3 biblical responses to frustrating work

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians. (Exodus 3:7-8a)

We’re in a seven-week series extracting wisdom for our work from the exodus, and in today’s passage, we find the impetus and trigger for this monumental event: Work! Or to be more specific, the horrible working conditions of God’s people.

The Egyptians had “made [the Israelites’] lives bitter with harsh labor…[and] worked them ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:14), screaming “Get back to your work!” (Exodus 5:4), and, “Make the work harder” (Exodus 5:9). So God’s people “groaned in their slavery....and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God” (Exodus 2:23).

And as today’s passage shows us, God heard the cry of his people and acted decisively. The ability of God’s image-bearers to do good work is so important to him that he sent ten brutal plagues and parted the Red Sea in order to free his people.

Now, our work today can not compare to the enslavement of the Israelites. But we do deal with less severe “thorns and thistles” of the curse nonetheless (see Genesis 3:17-19). We are forced to put up with non-stop emails that distract us from our families, verbally abusive customers and bosses, and rising costs of living without corresponding increases in income.

It can be tempting to think that God is indifferent to these struggles—that he’s got bigger things to worry about than whatever is frustrating you at work today. But the exodus shows us that’s not the case. As one theologian said commenting on today’s passage, "Work, and the conditions under which it is performed, is a matter of the highest concern to God."

In light of that truth, how should we respond to the frustrations we face at work? In three ways.

First, cry out to God for help like the Israelites did, knowing he hears your lament.

Second, fight to improve the job conditions of those you work with, especially if you lead a team. The exodus reminds us that working to make your organization’s culture more equitable, peaceful, and enjoyable isn’t “secular.” It is God-ordained work.

Finally, when you encounter frustrations at work today, look forward to when God will “come down to rescue” all of his people and put us to work on the New Earth where we will “long enjoy the work of our hands” (see Isaiah 65:22).


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