We have a sense that we should love and even enjoy our jobs. Frederick Buechner talks about vocation being “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Besides this, the Reformed tradition highlights how work—all work—is a calling from God (see Our World Belongs to God, 48). If work is a calling and a place of deep gladness, it can feel deeply disappointing if we’re overwhelmed.
Ideally our jobs would allow us to use the gifts God has given each of us to love our neighbors well. But, like all of creation, work too has been affected by the fall. Genesis 3 describes the effect of sin on work: thorns and thistles, sweat and weariness. All jobs will be at times wearying and hard.
As hard as it can be, being overwhelmed might also be a signal from God that something is going wrong. Our emotions can encourage us to look more closely at our lives and hearts. Am I overwhelmed because this is a difficult season, like this pandemic where we’ve lost so much structure and connections with people we care about? Do I have an unhealthy perception of how much joy I should have in my work, forgetting how the fall means that sometimes work is sweat and weariness and not just joy?
Finally, being overwhelmed might mean that we’ve neglected God’s call to not only work but also rest. Resting might help us find again a love for what we’re doing or even peace that this job is best for now. But it might also help us make space to hear the Spirit challenge us into something different. A regular practice of Sabbath allows us to step back from all the things we think we need to do. We can then recognize how much we need God’s grace and help in doing everything. Perhaps it might even allow us to open our eyes to how God works both through and in spite of our efforts.
May God give you hope and wisdom in the middle of being overwhelmed.