A couple of months ago, I sat in chapel where one of our chaplains and his family was recognized as they were about to move to another Army post to begin a new assignment. It occurred to me that I have never written about the many challenges a worker and his or her family face when they start a new job.
In the dozen jobs I had over my active-duty career, my wife and I understood that each time I was up for reassignment, there was what we called an “angel in uniform” who watched over the process. God needed us to be His representatives and do His work at just the right places at just the right times as we were stationed around the country and overseas. I tried to keep in mind that God was with me and that He had a variety of purposes in mind for His glory and my good.
But what do we need to do when we arrive at that new assignment? How do we fit in? How does our family find their place in the community, in the kids’ schools, and in church? These are not easy tasks.
Since there are numerous military families that are about to begin their “permanent change of station”, thousands of college graduates who moved across the country to start their new careers, and a host of other workers who for a variety of reasons have chosen to quit their jobs and relocate elsewhere, it might be an opportune time for me to explore this topic from a biblical and theological perspective.
Dealing with the new boss
Probably the first anxiety-producing situation is meeting your new boss. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. This unpredictability makes it a huge challenge for everyone.
I think what makes it challenging for all is that we have all seen, heard of, or have had bad bosses who have made their employees’ lives miserable. There are bosses who have been incompetent, uncaring, insensitive, selfish, angry, demanding, greedy, lecherous, or lazy. These all sound like sins to me.
As Christians, we know that sin has negatively affected the workplace since Adam and Eve. Adam’s sin cursed work for every human. Everyone we work for, everyone who works for us, our customers, and each one of us brings our own sins to the workplace daily, making work unnecessarily painful. And yet, God calls us to submit to our employers, knowing we are working for Jesus (Col. 3:22-24).
I can’t help but think about Joseph, and the three main positions that he fell into, starting in Gen. 39. He did not have bad bosses; to the contrary. The big take away from this narrative is that God was with Joseph, which brought him success. As a result, He blessed his employers. (See Gen. 39:5 and 23.)
I encourage those starting a new job to see your boss as someone whom God has put in your path for a variety of purposes. You can learn from them as they provide both good and bad examples on how to lead. Their sinful attitudes and actions will be part of the “thorns and thistles” we will experience at work until Jesus comes back. We must learn to see these as trials that God will help us to overcome.
Learning the new position
The next biggest challenge that workers will face is figuring out their new job responsibilities.
Ironically, this one is slightly less scary than the new boss. At least you have an idea of what you are getting into with a new position. You may have never done this particular job before, but it is possible you know someone who has or you may have been recommended by someone who used to hold it.
Sometimes, the job meets your expectations. The new projects you are assigned are doable in a reasonable amount of time. Your coworkers seem nice. The hours aren’t too bad. So far so good.
But after a while, those old thorns and thistles start showing up. You get handed more projects than you can handle; your plate is already full. You are juggling glass balls that can’t be dropped. More and more is expected of you. There is only so much you can do. You may feel like you are drowning.
You may have the opposite situation. You may feel overqualified for the job. It doesn’t challenge you mentally. You don’t have enough to do. You are underutilized. You are bored. It is not a good fit.
Either way, as a Christian, you have additional resources to handle this new job. Remember God’s promise that He will be with you wherever you go. That does not exclude this wilderness in which you find yourself. He is not only with you, but is working in you and through you to those all around you.
If the job is not a great fit, you truly have options. You can endure it, which may be what God wants. Or you can ask Him to rescue you from it, which is another avenue that glorifies God just as much.
Getting the family settled
In addition to your own struggles with the new boss and the new job, your family (if you are blessed to have one) has some different challenges of their own. You owe it to them to understand what they are going through. You also need to focus some of your time and energy over several months to assist.
My wife has often shared with young military wives that are new to our community at Fort Leonard Wood it normally took her six months or up to a year before she felt totally settled in a new duty station. She does this not to discourage them, but to give them realistic expectations. She learned, the hard way quite often, not to get overly involved in ministry activities until our kids and her were more or less unpacked in the new house, comfortable in a new church, and making friends in the new school.
Figuring out your purpose
I have had the privilege of serving in the same organization doing the same job for over 14 years now. However, during my twenty years on active duty and in various other jobs I had after I graduated from college, I can remember what it was like to go through what you may be going through right now. One of the things I have learned well is to trust God to show me some of the reasons why I have the jobs that He provided, especially in those tough jobs where I failed as a youth minister and a recruiter.
I also know from reading God’s word that He often places His people in just the right places at just the right time where He has chosen to use them for the building up of His kingdom. Many examples of ordinary workers come to mind: Moses, Nehemiah, David, Esther, the Apostle Paul, among others.
I would like to leave those who have recently started a new job with a word of encouragement.
God put you where you are for much more than just a paycheck, although that in itself is part of His blessing, too. He has a purpose for you being there. My hope is that you will see it. Maybe you will learn something critical you will need in the future. Maybe you will supervise someone who needs what you have to offer. Maybe you are there to minister to your boss. Maybe you have this job to see that God is with you and is working in and through you to love your neighbors by meeting their needs.
Whatever the reason (or multiple reasons) that you are working in this new assignment, know that God will use you as you walk with Him, abide in Christ, and are filled with the Holy Spirit. God will be present with you in your work, which I have called “Immanuel labor” for the past several years. I trust that you will be able to experience God’s presence like never before, and that you have joy when you do leave, knowing that this job was a significant part of God’s abundant life for you and your family.
About the author:
Russell E. Gehrlein (Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 41 years, father of three, grandfather of five, and author of the book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He is an ordinary man who is passionate about helping ordinary people experience God’s presence and integrate their Christian faith at work. Russ received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth minister. He served 20 years on active duty. Russ works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Since 2015, he has written over 180 articles on faith and work topics. One hundred of these articles have been published on several Christian organization’s websites, including: the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, Coram Deo, Nashville Institute for Faith + Work, Made to Flourish, The Gospel Coalition, and Christian Grandfather Magazine. (See list of published articles on Linktree.)