When You Don't Have a Job You Love

Finding the purpose behind your work—even if it isn't at your dream job.

I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with my Western privilege.

I sometimes feel guilty that I have so much choice before me when it comes to career. Yes, I want to do something meaningful. Yes, I want to make a difference. But deep down, I wonder if I’m just wasting a lot of time looking under rocks for some sort of all-encompassing “purpose” that I’ll never find. That I’m over-complicating things in my quest for meaning and in my desire to pursue my passions.

I’m aware that people all over the world have virtually no choice as to how to make a living. And then there’s the grass-is-greener-on-the-other side thing. Am I just looking for a better, more meaningful and fulfilling career because I’m wildly prone to discontentment?

The Tension of Wanting a Job You Love

I'm not alone. Millennials care about meaningful work. We follow our passions. We put people and fulfillment before profit.

Our generation in particular has been told from birth to pursue meaningful and creative work paths. To “do what you love.” The idea is that you live simply, intentionally and meaningfully. Though you may not get rich, you’ll be happy and whole—and be fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a career. This makes for a lot of entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists, artisans, writers, bloggers, singers, actors and YouTube stars.

Some say this idea is destructive—that it forgets that not everyone is so fortunate to have the chance to actually choose how to make a living. Others say that as Christians, we do have the ultimate liberty to do what we love because part of Christian belief is that in Christ, God redeems our desires.

So the latest and greatest in this conversation has been a Christian pushback against a secular pushback against a societal push to follow your passions.

The conversation had me going around in circles. I was seriously fraught. Should I indulge my passions and hold out for that dream job? Or should I get a tolerable job to make a living? Should I think bigger, aim higher, shoot for the stars?

'Doing What You Love' VS 'Loving What You Do.'

Not everyone has the financial freedom to be able to do what they love. But everyone has the freedom to worship God through their work—and to do it wholeheartedly.

I finally settled on switching the saying around to “love what you do.” Not everyone has the financial freedom to be able to do what they love. But everyone has the freedom to worship God through their work—and to do it wholeheartedly.

Though of course we should pursue our passions, some of us simply won’t be able to live out our dream jobs for a variety of different reasons. Some of us do have steep bills, family obligations and pressure to work two jobs. Some of us may never afford to do what we love as a singer or an artist. And none of us will be able to love what we do all the time.

But all work is worship. Whether cleaning up pet vomit, designing fashion swatches, painting houses, pushing paper or writing a screenplay, we can have the attitude that God has put us there. His hand is over us. You are His child.

It may seem too good to be true, that pixie-dust element to our faith is actually rock-solid. "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart," says Colossians 3:23. "As working for the Lord, not for human masters." Those "human masters" include ourselves, and that shaming inner voice telling you that you're wasting your life by not having a bigger, better, more "meaningful" job.

This was earned on the Cross, and you can never have to outgrow it. So even if you’re not necessarily doing what you love, love what you do.

One Final Thought

I was about to wipe the dust off my hands, and walk away from the issue, happy with my neat little solution, until I spoke with an older, wiser mentor about it.

“Is a job a legitimate object of love?”

Because love, as a verb, is really meant to be directed toward people and toward God.

In one simple question, he had uncovered what was missing in my focus and in my attitude. Whether it’s about “loving what you do” or “doing what you love,” my attitude was in the wrong place. Because love, as a verb, is really meant to be directed toward people and toward God. Everything else is a distant second.

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We throw the word "love" around a little too loosely. I love fishing. I love fashion. I loved that movie. But love is a sacred thing—the core of God's very being, according to 1 John 4:8. Our primary desire, our primary fulfillment actually comes when we love God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and when that overflows to people. Loving your job isn't a bad thing, but loving God through your job is a holy calling.

So really, my attitude shift from “do what you love” to “love what you do” to realizing my job or career shouldn’t be about me at all just came full circle to the simplicity of the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

God had the answer for me all along, all tightly wrapped, though not always neatly packaged, pristine in timeless wisdom. There it was, smack in the middle of a secret place we call the Bible.

Though we can’t always do what we love, and we won’t always love what we do, we can pursue those God calls us to love first and foremost.


