act of love for him.
Did I find, like Lawrence, that everything became easy? No, that would be an exaggeration. But I did find comfort and encouragement as I sensed God’s presence in new ways. Moreover, by offering my work to God as a gesture of love, I found a measure of freedom from needing to please everyone in the church, especially those who were critical of me.
If you love your work, you can still learn to love God through your work and depend consistently on his grace. If, like Lawrence, you’re feeling aversion for your work, or, if like most of us, you are somewhere in between love and aversion, then Lawrence’s example can help you experience God’s presence in your work, even today.