King Solomon, in search for meaning, reflected on the futility of earthly wisdom, pleasure and work and concluded that all was meaningless1. All this coming from a man who himself was the living superlative of wisdom in his time. Now, if we were indeed to see these through an eternal lens, we could only attribute lasting significance to heavenly wisdom (James 3:17), pleasures at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11) and the work we do for God’s kingdom (Philippians 1:6).
Yet there must be some merit to these good gifts from above. And on this occasion of thanksgiving, I ponder on the value of work—that when carried out according to His purpose, takes on meaning, and serves to exalt Him above all.
See, I started my career in market research in 2005 in Manila, buoyed by one promotion after the other, that I quickly rose up to middle management. I was much younger then, extremely driven, and better built for the sleepless nights and physical toll of the job. I wanted to do things well, as I had done in the past (i.e. academics), and the norm of hard work producing results had things going my way.
It has been eight long years since that step up to a managerial position. After coming to Singapore in 2010, it all came to a halt when I faced the challenges of being in a new environment and a much larger team. It was a bitter cliché to swallow—had I become that big fish in a previously smaller pond, now thrown out into sea? Sure, work had always been tough, but never (seemingly) thankless. So this was the sense of hollowness and meaninglessness that Solomon talked about.
Where praise was harder to come by and self-doubt hovered above my every move—at this lowest point—little did I know that God was opening the door for the only validation I would ever need. A real encounter of His Love.
And so three years into this new job, the milestone has come, and not a moment too early or too late. At a time, when I am called to rise up in all ways possible, in areas of Church and ministry, on the domestic front as I live on my own, this new role at work is perfect in timing and significance. As all things came crashing down some four years ago, so do all things come together in 2016.
Others may chalk it to coincidence, and perhaps if I had not come to believe as I do, I would be quick to brush it off the same way. On August 23, on the same day that I was to pay my new rent, the official promotion letter was placed in my hand.
And that is why it is not simply about the new title, not the pay raise, not even the recognition, but how the process traces God’s hand moving through it all. Through the dry years, when I had nothing more to give, He was hardest at work, moulding my character and recalibrating my motivations, humbling me and leading me to a greater trust in Him.
Truly, I thank You Lord—for all You have done and all You will do*.
Eleven years ago, I wrote as a fresh grad twentysomething, searching for that elusive thing called “meaning”. Now it dawns on me that all meaning founded on human understanding alone will always be subject to the beating down of the tides of circumstance and shifting emotions. Only an unchanging and unfailing God can perfectly define our purpose, prosper our work, and bring the meaning or significance we seek.
Call off the search. I am through chasing after fickle winds of illusion, done striving for what cannot last. For in my God, I have an unshakeable hope, my all in all, the real deal.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58
1Read more at the book of Ecclesiastes, chapters 1 and 2
*I overflow with thanks to the tune of Bethel Music’s “Thank You”.
**Pardon the vanity that Solomon speaks of, but this serves to document God’s faithfulness in my life. And fine, I like these corporate shots 😉