At Work & Theology 101

Leading with Hope in a Hopeless World

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The past month has 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 have been laid off or furloughed because their work could not be done remotely. Those of us who can 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 have jobs that are deemed essential continue to work in public, which risks infection 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 have stretched from days to weeks to months, it has become 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. So how do we encourage those we work with as we are isolated in our living spaces?

Leading & Working in a Hopeful Story

As people with the big picture of this world—the knowledge of 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 paycheck. We also understand that loving our neighbors—even our virtual coworkers—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 likely next near, then it is the time for those whose 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.

As leaders, Paul calls for 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)

There is little more difficult as a leader than watching productivity lag and deadlines pass uncompleted. However, in the disruption caused for so many by the current lockdown orders, a little grace is in order with others. As stressed as we feel, those that work for us are also stressed. And, for many of our workers, concerns about company performance, having to work in educating kids, and the general stress of conflicting bad news can be overwhelming.

Four Practical Demonstrations of Hope

No matter what your current work situation: have hope. We work for Christ, not for our paycheck. Hope will help us keep our many vocations in balance and not despair as we are trying to help our child with virtual school while trying to work remotely. Hope keeps us from excessive fear when we have to go to work in the middle of a pandemic. 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 this lockdown:

  1. Work as those who have hope. Even if project deliverables do not get finished on time or the lockdown gets extended, Christians should be continually celebrating the good we can do. Optimism, even in the face of imperfection, 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 has been 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. The current disconnection is tangible, but checking in on them 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 pandemic 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: Learn more about the four-chapter gospel in the booklet, All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel, is available in paperback and digital formats in our bookstore.

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