In 1988, 11 year-old Martin Pistorius came home from school with a sore throat. He stayed home from school the next day because it got worse and the next day, too. And in fact, he never went back to school. Martin Pistorius’ body had turned on him.
His body became spastic, his muscles weakened, his speech slurred. Just one year later, he had become a mute quadriplegic with his hands turned outward. His body was frozen.
He couldn’t talk, couldn’t respond, and because he was unresponsive physically, the doctors assumed he was unresponsive mentally. They took him to a care center for people with an IQ of 30 or less, where he spent all day either laying down or sitting up, tied into his wheelchair. His family would take him home at night and bring him back the next morning. This was his routine for ten years.
But then something amazing happened…
Martin started to “wake up.” Through the use of a computer, he was able to communicate, and they discovered a truly frightening thing – Martin had been completely conscious the entire time and not only that, he was highly intelligent. For ten years, Martin was trapped inside his own body while his mind was fully alert.
So alert and intelligent in fact, that in 2013, he published his memoir, Ghost Boy, which has become an international bestseller. He writes,
“To other people, I resembled a potted plant: something to be given water and left in the corner. Everyone was used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again.” (p17)
I want to talk about how to find joy at work. Listen, we spend a lot of our blood, sweat, and tears at work. We sacrifice time with family for work. We force ourselves to commute long hours and spend all day with people we don’t like for work. Yes, we earn a living, but is it really living?
I think we should expect to find joy at work, regardless if we’re in our dream job or not. Life’s too short not to. So maybe you feel like Martin…trapped in a way of life you can’t get out of. You know there’s more out there, but feel helpless to do anything.
Difference Between Joy and Happiness
So let’s define our terms. Happiness is a feeling or even a mood of cheer or delight that is most often based on the circumstances. I’m happy it’s sunny today. I’m happy my wife made chocolate chip cookies. I’m happy that tomorrow is a work holiday. Being happy is great. But it’s fleeing because joy is based on our circumstances, and should the circumstance change, we can easily become unhappy.
But joy is different. Joy is more enduring than a mood or feeling. Joy is a prevailing orientation of the heart that produces deep contentment and hope. It weathers all circumstances because joy isn’t based on circumstances. It’s not conditional on things being right or easy or the way you planned. Joy enables you to be satisfied with little, hopeful in suffering, and peaceful through uncertainty.
I’d like to share four ways to find joy at work, but we’ll do it in a series.
#1: Bless Your Coworkers, Whether Friends or Enemies
To “bless” is to speak well of someone or request divine care for them. It’s easy to bless your friends at work…those you get along with. But it’s not easy to bless the ones you don’t get along with. To “bless” is to ask God to do good for others before he does good for you. It’s easy to curse when you’re being cursed, to criticize when you’re being criticized. But blessing is not just turning the other cheek; it’s offering your coat in return.
Romans 12:17-21 says,
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I never understood this verse because heaping burning coals on someone’s head sounds a lot like revenge, not blessing. So I looked up the context and here’s what I found. In Bible times, it was very important to keep your fire going. But should it go out, you would go to your neighbor and ask for some live coals with which to start a new fire, which would be carried in a basket on your head.
So when in this verse, Paul says to heap burning coals on your neighbor’s head, he’s saying to supply a lavish amount of coals to take care of your neighbor. Now that’s blessing!
Although it’s not altogether easy to do and doesn’t feel natural, blessing our enemies as well as our friends brings joy. It is tiring to always be looking out for yourself, protecting your own self interests, getting even, holding grudges.
It is tiring to hold onto unforgiveness and always be looking for the strategic advantage and celebrating your own wonderfulness in which you are the tyrant king of your own tiny world.
Instead, try blessing others and trust God to take care of you.