Towards human flourishing
The Secret to Work That I Learned During the Financial Crisis
As a business owner I’m expected to love what I do because to many people owning a business is a dream that comes true for a select few. Of course, I did love my work for many years, but increasingly the business began to feel like a burden that I wanted to unload. Then the financial crisis of 2008 hit and changed everything I understood about work.
When the crisis materialized I had no idea what was ahead of me or the rest of the country and I just kept putting one foot in front of the next. I was not in dire trouble initially, but I did need to cut back due to a drop in sales. In my business salaries are the biggest expense and I had dragged my feet on letting people go. I did not know how long this crisis would last of how deep it would go and these were good people—talented, hard workers. I did not want to hurt them and I did not want to lose them. Eventually I had no choice.
Because I laid people off much later than I should have I put the company in serious financial risk because I had used up all my financial resources to make payroll.
As part of the cutbacks, I had laid off my office manager. She was responsible for our bookkeeping, doing our billings and dealing with vendor invoices. Now I was working nights and weekends at the office taking care of her job, as well as doing mine. My work felt like a heavy burden.
Things got so bad at my company that at one point I went without pay for months and I had to tell my remaining staff that I did not think our company was going to make it. Visions of our house being foreclosed and my reputation destroyed occupied my waking and sleeping hours. It was one of the darkest times of my life. I just wanted to run away.
Through all this I began to question working. I looked at how hard I toiled and how little fruit I had to show for it and how miserable I was. I thought about the curse.
Wasn’t this whole system part of the curse? How could the rat race be good and why was I taking part in it? Didn’t God have something better for me? I knew that I would not have to struggle someday in God’s Kingdom and wasn’t that kingdom supposed to be now? Why did I have to labor at all? I began to think that work was part of the curse and that somehow I needed to get free of it.
I continued to labor everyday at my office, trying to fix all the problems that beset my business, but all the while I just wanted to be free of my work. I was sure that I was experiencing all this misery because work was part of the curse.
Then one day I had a little revelation asI was walking to a meeting near my office. I was thinking about the curse of work and it hit me:
Work is not a result of the curse. Working for our food, our sustenance, is a result of the curse. But, man, made in the image of God, is designed to work—to do good work.
This unbidden revelation hit me like a thunderbolt. I immediately understood my error, that I had it all wrong.
First work is not a curse. I (and all of mankind) am designed to work. And, if I am designed to do it, then the only way I can be fulfilled is to be in integrity with my design. I need to work to be whole.
Second, I was working for the wrong reasons. Through the greed of my heart and through the intense pressures of the financial crisis, I was working to make money. Working for money is a result of the curse. I needed to start working for the right reasons.
I realized that I needed to change the way I thought about and approached work. I needed to let go of worrying about money and sustenance. That was in God’s hands. My job was to do the work before me with all my might and to do it to the glory of God. If I did that then I was in integrity, I was in the right place and God would sort out the rest. And He did.
I started working hard and with a new attitude and sales started to flow not long after. Today my company is back to it’s pre-crash level of sales, we’ve hired new employees and we brought our office manager back. Best of all for me though: I love my work again.
The truth is God designed us to work—just not for our supper.
If you’re interested to learn more read both Genesis 1:26-31 and Genesis 3:17 to get a picture of mankind and work.