At Work & Theology 101

Grief, Hope, and Work in a Time of Pandemic

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These are, indeed, unprecedented times.

For some, work has sped up. Those working in essential industries like healthcare, government, grocery, and delivery have seen their workloads and pace increase tenfold, with greater reliance and need placed on these workers and sectors due to the shifting sands of non-essential business closures.

For some, work has slowed to an abrupt halt. Restaurants, retailers, and other event-dependent businesses have faced dire straits, some laying off many while facing hazy futures about when and how things might normalize.

For some, work now takes place at our dinner table or couch. Working from home might provide flexibility and a semblance of normalcy, yet the outlets of vocation, family, and rest for many are now shoved into a blender and become one in the same.

Many now live in a world where self-scheduling and discipline is not merely a nicety but a necessity for survival in their work. Stress mounts as concentration shifts through the seemingly endless strands of Zoom meetings. Each day brings a feel of repetition and monotony.

For many of us, our work has suffered a rupture, and it’s in desperate need of repair.

Revealing Our Fragility

The fragility of our lives and institutions is being illuminated. Though we might hastily portray a sense of rugged individualism, our need for our Creator and one another has never been more pronounced.

We were made to be dependent.

Genesis speaks of a world where God walked with Adam and Eve, the Psalms speak of God as an ever-present refuge, the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians encourages Christians to boast in their weakness, knowing God’s favor and presence is enough to strengthen in times of desperation. (2 Cor 12:9)

Even amid a pandemic, our need for work and our need to continue the Genesis 1:27 cultural mandate of being fruitful and multiplying still holds fast. While the work may look different, the promises of scripture stand firm amidst the shaking of our own infrastructures and idols of comfort.

For some, this manifests as exhaustion through the constant juggling of home duties or even overwork caused through a now unexpectedly essential vocation.

For others, this looks like anxiety over the loss of work and savings in the collateral fallout of the virus’ altering of society.

For others, this looks like depression over a lack of productive work that came about through an unexpected job loss or cutback on hours.

No one is unaffected in their vocational lives through the influence of COVID-19, and a healthy response for each of us involves a moment in the mirror to grieve and lament as we put one foot in the front of another and receive our daily bread.

So, honestly, how might we process a way forward when everything feels shaky underneath our feet?

Our Refuge and Our Strength

God’s word given to us through Psalm 46 can help,

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Ps 46:1-3, ESV)

Because God is the object of our refuge and strength, we can have hope and confidence though things feel unsettled.

Rather than shying away from the pangs of life, the Bible is honest about struggles, pains, and questions. Just look at the opening of Psalm 10 (ESV), where David writes, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?” The Bible is honest about doubt and emotions of lament. It just refuses to leave us alone in them.

Our pains always find purpose and direction in the cross of Christ, where the full weight of sickness, pain, and death was dealt with once and for all.

Editor’s note: This excerpt was republished with permission from the Center for Faith and Work Los Angeles. See the original article in its entirety here.

Learn more about the story that gives meaning and purpose to all people in the booklet, All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.

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