It is somehow hard to comprehend how January has just began and how it is almost over now. It has been, on a personal level, a month of backwards and forwards.
I recently celebrated my third-year anniversary with the company I work at. God planted me in this corporate set-up for a purpose and He waters me every day since then to build my character and grow my faith in Him. Most days, I fall flat on my face with frustrations and failures scattered all over the floor. But never did He leave me lying there. He would pick me up and protect me every time.
First year, I experienced relational conflicts at work. My relationship with God was put to the test. I was directly asked by a superior to let go of some of my values. “Sometimes you have to let go of that integrity for the sake of other people. Don’t worry, that won’t make you a bad person.”, she said. That left me silent and hurting but there was no decision to make. I stood by God’s way even though most people won’t like it. A new-found friend that time turned his back against me because of my unlikeability and even badmouthed me to assure the others that he is not on my side. I was mocked. I even caught some of them talk behind my back which was not so behind because I was behind them when they were magnifying all faults that they could possibly file against me.
Words can indeed hurt. As told in James 3, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
I will never forget that one cab ride going home when I was bursting in tears because I could no longer hold the hurts from their words. I felt like I could no longer trust anybody. I then became quieter at work, just mindfully finishing all my deliverables while absorbing all hate and criticism. I wanted to defend myself and I wanted revenge but God’s word in Romans 12:19 kept me from doing so. “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”. This verse taught me to trust God in a whole new level. This verse also reminded me of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:23. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” I wanted to quit but God was teaching me perseverance. He wanted me to pass Perseverance 101 which I have unconsciously failed in the prior years.
God also lovingly rebuked me. “Do you now know what it feels like to be slandered, mocked and badmouthed?”, He asked. And I remembered, in my previous jobs, how I used to do those things to some people, too – talking about my frustrations against somebody to somebody and then attacking that person by telling others about his or her faults, even enticing others to take my side.
“So how can I grumble against people whom I used to be like before?”, I thought. This led me to a heartfelt confession before God. Romans 2:1 became a truth so alive. “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
God’s mercy shifted my side mirror perspective to a front windshield perspective – from depending on Him to defend me to loving even those who have wronged me. Hurt people hurt people. And I should know that because I used to be that and I used to do that. Hurt people need Jesus. And I should know that because it was only when Jesus came into my heart that I realised how badly I needed a life-transforming, life-giving and life-directing Saviour (John 14:6).
God made me pass Perseverance 101. Christ remained even in the chaos therefore there was peace in my heart. I even witnessed how God defended me so victoriously. It was also then when I started to have friends at work. It was also then when I started to share who Jesus is to people in the workplace.
Second year, my submission to God’s lordship was put to the test. In the time when my Bible study leader, ate Vivian, was introducing me to God’s word and teaching me why I should dwell on it every day, I suddenly became involved in a project which required me to spend 16 hours at work. Some days, I even get required to stay-in at work. The flow of my days then became so tentative. It was a tiring season not only for me but for my officemates as well.
But I remember how my Bible study leader persisted for me. I would set a 30-minute schedule with her then I would bail out on her last minute. But she would patiently wait for me until midnight just so she could minister to me. I would rush out of work with guilt in my heart because she has been waiting so long for me, and meet up with her with my eyes almost half asleep. Then she would be there for me to pray for me and pray with me. I thought, “This Bible study time won’t make her rich. In fact, she is the one spending her time, resources and energy. Why would somebody care for me and my relationship with God like this?” I saw Jesus in the one leading me to Him.
God used ate Vivian for me to realise that I need to put God first in my life. This means that I should prioritise Him in my schedules no matter how tentative and tiring it is because I can always trust Him with all that is going on around me. This was when Matthew 6:33 first made sense to me. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
This was when I decided to intentionally block-off a specific schedule for God – in essence, non-negotiable meet-ups with my Bible study leader and the ladies that God began entrusting to me that time – without compromising my deliverables at work. Was it easy? Of course not. For some reason, whenever I block-off a schedule for ministry, a work schedule suddenly pops-up, enticing me to file an overtime. But I realised that God allows such situations for me to learn how and why I should put my trust in Him even when it is inconvenient to say no to work and uncomfortable to say yes to Him.
