The Millennial generation’s attitudes toward work and relationships are often in the limelight.
In particular, they’re characterized as being highly motivated to find meaningful work and unwilling to stay long in an unfulfilling job.
However, the desire to find meaning and fulfillment in our work is common to all of us.
Brené Brown, of “The Power of Vulnerability” TED Talk fame, has conducted extensive research into the motivational variables that factor into our propensity to experience shame, fear, and our need for connectedness.
Dr. Brown’s research in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, indicates that what we do for work is an important part of our ability to feel fulfilled and connected to others and to God.
We are, in fact, wired to work.
Wired to Work
We all have gifts and talents. God is a creative God, and, being made in his image, he intended for us to share that trait.
Speaking about the gifts every human possess, Brown says,
Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives…. It’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even guilt.
The pain we feel is evidence of our need to be restored fully to communion with God.
Prior to the Fall, man was created to walk with God. This included specific duties in the Garden, like naming the animals and cultivating the garden itself. When man sinned, his work was rendered more difficult.
Simultaneously, our relational connectedness was cursed. We are not able to experience harmony with God or each other to the same extent to which we were designed, just as we find it difficult to do work.
Yet if we trust Christ and find our identity as a son or daughter of God, we experience his pleasure as we grow closer to him and how he intended us to be. He is a creative God, and he designed us to be creative beings. It makes sense that we respond to him when we engage in those activities to which we were made to excel.
What This Means for Meaningful Work
Finding meaningful, lucrative work is often difficult. As my artistically talented sister will tell you, she becomes frustrated every time she tells someone new about her major and long term plans, and they respond with a quip about starving artists.
There are a lot of reasons to choose a particular job or career path, and it’s important to take into account all factors, including money. Some may not have the luxury of working at their dream job due to circumstantial constraints. But ideally, we should seek a job or components of a job in which we find fulfillment.
We are each created with interests and talents specific to us. Though we are all created in God’s image, God is too vast to repeat himself in our finite world, and each of us reflects his image in different ways. Our very uniqueness is reason to praise a God whose love for us extends to his care for our wellbeing in all aspects of life.
You may be a Millennial struggling through your first year in the workplace, or you may be a seasoned business owner. Each stage comes with challenges and successes, and each can be formative opportunities to learn about ourselves and our God.
As we journey through the story God has created for each of us, let us grow in giving ourselves and others grace in our struggle to find meaning in our work.
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