Recently, at a Christian women’s retreat, I asked my small prayer group for strength and wisdom to deal with difficulties I was encountering in a volunteer position. One of the women responded with advice I have heard many times in similar situations: “You are a volunteer, just quit.”
This time I responded a little more vehemently then I intended. As we struggled to understand each other, the difference in our underlying assumptions became clear when I finally said “I can’t quit because God hasn’t released me.”
I knew that God had sent me on this assignment, and therefore if I quit, I was in essence saying no to God. I wasn’t giving up on the other people, the organization, or even myself; I would be giving up on God. It has taken me a long, long time to reach this point, but I understand that everything I do, whether paid work, volunteer, recreation, chores or rest, I am to do it all to God. Lest you think I have my act together, there is a difference between what I know in my head to be true, and what I am able to consistently live out on a daily basis. But I have also learned that I will never be able to put anything into practice unless I recognize it first. But, I digress –
How we respond to difficulties in whatever positions we find ourselves in is largely determined by our perspective of why we are doing it. If it is all about us, our desires, and our plans, we will be quick to anger and quick to give up. If, on the other hand, we have heard and obeyed God’s direction, even if we didn’t hear God clearly or interpret what we heard correctly, we will respond very differently. The key difference is that we will be much more likely to seek God’s direction and try to see and understand what God is doing and why He has us there at this time.
God is less concerned about the specific tasks of this temporary world then He is about our eternal destiny. God is focused on building our character and helping us to understand who we are in relationship to Him and others. He is revealing Himself to us and teaching us our unique God-given identity as well as how to live that out in this world and the next. Part of this is for us to learn how to work together in unity, without competition, focusing on God and His directives while trusting God to protect and to guide and to take care of our needs. How we deal with other people reflects where we are in this journey. If you are like me, you have a long way to go, but can take comfort in looking at how far God has already brought you. When I look back over the decades of my life thus far, I can see example after example of God’s tender care and provision for me, even when I misunderstood how He was directing me, or was running away from Him at full speed (that never works, just ask Jonah).
So, next time you find yourself getting frustrated at work (whether paid or volunteer) ask yourself: