“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”That would be nice. There is only one problem with this often repeated counsel: it’s impossible for the vast majority of us. There are a couple of problematic assumptions with this concept.
First, it assumes a great deal of privilege and potential. Very few in society actually possess the means and ability to earn a living for something they are passionate about. Think of any number of cases where quality education, nutrition, or environmental instability stomps out raw talent and desire. Or in other cases, the raw talent is simply lacking, and the field is too competitive. Somewhere along the way I had to give up on the dream that I would one day play first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The second problematic assumption is that we’ll always love the same line of work for 30 or 40 years! Folks are especially set up for disappointment in our increasingly specialized world. Jobs require more and more advanced education (and therefore more student loan debt), credentialing, and licensure out the wazoo, and this for an income and lifestyle that is often a mockery of the requirements. Aspirants pursue their chosen field with fervor and zeal only to find out they can’t stand the commute, that one coworker, constant talk of budget cuts, and inefficiencies. And any hope of escape is haltered by the dreaded “hiring freeze.”
No matter how much we love to “work the land”in theory, “cursed is the ground”(Genesis 3:17) is our reality.
We need something more satisfying, more captivating, and hopeful than simply staring at the clock every day. We need God to meet us in the grind. The good news is that when we are at work, God is not just kicking back in the big bosses’ chair, but down on the floor of the factory with us. His work is not scouring over our performance but giving us his grace. How can this be? Because he has called us and sent us.
God has called us for a purpose.
First, what is this calling? Is it being called into his office for “the talk”? On the contrary, it is a calling into grace from God “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”(2 Tim 1:9). While the world is interested in the best and brightest, God is looking for those whom we would think of as a constant PR nightmare:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”(1 Cor 1:26—29)
Why would God do this? Because he is looking for those to whom he can be gracious. The Apostle Paul continues, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’”(1 Cor 1:30—31). This means that our present frustration, insecurity, longing, and sense of wasting away are all moments that God uses to call us into seeking every bit of grace that we need in Jesus. While we are often crying out from 9-5, “How long, O Lord?”(Ps 13:1), He is continually promising us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”(2 Cor 12:9). Our Father in heaven is using these daily vexations to create a space in which he can meet us and be our strength, our hope, our security, our honor, and glory. We must be assured that these days of struggle are not wasted years. Rather, they are moments in which he works for us and in us and “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”(Rom 8:28). Only then can we “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”(James 1:2).
God has sent us for the sake of others.
Second, God has sent us. Our Father has sent us out into the world to fulfill our various callings in life as his means of providing for the needs of others. Christians have historically understood this truth as one part of the larger doctrine of vocation. Our vocations are, broadly speaking, all of the various roles we may have in this life in which we are called to love and serve our neighbors: spouse, single person, child, parent, friend, janitor, student, nurse, electrician, etc. Martin Luther famously referred to our vocations as “masks of God”in which he conceals himself, providing good and necessary things to all people:
All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government–to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.
Thankfully, our Lord is so giving, so set on providing good for his created world, that even when you’re weary, tired, or just a plain grouch, he is still at work through you. He will indeed “give us this day our daily bread”(Matt 6:11), because even when we’re “not feeling it,”he is still good.
What this means for you then is simply this: because of God’s calling, the struggle of your work is not in vain, but a place where he meets you and gives you his grace. Furthermore, because of God’s sending, the fruit of your labor is also not in vain, because this is the tangible, strangely “earthy”way that God provides for what your neighbor needs. God is going to keep being gracious to you in the grind today, tomorrow, into next quarter, and regardless of the fickleness of your “5-year plan.”Will you one day love your job or find one you do love? Hopefully! But even if you don’t, you can punch the time clock with the peace and joy that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”(Lam. 3:22—23).
 Gene Edward Veith, Jr., The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals, revised edition (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 93, kindle edition
 Martin Luther, Exposition of Psalm 147. as quoted in Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 138