Brows were constantly raised against me. “What an attitude for a newbie. How can you beg-off work just like that?”, they said. But I held on to Matthew 6:33. I would show up in my Bible study schedules on time every time after work (even when I am tired, sleepy or sick), trusting God that He will take care of my all my needs.
God made me pass Perseverance 102 with a minor in Lordship 101. My officemates eventually understood my convictions. It was then when I witnessed a breakthrough in my personal ministry. God also eventually used my stay-in work schedules for me to share who Jesus is to my officemates.
Third year, God taught me how to apply Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…” This was when I first felt like my career was stagnating. I wanted to transfer to another division but God would rightly say ‘no’. I wanted to transfer to another organisation yet God would still say ‘stay’. I was pulled out from two big projects at work and many of my projects would land to an on-hold status. My personal ministry at work also started to dwindle. These got me disheartened. I started to doubt God’s purpose and plans. It was so hard for me to be thankful during this season of my life.
But I think that’s exactly where God wanted me to be: To not lose heart even when things are not going the way I wanted it to be and to overflow with thankfulness even when things seem stagnant and fading. He used those failed projects to remind me that I can’t but He can. He used those moments of stillness to make me see how my God is indeed a powerful living God. I wanted to quit but God was teaching me perseverance. He wanted me to fix my eyes on Him and not on the situations I am at as encouraged in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
God made me pass Perseverance 103. It was during this time that I met Grace, a co-laborer, disciple and disciple-maker today.
And just recently, God has been teaching me to move past self-preservation. By self-preservation, I mean not being able to say no even when it is right to say no in fear that the person you are saying no to may be offended or may say/feel something against you. I initially wanted to justify this form of self-preservation as just me wanting to look after/protect myself. But that’s exactly what sin is: self-centered, seductive and easily justified.
I had an additional superior recently. This means additional workload as well. Since I am building a relationship with this new superior and because I want to impress him with the way I work, I suddenly became a Yes girl. I wanted to over-deliver. It then became hard for me to stick to an important schedule because I would just say Yes to him every single time he’d ask me of a rush deliverable. This led me to accomplishing more rush deliverables up to the point that I felt like I was more of a machine than a person. Obviously, I had a heart that was leaning on pleasing men than pleasing God.
My schedule and preparation for ministry and discipleship appointments became so rushed and I would often catch myself haggard from extending working hours. My conviction to steward the time that God had given me for things with eternal value (relationship with God, word of God, souls of men) was swayed and there was no peace and rest in my heart. The fear of what people might say if I say no to this superior started to cripple in my head too like an unnecessary anxiety. I wanted to quit…
but God. He still led me to the realisation that I should pray about my situation and really depend on Him about the matter of my heart. Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I was planted by God on this corporate job to deliver and serve others, to honour my authorities and to share the light of Christ to the people I interact with. But when my corporate job started to became more important than God’s great commission, that’s when I realised that something in my daily decisions had to change. Perhaps, this is a double-checking if I really passed Perseverance 102 and if I can level up to Lordship 102.
God taught me (and is still teaching me) how to let go of my self-preservations by saying no without dishonouring any of my authorities at work. God also taught me to let go of my anxieties about what people might say and to just stand firm with my convictions. God also, above all, sustained me at work even more.
My first no was not easy to say and so are the next few nos. I had to respond to a series of whys. But I am glad that God directed the paths straight as He promised in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I am grateful for this job not only for the good times, great projects and endless opportunities to learn. I am grateful even for the tough times, failed projects and character-refining circumstances. I am grateful for the people God surrounded me with and for the opportunities He allowed for me to share who Jesus is to my officemates, janitors, executives, contractual employees, etc. I am grateful for the new friendships and growing relationships. I am grateful because even if we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13) and even in tough times, He intends to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).