At Work & Theology 101

How God Works in Our Fourth-Quarter Neediness

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Exciting football games often deliver high-stakes, fourth-quarter drama. Rush and stress are palpable. For many of us in our workplaces and leadership, it’s the fourth quarter and we feel it. There is so much to accomplish! In multiple leadership realms, many of us are tangibly and spiritually needy right now. How about you? If we are not vigilant and intentionally grounded, our emotions spin out of control with anxious thoughts and frenetic fear.  

By nature of God’s call and assignments to us, it’s that time of year when the calendar deadlines, creative programming, necessary high-quality deliverables, and required resource cultivation all collide with a punctuated crash. It’s true most years in the fourth quarter of the year, but perhaps it feels extra-poignant this season.

How About Your Own Neediness Right Now? 

I bet you can relate. If your realm includes a big focus on corporate sales, no doubt you have end-of-year goals to reach. If you are on the production side of the equation, you likely have an uptick in product quantity to deliver. There’s so much that needs to be accomplished with timely panache. And if you are in the not-for-profit sector, then you know the weightiness of finishing the year strong with extra care, donor cultivation, and creative programming.

Pause to evaluate. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing heightened anxiety and 1 representing super-chill, how are you handling the press and stress, your own emotional neediness right now? Go ahead. Rank yourself.

What’s Really Happening in Our  Neediness?

No doubt you have taken solid steps across the year to cultivate, “to plant,” and to faithfully harvest. Now, you are probably still wondering: “Oh Lord, how will all this turn out?” You’ve aimed to execute the plans you established in the year’s opening weeks. With diligence, you’ve pursued multiple God-honoring bottom lines, but you are still left wondering: “Will we really meet goals and taste the sweet fruit of success?”

What’s really going on? First, something good, dare we say primal, is stirring in us. Humans were made to accomplish, craft, produce, achieve, and otherwise join God in his creative work. It’s a big, beautiful expression of the Imago Dei (Gen. 1:27-31 and 2:15). He delights to work in us and through us. We might even see it this way. Our churning and stirring for productivity are like the Spirit’s “hovering over the waters” in our hearts and leadership.

Such a quest for success is very good and healthy—until it’s not. Our efforts, both internal and external, are indeed positive as long as we keep a proper perspective. The danger comes when we cross into the valley of worry, that chasm littered with the skeletons of self-absorption. Cloaked in the dark shadows of doubt, we start obsessing over “how we’ll make it,” “how we’ll succeed,” and “what if we don’t?”

Fixing Our Eyes Anew

In our anxious fourth-quarter struggles for stellar accomplishment, we need a crucial course correction and the skill to climb to brighter places. Whether it’s a grand finale December event, those close-of-year sales numbers, the cumulative earnings spreadsheet, or your organization’s generous giving total, realize this: it’s not all up to you. Read that again. It’s not all up to you.

You’ve been working hard, so take a deep breath. Now take another. You have been doing your part, and you are still working with diligence in the final weeks of the year. But don’t be duped by the balderdash that says the results are all up to you. In these fields and forests of momentous productivity and finance, there are plenty of other forces in play. Fix your eyes anew.

First, remember you are working in tandem with others. We readily praise the glories of teamwork. However, under fourth-quarter stress, we’re quick to forget. Pause to recall your team’s efforts together. Thank God for what others are doing. Reach out to them. Thank them deeply for their efforts. Find out what they might need right now in order to stay truly faithful and fully flourishing. It’s not all up to you. Really.

Second, remember you really are working with God. In Henry’s Glory: A Story for Discovering Lasting Significance in Your Daily Work, I share the unique outlook of George Washington Carver, the famous professor, experimenter, and laboratory researcher. He came up with over three hundred products from the peanut and one hundred eighteen from the sweet potato. But here’s the best part, though it’s very seldom reported in the mainstream history books. Carver claimed to accomplish all of this because he worked with God in his laboratory. He affectionately called it “God’s Little Workshop.” Carver sincerely believed he was working with God in all that he did. Carver reflected in one speech: “God is going to reveal to us things he never revealed before if we put our hands in his.” Carver’s outlook of God-dependence was a remarkable change-maker.

It’s not all up to you. Really. In our jumbled emotions over year-end outcomes, let’s pause again to say, “Lord, we need you!” Let’s marinate in Carver’s secret sauce, such divine partnership, plus the Psalmist’s soul-shaping perspective: 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Ps. 145:15-16).

Take hold of Paul’s encouragement: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

Rest assured. God is at work in us and through us. We can trust him! Even, and especially, in the fourth quarter.

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