Last week, I ended up working with two separate people who were both looking for jobs. One person was thinking about leaving her current career and trying to find something more in alignment with what she thinks God has in mind for her. Of course, she is ill prepared to face the challenges of entering a work environment where she doesn’t have any prior experience or subject matter expertise. It was great meeting with her, in part because it brought back memories of the thousands of people that I have worked with throughout the last 33 years since I started working in the field of career transition. But it is clearly evident that this journey will take a little time and will undoubtedly be filled with numerous coaching sessions to help her get re-established.
The second person, by contrast, is someone I have known and worked with for more than a decade. I met him when he was out of work and walked with him through a career transition that ended up being quite rewarding for him – and for me. We have grown even closer throughout the years and are now fast friends. Unfortunately, this past March, his position was eliminated and he is once again on the hunt for another job – for at least five years until he retires.
Tonight, I heard about another young man who already has quite a history and can’t seem to land a position. He’s a veteran who served overseas in Afghanistan and during his deployment, his wife found another man she was interested in and this wonderful soldier ended up divorced after his return to the States. Needless to say, it rocked his world, and now that he is back in the area, he is trying to find a new position – unsuccessfully. By the way, did I mention that he is a graduate of West Point? Who would have thought that his life would take this kind of turn? But you know what? I might just know of a place that can use his accounting skills and help him return to the civilian workforce.
That’s how life twists and turns when you are in the business of helping people with their careers. Whether it is helping find someone a new job or coaching them to excel in leadership while they are in their current position, it is very rewarding. And there is no end in sight. There are always going to be issues with jobs, people and the companies they work for.
The Bible is rather vocal on this point. Contrary to public belief, the Bible doesn’t speak to the topic of retirement. Our society has been led to believe that there is a magic age of 65 and then you head off into the sunset and take it easy. But that’s not the way it happened in the ancient times. While it is true that priests started their official roles at the age of thirty and ended their tenure at age fifty, there was no thought of retirement after that. Instead, the priests would pour their lives into the younger men who were learning and getting educated to begin their tenure as priests.
It was also a way for people to stay connected to their communities. Too often, even today, people stop working and drop out of society. They lose their friendships and end up withdrawing from life. Sure, this doesn’t happen all of the time by any means, but those “retirees” who stay active, either through volunteer assignments mentoring others, or even teaching children, lead more fulfilling later years than folks who don’t have a service mentality.
By the way, after the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, God did create penalties for Adam, Eve and the serpent. Our verse for this evening highlights the curse of man. We are told, in Genesis 3:17-19, “…“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” We have heard the last part of this passage from funerals that we have all attended throughout the years. But the first part of the passage is the statement about work.
Today, we are taught that we shouldn’t do anything we don’t want to do, and while I certainly believe in following the call of God in your life, including your career, it is biblically sound to assume that work or “toil” is going to be “painful” at times. And God never promised us that he wanted us to be happy, but we are to be holy… Loving your work is a bonus not too many people get to have.
My encouragement this evening is to keep working! Don’t think about retirement if there is any way to avoid it. My prayer is that God will grant you the kind of work that will fulfill you and keep you in the community of believers. Furthermore, pour yourself into others – it is well worth the effort. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…