Finding Your Motivation Through a Difficult Season
A few years ago, I was at a point in my life where I was completely miserable at my job. I dreaded going to work each day, yet I felt trapped and unable to just quit. I had bills to pay and a family to think about. It wasn't the work necessarily, though if you ask me about it today, I will tell you I never want to do that kind of work again ever, ever, ever. No, it was the environment. I worked for a few bosses, all with some interesting personality quirks, and different managerial styles. One, an old brilliant, socially awkward hippie from the 60's had a very amorphous style of management, in which you just do your thing, figure it out, and all's cool. Since this environment was an academic research lab, it was fine for us technicians and support staff to work that way, as most of us were very self motivated. But for the Ph.D. Students, unfortunately the lack of direction proved quite a struggle. The second boss rarely interacted with the lab members other than to harshly question results in lab meeting presentations. Otherwise she was holed up in her office writing grant applications. The third boss, married to the second, was the one I most often interacted with. Because he was the most junior of the three, he was expected to oversee the day-to-day lab activities in addition to his own research and grant writing. He and his wife are both from Germany, and many memes were made about his rigid historic style of leadership. It is important to note that in 99.99% of the hard sciences academic research, religion or anything even resembling faith in God is not just non-existent, but downright frowned upon, and often mocked. Sharing your faith can result in ostracism and even affect promotion potential, though no one would ever admit that for legal reasons of course. I endured this steadily worsening environment for about 10 years before I really started questioning why I was still there. The toxicity was dragging me down in a major way, causing depression, anxiety, taking its toll on my health, causing issues at home, and degrading my self esteem and self worth despite my best efforts and clinging desperately to my faith. I actually got told once that I was too nice and needed to be more mean to the people I interacted with. My ethics, morals, and values were called into question because the bosses had such low ethical standards for themselves that they mistrusted everyone, presuming instead that everyone operated the way they did. Thankfully I had a solid tribe of Christian peeps to keep my head above water and pray me through. (As a side note, it was around that time that I finally found my calling, and decided to go back to school part-time. I had no idea how I would make the transition, but I was trusting it would happen at the right time.)
I continued doing what I had to do for another 3 years before finally reaching my breaking point. My spirit was crushed. I was bitter, angry, and discouraged. It was during an annual time of fasting and prayer at my church in early January that year that I broke completely down and poured out my heart to God. Crying out for answers to “Why do You still allow me to stay in this horrible place? What is the point? Why am I still here? I can't go on like this, it's completely destroying me, but You know I don't have the faith to just quit! What should I do, Lord? Please give me a clear answer. If I have to stay, show me why and how I will survive. Can't you please tell me clearly, like send an angel messenger or something like you've done for people in the Bible?”
It was a week later, that I got my answer. It was the most profound and clear answer I've ever received from God. I won't give specifics because it's extremely personal, but He may as well have sent me that angel I requested for all intents and purposes, it was that clear. I will say that God has a great sense of humor and knows us oh so very well. (Like that I would probably have a heart attack if an angel actually appeared to me out of nowhere). He told me,
I have you there for a reason. You are to be My Light. A beacon on a hill. The example and hope of Jesus that these people may never otherwise experience. You are to show them what I have to offer them. I have you at the front lines of this battle because I know what you are capable of. To plant seeds, to extend grace and mercy, love, compassion, and empathy. You are not working for people, you are working for Me. Approach each day with this mindset and you will find the peace you are looking for. I will bless you for your faithfulness and obedience.
Let me just tell you, the feeling of peace and calm that came over me in that moment was something I can't even put into words. I just started laughing. I was downright giddy. It made such sense, how could I not have seen it before?
And indeed for the next 2 years, it was like going to a different job. Only it wasn't! The toxicity continued, but because my mind set was different, I was different. I was on a mission. I had a purpose. Headed to the front lines of the battle with my armor on and God at my side. Every time someone was rude, I would be extra nice. Every time someone gossiped about a coworker or spoke negatively I tried to turn the conversation around to something positive about that person. I extended grace and mercy whenever possible. I worked hard, was impeccable with my word, and helped anyone who needed it. I was determined to show people another way. And in that 2 years the environment actually started to improve! People started being nicer to each other. Treating each other with respect. Being a bit more ethical in their work. It was such a nice difference.
That simple shift in my mindset changed so much in my life. I no longer dreaded going to work each day. My depression and anxiety went away. I remembered who I was – a daughter of the Most High – and what that meant. And Colossians 3:23 has stayed at the forefront of my mind ever since that amazing day. And just two years later, He got me out. I had finally finished all my coursework for my degree and just needed to write the majority of my dissertation, which I was worried about because I only had 4 months left to finish it. I got laid off with 16 weeks full severance pay (yep, 4 months), and a whole year of my existing health insurance. Exactly the 4 months needed to devote to writing full-time. Talk about blessings in abundance. I finished my degree, took the summer to remodel my home office and launched my local consulting business that September, finally fulfilling my dream and calling.
If you are struggling with your current place in life, take hope and remember that God has you there for a reason. What an honor it is to know that God trusts in you that much that He is willing to put you at the front of the fight in His name! Take that mission seriously and do your best. You don't have to be perfect, or even great, just put in your best effort. He has a habit of using even the most busted up people in the most incredible ways. All He asks for is effort, obedience, and faith in His plan.