Our Labor is Not in Vain

A few days ago I woke up with the feeling of sheer defeat covering me like an itchy, two-sizes-too-small sweater. It clung to me and whispered lies that I did not have the energy to fight. “You are not helping anyone in your job,” it told me. “Just give up,” it said.


You see, I work for DSS as a Foster Care case manager. I encounter broken families day in and day out. I’m often the bearer of bad news—the enemy, the sounding board for angry words and feelings. At work, I am always faced with the reality of the brokenness of our world. Normally, this leads me to complete and utter dependence on our sovereign Lord, much like Paul describes in the book of Philippians. I’m able to remember that God is in control of all things, that all I do (my work included) is led by Him, and that it is a privilege to be an ambassador of Christ on this Earth, despite the experience I may be having at any moment.

On this particular day though, I was not able to grasp any of these truths. The cloud stayed with me as I prepared for the day and as I went into the office. This cloud stole my energy and willingness to extend grace to the families I work with. When someone was nasty to me, it was harder for me to love them. “Don’t you know how I’m feeling right now?” I wanted to say. “Don’t you know how hard I’m spinning my wheels and how pointless I feel like this all is?” I felt entitled to grumbling and bitterness like I had earned it.

“At work, I am always faced with the reality of the brokenness of our world.”

As I read Paul’s words in Philippians 2, I realize I had it all wrong. Paul encourages the believers in the church at Philippi to continue to work hard, without grumbling, and to remember that as we work, it is God Himself who works in us.

In that day alone, I had missed the mark on all three of these. The attitude of defeat that I woke up with left me feeling like my work didn’t matter, and as a result, I didn’t want to work hard anymore. Because I felt like no one truly understood how hard I had been working, I gave myself allowance to have little patience and not extend grace. Finally, I had completely neglected to remember that whether it was defeat, exhaustion, accomplishment, whatever I was feeling about work, God was in it with me. In my weeks of hard work and scrambling, God had equipped me. Even at my point of defeat, He was with me still.

In verses 14 through 15, Paul urges us to “do everything without grumbling or arguing”. He goes on to say, “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” This reminds me of something a co-worker said to me a few months ago at work. I was on a phone call with someone who was very upset. They were speaking irrationally and yelling. I was barely able to speak, but when I did speak, I was calm and gracious. I spoke the truth but was not judging. I allowed them to speak. I treated them with kindness and grace.

“In my weeks of hard work and scrambling, God had equipped me. Even at my point of defeat, He was with me still.”

After the phone call ended, my co-worker turned to me and said, “I’m not exactly sure what the person on the other end of the call was saying, but I’m almost positive it was not nice. I could tell that you were getting yelled at, and you were so patient and kind to them anyway. I don’t know how you do that. Whenever I hear you on the phone you just sound so kind.” She seemed shocked. I didn’t give her an answer for how I do it, but I know the answer. It is because of Christ that is at work within me. It is because I have been called to reflect His likeness to those in the world.

Verse 16 picks up where verse 15 ends and encourages us to “hold firmly to the word of life”, and Paul expresses that he will “be able to boast on the day of Christ that [he] did not run or labor in vain”. This is my daily prayer as I go into work now, that I would hold firmly onto Jesus who is my security and sustainer in all things. And most importantly that I know that the work that He has called me to do for His kingdom is not in vain.

Jordan Hemphill

Jordan is a Furman graduate who prefers 90 degree temperatures over cold weather any day. She loves a good thunderstorm and the smell of Home Depot. Hobbies include: holding babies and laughing.