In another forum, a brother asked:

I wonder if anyone has any good insights on “vocation.” Maybe a book or something. I don’t know.

For background, I’m a doctor, been practicing medicine for about [some] years. I don’t want to sound whiny, but I hate it. Always have… It just sucks the life and joy out of me.

I basically just “man up” every day and get my work done. I’m just finding it difficult, nigh impossible, to keep at it day in and day out without any passion about it. I was mowing the yard yesterday and loving it. I miss feeling like I’m doing real work…

I’m rambling now. Sorry. I’m just running out of gas, really struggling with this…

He said more, but I want to protect his identity.

Since this question is so common in pastoral ministry, I wanted to post my response here, publicly:

Late to the discussion, I wonder if there is not an underlying reason for your hating your work? It is true doctoring today isn’t what it was thirty and fifty years ago. I was astonished and humiliated by what my dear elder, Adam, had to put up with as part of his practice of medicine. (In fact, I was more offended for him than he was, himself.) The assault upon authority is ubiquitous, today.

Too, health care’s moral compromises and challenges are inescapable, particularly if one has any responsibility for dealing with impaired physicians or works near end of life issues.

Adam talked women (obviously) and men out of going into medicine, if he could, often explaining how many years one would be a slave before one even went into practice. So yes, depending on the sort of doc one is, there are specific reasons this work might be a torment.

On the other hand, the man who wrote as you have would find me questioning him, first, about his patients, employer, and circumstances (group, hospital, ethics context, etc.), but quickly moving to wife, children, extended family, and church. I’d likely have to defend my line of reasoning to him because he’d take issue with me, explaining he knew himself and he’d told me his issue was work—not home or church. I’d respond that, in my line of work, it’s often the case men don’t know themselves as well as they think they do, and hasn’t he found this true in his line of work, also?

In my experience, men can put up with a lot in two of the three spheres as long as one of the spheres is love and satisfaction. Bad marriage and bad job can be compensated by good children and good church. Bad children and job by good marriage and good church. Bad marriage and bad children and bad job by good church. Notice the pattern.

So yes, good church can compensate for almost any combinations of bad.

This is operating by video cam, but in your case I have reasons for wanting to ask questions about your church. This would not be in order to minimize your finding your work intolerable, but rather to find reasons you might not be able to see your way clear to finding joy in your work and caring for your patients almost entirely because they are an extension of your joy in loving the Word, the sacraments, the fellowship, and prayer.

Two days ago in our Evangel Presbytery meeting, we listened to a young man testifying to his spiritual experience and call to pastoral ministry describing the loss of assurance he suffered when he was denied the fellowship and worship of the church during Covid. It really struck me and caused questions about how to handle what I think are inevitable future similar quarantines which ban public meetings of any sort.

As with assurance of salvation, so with contentment at work; the Mother of us all can and should do wonders in ministering to us in the problems of life.

One final thing: my dear Mary Lee has often pointed out to men in our church who don’t like their work that there are men in our church she thinks the world of because they work in order to be able to support their families and their church. She asks “is this not enough?” She wonders if every man has a right to love his work? She points to several of our elders whose work has been many years of drudgery, and yet many years of building up the Body of Christ—doing so with joy and bearing much, much fruit.

“Is that not enough,” she asks?

It is tough to write this way publicly, dear brother, but trust me that your question about work is constant in the ministry, so I thought it might be helpful to give Mary Lee’s and my stock responses in case they apply or are helpful to some, here. May God give you joy in your work, for one reason…

Or another.


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