Should you stay or should you go? Heaven knows.
Yes you should! Right now!
Obviously, you wouldn’t accept that as an answer. Not from me anyway – someone who hardly knows you.
I struggled with that question more than a year ago. And I quit my job in the end. Why? I had no push factors for leaving. I had a good boss and good colleagues. The salary was good. The work was engaging. Some people would hanker for my job. So why did I leave?
The short answer is that I believe God led me to. (The long answer … well, I’m not going to elaborate on it in this article, because it won’t help you at all unless you’re in the exact same circumstances as I was.)
But maybe it might help you to hear what I went through trying to discern God’s will for my career.
Of course you already know the theology of work. TL;DR version: God works, God made us to work so work is good, sin made work difficult, work can be worship, work can be sanctifying, work can be the place for evangelism and ministry.
Then there is the theology of discerning God’s will. Let me explain this by recounting several of my friends’ experiences.
Story #1: The Ethical Banker
A legal and compliance lawyer in a bank, my friend discovered that the bank was dealing in funds of questionable origins. He raised his concerns but they were quietly put aside. In a dilemma, he agonised over whether to quit, knowing he would do so without a job waiting for him.
He prayed long and hard. He spoke with mentors, particularly Christian mentors from the banking industry. Having been convicted of the decision and having found peace about it, he took the leap of faith and quit.
Story #2: The Missionary Lawyer
A friend reached a point in his career where he was exploring career development opportunities for the mid-term horizon. He also wanted to be able to do more ministry work. On top of this, he struggled with several health issues.
Maybe he could find a slower-paced practice. Or a practice which would give him more flexibility with his time. Or quit lawyering altogether and explore alternative long-term and more sustainable jobs. He spoke to several Christian lawyers senior to him, as well as Christians in other professions.
Then an opportunity arose in his present firm for him to go on a secondment to a country in the Indochina region. It was a good time to try something different and explore his options further. So he went.
When he was there, the circumstances cleared the murky waters through which he could see God’s leading in that season. He saw opportunities for ministry and mission in a cross-culture setting, while tent-making as a lawyer. Certain random “coincidental” signs (seemingly trivial) converged, giving rise to the inference that the deliberate hand of God had pulled the threads together.
But the living conditions were not rosy, and his health was still a bother. It was a different practice area involving a different law he was not used to, which meant a steep learning curve. And what about his mid-term career plan?
Story 3: The Drowning Executive
This friend was with his company for a few years. It was a company with a very big and politically-sensitive operation, but somehow operated like a young start-up – resource-constrained and disorganised. Unforeseen problems involving multiple external stakeholders kept cropping up.
It was very difficult work. Long hours, till the wee hours of the morning, were the norm. There were also difficult stakeholders to contend with, and many colleagues had come and gone. Even some top management staff threw in the towel. Many times, he felt like quitting too.
But he felt that God had called him to this job. A series of divine “coincidences” paved the way for him to get the job: He was a foreigner visiting Singapore for a short trip, and landed the job in his last day of that trip.
But surely the circumstances now should call for a change in that decision? Surely God didn’t call him to such unnecessary hardship, which took him away from time with family and from time for ministry? So did my friend decide to leave?
Story 4: The Unwavering Worker
This friend worked for seven years in her first job, burning days and nights, unwavering in her belief that she was to be a testimony for God by not quitting when the going got tough. But that soon became a badge of pride and dogged persistence rather than a decision made in obedience and surrender.
Work soon compromised time for ministry, relationships and self. Things came to a head when she was “triple-hatting” at work while organising a church event; she fainted in the toilet, and the event had to go on without her supervision.
God convicted her that what was preventing her from leaving her job was fear. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of not being in control. Fear of what God could be calling her to. God convicted her by repeatedly speaking through His Word, by proving His dependability in big and small situations alike, by gently revealing her smallness of faith, and by drawing her attention back to Him in worship and away from her fears.
Convicted of this, she decided to resign, having absolutely no idea what lay ahead.
Three months after she left her post, and still without a job, one of the deputy CEOs asked her to return to take up a new portfolio. She turned the offer down, but when pressed on her plans, she had to admit that she didn’t really know herself.
Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, she heard the unmistakable, audible voice of God, saying: “Full-time ministry.”
WHERE DID THEY END UP?
My friend in Story 1, the Ethical Banker, went on to find another job soon after. It wasn’t a long wait, but it has emboldened his faith and further honed his sensitivity to God’s leading. He took up a Christian leadership training course and a writing residency, and in between was faithful to take up divine assignments for ministry which fell on his lap.
My friend in Story 2, the Missionary Lawyer, decided to request for this regional posting on a longer-term basis. So there he is now, being a tent-making Paul-like missionary in one of the least reached nations in this region.
Did my friend in Story 3, the Drowning Executive, quit? No. There he is today, still pressing on. Why? Unless the leading of the Lord clearly tells him otherwise, he chooses to stay. And in the perseverance, amid the darkness, he’s been a lighthouse, shining peace and stability into a turbulent organisation.
Which brings us to my friend in Story 4, the Unwavering Worker. Full-time ministry? She thought she’d heard wrong. Then she heard it again. And what happened next shocked even her. As the Deputy CEO relentlessly pressed her for her plans, she finally blurted out, “I’ll be going into full-time Christian ministry”. Then she broke down and cried. That was the last thing she wanted God to lead her into – and certainly not in this manner!
Fast forward to today. She’s now serving as a pastoral staff in her church and also in a para-church ministry ministering to sex workers and their families. And she loves what she’s doing.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL POINT TO?
From these stories, we see no rule, no formula, no ten-year series answers, on Christians’ decisions about work transitions.
We see, however, living illustrations of Christians discerning God’s will: Studying the Scriptures, prayer, signs from circumstances, general wisdom, counsel from community.
We see Christians sensitive to their Heavenly Father’s leading.
We see Christians faithful in uncertainty, persevering in adversity, truthful in integrity.
What I’ve learnt is that the question “should I quit my job?” leads to a deeper question: “What does my Heavenly Father desire for me?”
A great many years ago, King David in his latter years must have pondered this question too. Because in Psalm 37, he wrote about this very issue. The whole psalm is worth meditating on, but two verses stand out for me.
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37:4-5)
Our Heavenly Father, our perfect employer and master, desires to give us the desires of our heart. But there is an important premise: Delight yourself in Him.
Delight in our Father. To delight in Him is to desire Him, as a child delights in playing with her father after he comes home from a long day at work. As a wife delights in spending a quiet evening with her husband after a long day of chores and parenting. As one delights in soulful conversations with a long-time friend. As the trees delight in soaking up the rain after a long spell of scorching dry days. As a young cub delights in hiding in the warm bosom of its mother.
Delight in our Father. To delight in Him is to desire His desires. As parents desire the very best education for their child; and the child desiring her parents’ wishes fulfilled. As a wife desires the success of her husband; and the husband desiring his wife’s wishes fulfilled. As one desires a long and happy marriage for a friend on her wedding day; and the latter desiring her friend’s happiness. As the Son desires the Father’s purposes fulfilled; and the Father desiring the Son’s endeavours accomplished; and the Spirit desiring the Son’s accomplishments magnified.
Delight in our Father – desire Him and desire His desires – and He will satisfy you with your transformed desires. Delight in our Father, commit your decisions to Him in faith, and He will act.
From these stories, we see no rule, no formula, no ten-year series answers, on Christians’ decisions about work transitions. We see, however, living illustrations of Christians discerning God’s will.
Fathers will do anything for their children. I’ve seen a father go out of his way to talk to different people to learn about the industry his son is in. I’ve heard about a father who sat through a mental health institution’s programme to better understand his daughter’s mental condition. I know of many parents who spending hour after hour volunteering in a primary school to secure a place for their children.
How much more will our Heavenly Father, who governs the affairs of all nations and who provides even for the smallest creatures of the earth, act for you to fulfil your desires, as your delight is in Him?
So, should you quit your job? Don’t try to guess what’s best for you. Don’t try to gaze into a crystal ball, guessing about what the future holds. Don’t just choose what would best delight yourself. Remember instead that your Heavenly Father is already working to give you the desires of your heart – the heart that is waiting to delight in Him.
Should you quit your job? I don’t know; I don’t know you. But God does. Go ask Him.