Throughout university I wrote numerous essays. Most of these required some sort of analysis of theory and I've lost count of the number of times I re-worded this sentence, focussed around loss and change theories: “humans are pattern-seeking beings, and as such change can be difficult to cope with as it knocks the equilibrium [the inner sense of balance and composure]”. It was my go-to theory, partly because it was understandable and easily applied to a range of scenarios, but also because it resonated with me.
We are pattern-seeking beings. It's true that many of us are adventure-seeking and spontaneous, but when big changes occur most will feel daunted by this.
There's an inevitability to a university course ending. We can't control that timing, so finishing up with university and moving on to a workplace will often “knock a person's equilibrium”.
The words of Deuteronomy 31:8 are helpful to remember in these times: “the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you”. So often we become caught up in worrying about the future, but God is already there – He “goes before you”. Anxieties are alleviated in the realisation that God is far beyond our present circumstances, working out His plans and fully equipped to supply all we need in this journey.
He goes before you when you are searching and applying for employment.
Job-searching can be a tumultuous and stressful time and I, for one, found losing the security of being in full-time education daunting. That being said, this realisation that the reliability of university is temporary serves to marvellously contrast with the certainties found in God and His perfect Son. There is ultimate security in the transcendent love of God, from which a child of God can never be severed (Romans 8:38-39).
Sometimes God’s answer to prayer about a potential job is, effectively, a “yes” (you got the job!), and in these circumstances our response should embody humility and thanksgiving: “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Other times, we have to interpret the answer as “not yet”, perhaps because there are no posts advertised that would be suitable. In this situation the Psalmist instructs us to “wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14). Difficult though it might be, beauty can be found in waiting upon God’s timing, and there is a purpose in His decision to prolong your job search. He may be teaching you patience or reliance on Him. Prayerfully search for the purpose of your waiting and seek to develop any virtue God is looking to grow in your life through this experience.
Oftentimes, the most difficult answer we can receive from God is an apparent “no”, especially if we had become confident of a positive outcome. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks about pleading with the Lord to remove a “thorn in the flesh” but being told “no”. In this case, Paul may have had a direct message from the Lord, as the full revelation from God (the Bible) was not complete at that time. We now have the full body of Scripture and can search it for these answers, alongside prayerful consideration and petition. Despite these differences, what we can learn from Paul’s experience is that there was purpose in this “negative” outcome. Paul was to learn that God’s grace was sufficient for him, that His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God left this “thorn” in Paul’s life specifically to prevent pride becoming an issue and also as a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient for every circumstance of life. Perhaps God is guarding you from pride, too.
There are, however, copious reasons God may have for telling you “no” when you are praying about a potential job. It could be that the job you are interested in would be detrimental to you at this time, and God in His wisdom removes this from your path. Theologian J. I. Packer explores further some reasons why we can experience “upsetting and discouraging things” such as this in his book, Knowing God: “Perhaps He means to strengthen us in patience, good humour, compassion, humility or meekness . . . Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency . . . or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps His purpose is simply to draw us closer to Himself . . . Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.” Whatever the reason for the apparently negative answer, be assured that there is one, and call to mind that God’s grace is sufficient for you, just as it was for Paul. It is not a cruelty for God to say “no”, but instead a developing of His divine purposes.
He goes before you when you begin employment.
It’s often an uneasy process, losing the reliability of university and being plunged into the world of work and “adulting”. That “first day feeling” is an awkward one. However, keep in mind it is a first only for you, not for your God, who is already there and has prepared your way; He will “direct your paths” when He is kept Lord of your life (Proverbs 3:6).
Tim Keller describes our daily work as “ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it". Christians should be distinctive employees, known to be honest and hard workers (Colossians 3:17,23). The workplace is an opportunity to glorify God in this way, and also to be a shining example to your colleagues, so that “they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The workplace is also where God has explicitly placed you to be a witness for Him. “You shall be My witnesses . . . even to the remotest part of the earth”, He tells His followers in Acts 1:8 (NASB). A witness has first-hand knowledge and gives account of this; we have experience and knowledge of the love, grace, and mercy of God and should give account of this in our practical daily working as well as verbally through sharing the gospel.
It is evident throughout the Scriptures that work is good and important; we see God implementing work for Adam in Genesis 1, and numerous other “workers”, throughout the Old and New Testaments (David was a shepherd, the disciples fishermen, Paul a tent-maker, and even the Lord Jesus Himself worked as a carpenter). It is good, therefore, to seek employment following graduation, if your circumstances allow. That being said, work is not where our worth or importance comes from, and it is crucial to keep this truth at the forefront of our minds. Christ and our relationship with Him is above all else; His sacrifice alone is our boast (Galatians 6:14). The words of My Worth Is Not In What I Own encapsulate this well:
“My worth is not in skill or name,
In win or lose, in pride or shame,
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross.
I will not boast in wealth or might,
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light,
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross.”
– Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Graham Kendrick