Recently, I was challenged to reflect on how the pandemic has affected integrating my Christian faith at work over the past six months. What has been my biggest challenge? Is there a word of encouragement that I could offer to offer a light of hope in this darkness? I think I can.
New environments bring new struggles
Every one of us has been touched in some way by COVID-19. Millions faced unemployment. Many were forced to telework from home while supervising children trying to learn virtually. Those who continued to work at the shop, factory, or office were given strict social distancing, sanitizing, and mask-wearing protocols that have made everything more difficult than expected. From a theological perspective, it seems likely that these kinds of challenges have brought new temptations our way.
If we are fortunate to have a job, Christian workers are struggling in their new environments with unique time pressures and stresses that have frankly made it harder to do their work “as unto the Lord.” Many of us are isolated at home. We cannot randomly bump into our Christian coworker who we can ask to pray for us. To make matters worse, most of us have not been able to maintain our normal Christian lives via our local church, to worship, pray, fellowship, and listen to messages of truth through the regular teaching of God’s Word.
Remaining in God’s presence brings victory
Whether we have been feeling lonely, anxious, dealing with anger, or any number of things that may cause us to drift away from God during this time, perhaps we need to be reminded of some basic ways that we can regain a very real sense of God’s presence with us at work or at home. I have observed from my own experience that when I have drifted away from God even for a short time, the first thing I notice is that the joy of the Lord diminishes until I repent of and confess my sin. This lack of joy will negatively impact my relationships with co-workers, subordinates, and superiors, and significantly reduces my creativity and productivity on the job.
In Psalm 32:3-5, David describes a time when he was faced with the depths of his own sin. David felt guilty about his sins, and rightfully so. Before he dealt with it through confession, he said that his bones were wasting away. He groaned all day long. He felt God’s hand was heavy upon him. This was not God’s mighty hand of protection that David often spoke of, but God’s Spirit laying conviction on his heart. When he could take it no more, David acknowledged his sin to the Lord. He confessed it and received God’s forgiveness. His guilty conscience was at peace. This is similar to what the Apostle John taught Christ-followers to do in 1 John 1:9 when we sin.
How to remain
A man of God from the 17th century named Brother Lawrence truly understood this concept of consistently remaining in God’s presence. If you have not read The Practice of the Presence of God, I highly recommend it. In the preface of the book, he is described as having “a heart that had learned the most essential ingredient of the Christian life: how to remain in the presence of God daily.” He experienced the joy of the Lord and divine strength for every task as he went about his daily mundane work, washing dishes at the monastery. He recognized the eternal value of the temporal tasks he did "as unto the Lord.” He did this out of submission to the Father.
As needed, Brother Lawrence confessed his sins right after he noticed them. He rested in God's forgiveness, grace, and mercy based on Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. Then, he continued to work in God's holy presence. Listen to how his friend describes this process: “When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: ‘I can do nothing better without You. Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.’ After that he did not feel guilty about the sin.” We too can keep short accounts with God. We can do what I learned as a college student with Campus Crusade. It was called spiritual breathing.
Exhaling is confessing my sin. Inhaling is asking God’s Holy Spirit to fill me again so that I can enjoy his presence. When we can do that consistently, we find renewed strength in Jesus Christ to overcome every temptation we face. When we are supernaturally able to walk in the presence of God at work or home on a daily basis, we will see over time how his purposes unfold in our life. That is what I so desperately want to experience, especially now, during this most challenging pandemic season.