Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place — and I did not know it!”
For the last few days, I’ve used a passage from Genesis 28 to reflect on God’s presence in our workplace. Even as Jacob was impressed by God’s presence in a place he did not expect to find it, so it can be with us in our offices, shops, classrooms, and boardrooms.
I have spent most of my working life in pastoral ministry. Now, you might think that I’d have no trouble believing that God has been present in my work. This has been true sometimes. But there are other times, times when I’m sitting in long HR meetings, times when I’m dealing with budget shortfalls, times when my work can feel just as godless as any other kind of work.
Yet, I’ve found that if I can keep in mind the fact that God is present in every bit of my work, then my experience of work changes distinctly. For example, if I’m getting ready to go into a long business meeting, I can have a bad attitude about it and wish I were someplace else altogether. But if I remind myself that God will be present in the meeting, that what I’ll be doing is for his pleasure, that God will be at work in my colleagues and me, and that God might have something planned that I’ll miss if I remain stuck in my negative attitude, then my experience of the meeting will be different. I will be more attentive, not only to the Lord, but also to others. I will see evidence of God’s activity that I might otherwise have missed. And, even if I’m having to fight boredom, at least I can offer myself to the Lord as his bored but faithful servant.
I don’t mean to imply that if you attend to God’s presence in your workplace everything will come up roses. Well, actually, roses might be a good analogy here. In our workplaces, even if we are aware of God’s presence, we will still get snagged by plenty of thorns because our work has been tainted by sin. (Thorns and thistles, remember?) There will be roses, yes, and lots of thorns. Yet, the more we work with an awareness of the reality of God’s presence, the more we’ll be able to find God’s grace even in difficulties and frustrations.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times in your working life when your awareness of God’s presence made a difference?
Think about aspects of your work life that are the least present or rewarding for you. How might you experience these differently if you acknowledged God’s presence?
Gracious God, thank you for being present in every part of life. Thank you for being there at work. Thank you for being with me in good times and hard times. Thank you for caring about my work and for allowing me, through my work, to contribute to your work in the world.
Help me, Lord, to remember your presence in every place in which I work. I pray that, by your grace, I might sense that you are with me at all times, but especially in times of great challenge.
May all that I do at work, Lord, be an offering to you. Be glorified in and through me. Amen.
This post originally published on November 7, 2015.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Good Idea: Work
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