Responding to Workplace Adversity
by Jeff Montgomery
If I was talking to you directly, and asked you if you had a job that was always calm, never stressful, and free of adversity, would you be able to say 'Yes'?
That's what I thought. Most of us, whether we love or hate our jobs, have those moments where we wonder why we show up every day. Even though we may love our work most of the time, we occasionally run into that rude customer, or that difficult coworker, or just a stressful situation that really tries our patience and Christian principles.
How we respond says a lot about how deep our faith goes. It's perfectly natural to feel anger or frustration in these situations, but it's how we respond outwardly that really shows our colors. If we aren't rooted in Christ deep enough, we might respond in a way that gets us into some deep hot water. If we are standing with our feet firmly rooted in Christ, He can help us to deal with whatever situation comes our way.
Of course, this is true in the rest of our lives, not just work, but it seems to me that work provides some additional opportunities for the frustrating episodes. Outside of work, most of the people we deal with are friends or family, which for most of us means that we basically get along with each other. At the very least, there is the bond of family to keep things together.
That's obviously not the case in our workplace. Sure, we may have some people we call 'friend', but we also have to work with and get along with a wide variety of people. Depending on where you work or the nature of your job, you may have a truly diverse group of people with which to work, which means a lot of different personalities and viewpoints. In addition, some of us work in remote offices of large companies, which can create a feeling of isolation.
Whatever the situation, when the adversity dragon raises its head and breaths it's fire into our working lives, we have to remember where our strength comes from.
To paraphrase St. Paul, we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. The key phrase there is 'through Christ'. We can't do it on our own, although we may have the skills to do so. We have to be tapped into that eternal strength that flows from God through Jesus and into us. All we have to do is ask.
In order to tap into that flow of strength, we have to stay in touch with God. We have to find time for prayer. We have to find some time to read Scripture. In short, we have to discipline ourselves to keep the door open, so Jesus can walk through when we need him.
If you can anticipate these situations, in other words, if you know they're coming, you can say a short prayer to yourself as you steel yourself for what's to come. For those times when adversity comes out of nowhere, we already need to be in touch with God so he can help us at that moment. That means asking God for this strength when we have our daily prayer time.
If we're in the midst of a crisis, we can ask for continued strength to deal with it. If we're preparing for future strife, we can ask for a dose of heavenly strength before we need it, so it'll be there when the time comes.
The point is that we must have God's help to deal gracefully and peacefully with adversity. Our emotions can get the best of us sometimes when we are suddenly confronted with stress or adversity. The only way to respond in a Christian manner is to have Christ's light within us. We have only to offer the invitation.
Another facet of adverse situations is that God is probably using them to teach us something or shape us according to His plan. Think about this for a moment - which situation provides us with more insight, the one that we cruise through where everything goes right, or the one where we stumble a few times and have to pick ourselves up and keep going?
For me, it always seems to be the adverse situations that provide the most insight, and provide the catalyst for change. It's too easy just to coast when things are flying along without a hitch. It's only when we stumble, examine the situation, figure out what happened, and make adjustments that we change either our approach or ourselves.
I think of it as the way you use sand and grit to smooth out a rough rock in one of those rock tumblers. It's only through the rough, scratchy rubbing that the rough stone is turned into a smooth and shiny piece of jewelry. The same thing happens to us. The adverse situations God sends out way are the sand and grit of our own personal rock tumbler.
Not to say that knowing this makes it any easier to accept the adversity when it comes, but it may help to give us some perspective and understanding.
Think about the all of the ways you've ever heard of to deal with adversity. Stay cool. Understand the other person's viewpoint. Develop a plan. Don't react emotionally. There are many others. How can we be sure to do these things? Through seeking out Christ.
He can help us to keep our cool. He can give us the patience to learn the other person's viewpoint. He can give us the wisdom to develop a plan that will work. He can help us to keep our emotions in check so we don't lash out.
Jesus is the foundation on which we can build our spiritual temple. We can allow Him to live within us and guide us so that, over time, we can become more like Him. He can give us the strength and confidence to face life's struggles and to make our way through them.
We just have to allow him into our hearts. Ask Him today.
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