Written by Faith Lau, Singapore
It’s been a year and a half since my last burnout. I remember the tightness in my chest, the shortness of breath, and lots of tears from feeling so overwhelmed by work. After leaving that job for a workplace that I thought would lead to better opportunities, what I had expected to be a hopeful beginning soon crumbled to pieces.
In a span of 10 months, my work portfolio went through four drastic changes. Even before I joined the team, they removed one portfolio from my role. This was followed by the downsizing of a huge portfolio after a month in. Then came the rejection of a proposal that would have given me more concrete projects. And most recently, I was excluded from the next big thing because they felt I wasn’t ready.
It felt like an utter let-down, considering I was willing to take on more responsibility. Even though I didn’t really like the scope that was assigned to me, I had decided to stay because I had committed to see them through the next big thing. It was disappointing to have that reciprocated with rejection.
As I processed what was happening to me and the next steps I ought to take, I waited on God in prayer, knowing that only He could give me peace. During my quiet time, these words from Proverbs 16:2 stood out to me: “All the ways of a person are clean in his own sight, but the Lord examines the motives.” And so, as I asked God to search my heart, He brought three things to my mind:
1. My pride at work
I had subconsciously equated the magnitude of my projects to my worth, which explained why I became upset when projects kept getting taken from me. I was also disappointed with the work I was stuck with. Even though my mouth was claiming that all work is dignified, my heart still believed that I’m better than this.
But God reminded me that I was ultimately working for Him and not for my human bosses (Colossians 3:23). How I treated each task was more important than the task itself. My character and diligence mattered more in His eyes.
2. My anxiety over the future
I was worried about future career opportunities as it felt like I wouldn’t be able to achieve much at my current workplace to show future employers. But God reminded me that He can be trusted for everything that happens in life. Just as how God watched over Joseph in the pit and in prison (Genesis 39), no season in my life goes out of His sight.
Our trust is shown in how we wait for God to refine us and get us through the difficult seasons. So in this hard season, I will wait by giving my best at work, by refraining from speaking ill of my bosses and colleagues when things are not going the way I expect, knowing that God will see me through it all.
3. My fear of making wrong decisions and missing out
I was considering searching for other places to develop my work skills, but was afraid of missing out on any better future opportunities at my current workplace if I decide to stay. I longed for an answer from God because I wanted to know what the perfect choice was.
But God showed me that sometimes our desperate need for an answer is because we want our situations to give us peace. We want to know what the best choice is, not because it will be one that pleases God but because it’s the one that allows us to live up to what we think is our best potential.
So when God sometimes withholds a response, it is actually out of grace, lest my life becomes my god.
My Father is bringing me to a place where I learn to play in the playground with Him watching from the bench, ever ready to run over when I need Him. But just as an earthly father understands that some falls are part of play and learning, my Heavenly Father knows that some falls are meant for growth and to reveal His grace. So whichever choice I make, be it to stay or to leave, I know that He watches over me.
I still do not have a decision on my next steps at work, but I’ve learnt that the posture of my heart is more important than the decisions I make. Whenever I start to feel dread about my work, I try to remember that God has a purpose in this season, and that life is not about careers but about God. Even though I’m still struggling to see God’s perspective on work, I am waiting and allowing Him to refine my beliefs.
As I wait, I’m asking God to help me work in a manner that honours Him, to not make decisions out of boredom or dread, but to commit each step I make in prayer.
Proverbs 16:3 urges us to commit our work to the Lord and our plans will be established. To commit is to trust, and a heart that unconditionally trusts God in all things is one that has His peace through the trials and His wisdom to make good decisions.