What does it mean to be fulfilled? In part, it means feeling a sense of satisfaction, significance, and affirmation about your work. It means having a peace of mind when you discover and live out your purpose in the world. But what does that look like?
As some of these stories show, 2013 was a year of searching for fulfillment, and finding it in unexpected places. There are stories about the struggle to find fulfillment, as well as profiles of people who helped others discover dignity and purpose. Put together, these stories provide a snapshot of what fulfillment looked like in 2013.
Fulfillment is sometimes confused with the idea of success, but the two aren’t always synonymous. Is it possible to find any sense of peace or fulfillment when you’re unemployed?
This past August, 53% of American adults were without work. Among those unemployed was Tanya Ross-Lane, who, as she told us in an interview, was “in between successes.” Ross-Lane graciously opened up about the struggles of her unemployment, but also talked about how she found fulfillment in this difficult season. “Elijah, David, the Israelites, Jesus, they all had their periods of wilderness. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, but God is telling me he hasn’t forgotten me,” she says. “He is taking care of me, maybe not the way I want him to, but I haven’t lost my house, my car, or a meal yet. God is telling me to hang in there.”
There are some jobs we tend to see as “ordinary,” “unpleasant,” “boring,” or even “useless.” Not so, says Dirty Jobs creator Mike Rowe. And Rowe has been saying it a lot this year. Whether he was giving interviews, appearing in commercials, or taking reporters to task for misunderstanding the purpose of work, Rowe reiterated that good people can do dirty jobs, “ordinary” work is anything but, and fulfillment can be found in seemingly “mundane” tasks. He reminded us of the biblical truth that work may sometimes be difficult and frustrating, but is far from useless.
It seemed like everyone was talking about the Neighborhood Film Company this summer. The company is a prime example of Christian entrepreneurs using their skills to help others find fulfillment in finding a job.
Joseph Sunde interviewed NFC founders Ricky Staub and Anders Lindwall about how their company offers dignity, purpose, and “whole-life transformation” to adults in recovery. “When we looked at the gospels, we saw people desperate – for hope, for healing, and for the chance to be free. That type of hunger that is attractive to our company,” Lindwall told Sunde.
The duo trains potential hires through their non-profit, Working Film Establishment, and then employs them at NFC once their training ends. NFC is ready to begin production on its first feature film in 2014, when audiences will get a chance to see the fruit of businesses helping others find purpose and fulfillment.
“Recession-style insecurity is our new normal,” wrote Alicia Cohn in Christianity Today this past fall. Cohn was writing about her generation – the millennials – their job prospects, and their desire (and struggle) to find meaningful careers. Cohn picked up on an issue that reached a nadir earlier this year: over the summer jobs reports posed a dismal picture for the employment hopes of young adults.
Millennials, however, aren’t down and out. In the midst of his own struggle to find meaningful work, millennial writer Tyler Castle offered words of wisdom to all those hoping to make a difference at work and in the world, yet felt they were failing: “…the fact that I am not hugely successful a year out of college should not be too disheartening…don’t lose hope because society says you are a failure. Continue to work hard as you strive to glorify God and make a return on his investment, however meager it may seem.”
“What if I’m stuck in the wrong job?” “What do I do when my work fails to fulfill me?” “What is the secret of contentment?” These questions and many more like them were among the most common questions IFWE staff received this year in our travels, speaking engagements, and interactions with you, our readers.
This year seemed to be a year when people struggled to find fulfillment, but weren’t afraid to ask the tough questions they needed to ask in order to find it. And that’s a good thing. Hugh Whelchel recently shared that fulfillment comes in “…not being satisfied with what you have or where you are in life. It is working diligently to glorify God, serve the common good, and further the kingdom of God in everything we do.”
It seems that one of the top stories about fulfillment in 2013 was the search for fulfillment. Keep searching, knowing that the work you – whether paid or volunteer – matters to God and is an integral part of his purpose in this world.
Editor’s note: the photo of Mike Rowe appears courtesy of Dave Pinter Photography.
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