Joy Harris


Joy Harris commented…

thank you so much for this. i do enjoy my job, but i still needed this perspective.

Stefan Stackhouse


Stefan Stackhouse commented…

Keep in perspective:

While I am sure that there were aspects of carpentry, tentmaking, or fishing that Jesus, Paul, or Peter enjoyed, those were not the main things in their lives. Many, if not most, of us have to do work that is not all that meaningful or earth-changing. At best, we can hope that it contributes something positive to society, and is at least a somewhat good fit with our own abilities and interests and personality. For that much we should be grateful, for there are many who don't even get that much.

ALL Christians can, however, find great meaning and fulfillment in life. We are all on God's mission, and there is nothing more meaningful or fulfilling than that.

The problem, I think, comes when people expect to get paid to do the things that are meaningful and fulfilling. A few are lucky enough to actually achieve that; for most of us, we work for pay to earn a living, and we serve in mission for the meaning and fulfillment. I don't know if that is the way it is supposed to be or must be, but it does seem to be the way it actually is for most people.

Mary Wright


Mary Wright commented…

Thank you for stating what the true drive should be behind each of us in anything we tackle. Blessings come when God's love is practiced in our lives.



Camille commented…

No matter what we do for an income, our exposure to others is a prime PR opportunity to represent Jesus Christ. You know how those public relations reps are always trying to find an opportunity to plug whatever is most prominent in their career path at the time? This is our chance to promote the benefits of a strong, healthy relationship with God. Sometimes, a genuine happy smile is enough to make some wonder about the Source. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.

Marilyn Collins Shoults


Marilyn Collins Shoults commented…

Thank you so much for your addressing this subject.I have been blessed to know clearly what my job was to be, more that it was what I was drawn to, a passion, calling what ever term you prefer to apply. I became a nurse.
Have I loved what I did yes, but that does that mean life was always full of joy for my "job". No, There were situations or people that made me question whether I should I find another place to work,or have days I dreaded to go to work.
Those days where the most important because in those moments God taught me what it was like to serve and worship Him.. I learned that I should do everything I loved AND everything I found difficult because I loved Him. That was my offering of love to Him, Yes, loving your job makes many days easier. But, there is still conflict, boredom, personality clashes, hateful patients,bad schedules at work just as there is in every job.It was in all these things I was taught to do everything because I loved Jesus. God used non-Christians, Bible teachers, scriptures and my prayers to teach me. Because of what God did in my life, I could share with coworkers. If I was asked by those I worked with as how I could be kind and continue doing what I did.when treated badly by fellow coworker. I would explain Jesus would not want me to act any other way. During another situation someone wanted me to complain about my employer, I was able to share that I really did not work for the facility who employed me, but for Jesus.So, I do not leave unless He leads me to and until then I am to behave in a way Jesus desires. During last position where I was struggling with a medical condition that made "working" difficult, I leaned even more on Him, My scripture I clung to at work, and even placed on a wall next to my computer to remind me that.." The joy of the Lord is my strength"Nehemiah 8:10. ... I wish I could say I was joyful always but there were many days I fought the urge to become jaded, or wondered why am I doing this ? He would bless me with one of those jewels of a patient that caring for them was just a joy!

My husband is probably more like most that does not really love his work or has thought there is no spiritual calling connected to his type of work as Mrs. Cheung has covered so well..
I just want to add to it. Just as the widow's mite was far more an act of worship than the larger amounts others gave, your job can be that way also. Being a person of integrity, humility and love is an awesome gift for the Lord, Jesus said,"if you love me keep my commandments" John 14:15, Mark 12:28-31.
I know there are some "gross and stinky jobs", but without anyone to do these jobs and do them properly, many people would die from the diseases that are harbored, in the decay and filth. That's an important job, check out nations without good sanitation. life expectancy is lower than where there is good sanitation. Good sanitation will saving physical lives which allows more time for them to hear the gospel and be saved Remember, it is important to keep our heart willing to be obedient in whatever he asks of us. Take heart, all things we have done in this life for the love of God is an act of worship and it,will survive the test of fire and we be able to give beautiful priceless gifts to Christ. 1Corinthians 12:15.What a glorious day that will be !

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