At Work

Leading with Hope During Challenging Times

LinkedIn Email Print

2020 drastically narrowed the field of vision for millions of professionals in the United States. When the lockdowns began, there was a sense of deep concern but also of adventure as society lurched into unknown territory. For many of us, there was a sudden shift from working in an office community to working at home

A frighteningly large number of people were laid off or furloughed because their work could not be done remotely. Those of us who could still tap at our keyboards and conduct a video chat were very relieved to still be working, even as we wrestled with our pets and family for a quiet place to work. People who had jobs that were deemed essential continued to work in public, taking risks of being infected by a pretty terrible disease.

Over time, however, the relief many of us felt shifted to a feeling of entrapment which, for some, developed into a feeling of dread. As the lockdowns stretched from days to weeks to months, it became harder to have a sense of hope.

And yet, Christians are a people of hope, called to live out the virtue of hope in our daily lives. Though the pandemic has officially ended and most of us have returned to a “new normal,”  many are still recovering mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In addition, life in the present has presented us with new struggles and challenges to overcome.

So, how do we find hope for ourselves and spread it to those we work with in the face of these hard times?

Leading & Working in a Hopeful Story

As people who know the big picture of this world—the four-chapter gospel of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—Christians have some key pieces to the puzzle that non-Christians may lack. We understand that our value is not tied up in our paychecks. We also understand that loving our neighbors and coworkers (who may be in office or remote) —is as much a part of our vocations as the product we are paid to create.

Everyone can be hopeful when it is sunny. When everything is going well, teams are meeting productivity goals, and stock prices are ticking upward, it can be hard to stand out as people of hope. But when the external markers of success are taken away and a sizable bonus seems less than likely, then it is time for the people of hope to stand out and shine brightly. This is because their hope is in something other than meeting productivity goals.

As workers, Paul urges us in Ephesians 6:6-7 ESV to work with a sincere heart, as for Christ, “not by the way of eye-service as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” This is at no point more significant a reality than when you can only be seen on a video chat a few times a day or are otherwise isolated in your work or at home.

As leaders, Paul calls us to a hopeful grace and a similar focus on pleasing the Lord. He writes, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” (Eph 6:9 ESV)

Few things are more difficult as a leader than watching productivity lag and deadlines pass by with work uncompleted. However, let us review a lesson from the pandemic, which we are not too far removed from. During that time when people were under lockdown orders, there was a call to extend grace. People at work needed grace then, and people at work need grace now. 

As stressed out as we might feel now in 2024, it’s important to remember that those who work for us are also stressed. And, for many of our employees, concerns about work performance, educating and taking care of kids, and the general stress of other responsibilities (or even just bad news) can be overwhelming.

Four Practical Demonstrations of Hope

No matter what your current work situation is post-pandemic, have hope. We work for Christ, not for our paychecks. Hope will help us keep our many vocations in perspective. It will help us not despair as we seek to fulfill our in-office and/or remote work responsibilities, take care of our children and families, and more.

During the height of the pandemic, hope kept many people from letting excessive fear paralyze them when they had to go to work. The same can be true for all of us now. Beyond that, hope can enable us to assist others in seeing the goodness in life, even when the situation is less than ideal.

Here are four practical ways to demonstrate hope with your coworkers during difficult times:

  1. Work as those who have hope. Even if project deliverables do not get finished on time or something unexpected happens, Christians should be continually celebrating the good we can do. Optimism, even in the face of imperfection or opposition, can go a long way when everyone feels trapped and concerned.
  2. Be as productive as possible, even when no one is looking. Hopelessness defeats motivation. Hope calls a person onward to a goal, even in the face of insurmountable odds. 
  3. Look for something positive to say. One of the more encouraging aspects of our daily online meetings during the pandemic was finding something positive to say to each other. As a leader, I try to find a way to praise people regularly and honestly, even if their work isn’t perfect. 
  4. Show you care for the people with whom you work. Work disconnection is tangible, but checking in on your employees a couple of times a week to ask how things are going makes a real difference. Part of having hope is remembering the value of people even in our own personal discomfort.

The key element of hope is looking beyond what we can immediately see (Rom 8:25), which really means looking outside ourselves. True hope is found in looking to Christ, who is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” (Heb 6:19 ESV

As Christians, therefore, we ought to be among the most hopeful people, because we have the clearest vision of the true reality that grounds the world. It may be that in the midst of challenging times, we can help others see there is meaning beyond their immediate situation, and perhaps call them to hope in the one who created the world.

Editor’s note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on May 6, 2020.

Get our latest content sent straight to you! Subscribe below.

Further readings on At Work

  • At Work
Living Out the Lord’s Prayer at Work

By: Mike Sharrow

5 minute read

Why don’t people say “TGIM?” TGIF (Thank Goodness it’s Friday!) is a popular exclamation for those longing for the end…

  • At Work

Editor’s note: Read part 1 of Douglas Monroe’s tribute to Hugh Whelchel here and part 2 here.  A Focus on…

Get our latest content sent straight to you! Subscribe below.