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Is there some higher purpose to a working life?

by Christine Ng | 12 May 2018, 2:28 PM

I’ve been struggling to figure out what my passion is.

I often think about where I should be heading next or what I should be spending my free time on. I try out different things but nothing seems to excite me.

I’ve always longed for a job where I would not dread going to work every day — something that would be new and exciting every day.

So last week I was contacted by a company I really wanted to join. It’s a small firm with a small team which doesn’t really recruit unless someone resigns, I suppose.

I had emailed them 2 months ago, so when they finally contacted me I couldn’t believe it. I went down for an interview and when I stepped into the office I felt like it would be the dream job for me.

I found it exciting, but the job would require me to work long hours and my holidays might be burnt in busy periods. So I was concerned about being unable to attend cell group and Sunday service regularly, as well as being unable to commit to regular Bible study this year.

I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, and be available to take part in my first-ever mission trip this year. There are so many things I want to do.

Our lives should reflect Christ and His thoughts should increasingly be ours.

Coincidentally, my friend said this to me recently: “Sometimes if we want to spend more time on other things and spend time with our loved ones, we can’t chase our dreams and passions. And sometimes people chase their work or passions and end up losing their souls. We can’t have the best of both worlds.”

Well, I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds at times — but not everyone is careful enough to strike that balance. And many times it is easier to lose our souls to our job or passions instead of focusing on other important things God has given to us, like the relationships we have with people around us.

So I decided to leave the results of that interview into God’s hands, while looking for other jobs or other meaningful things to do in my free time.

These past few days I’ve been reading Colossians, where I highlighted the verses which stuck out to me.

But the thought that came to my mind as I looked through my highlighted verses was, “What are we actually saved for?” In Colossians, Paul is writing to the Christians in Colossae. I am reminded that we are saved for His purpose — not just so we can escape hell.

“He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”  (Colossians 1:22)

God saved us so we could become holy and blameless. So our lives should reflect Christ (Colossians 2:6-7) and His thoughts should increasingly be ours (Colossians 1:9). There is great purpose in exemplifying and proclaiming Christ (Colossians 1:28-29) in all areas of our lives, including work.

What I’ve learnt is that work is a platform to show Christ in our lives. So even the words we say in it must reflect Him (Colossians 4:3-5).

We are chosen for a purpose, and we will know what His calling for us is when we fix our eyes upon Him and His commission for us.

Wherever we are — we can do God’s work.

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Do you see the treasure in your field?

by Charis Tan | 17 July 2018, 3:30 PM

Giving up everything to buy something that looks like it’s worth nothing is only a joyful situation to someone who has seen the treasure in it.

“Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Matthew 13:44)

After I read this verse, I mulled over it for days and days. I puzzled mostly over why the man didn’t take the treasure for himself. Why did he cover it up again, then sell all he had to buy the entire field? Who in their right mind does that? Wasn’t the treasure the only thing that had value?

I had no answers; all I knew was that God was challenging me. I had been praying about my workplace and my office, and God imprinted three words on my heart. It felt like they were ringing loudly in my ears. Buy the field, He said. I want you to buy the field.

God is looking for people who are willing to sell all to buy the field. But first, we must see the treasure in it. And God convicted me of this one thing: That my sacrifice is joyless when I don’t have vision. That is, after all, how Jesus was able to commit Himself to the biggest sacrifice of human history (see Hebrews 12:2).

He was able to go to the Cross to die because He saw the treasure that was the souls of man.

Our ability to see the Kingdom of God in what people claim as barren land is what’s going to restore it to its original purpose.

Only recently did I realise the answer to the mystery of why the man in Jesus’ metaphor put the treasure back in the field. It’s because the parable illustrates God’s desire for us to see every situation and environment through the lens of His redemptive plan.

The kingdom of God is in the field He’s sent each of us into. It’s the treasure we must find in it, wherever we are. The field to Him has purpose and destiny, and He knows that finding the treasure in it is what will motivate us to redeem it.

This is what God has always wanted: The souls of man. The souls in your workplace, the souls in your family, the souls in your circle of friends. What will you give to take ownership of where they are found?

Jesus proceeds to confront the Pharisees with this question in Matthew 23:19, “Which is more important – the gift on the alter or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” The treasure in the field sanctifies it. Our ability to see the Kingdom of God in what people claim as barren land is what’s going to restore it to its original purpose.

What field are you standing on that God is challenging you to sell all and buy?

If you’ve committed your life to God’s hands, then you can rest assured that nothing in it is left to chance. I know that if at work I cultivate the willingness to lay down my life for those around me, see the gold in them, and demonstrate the love of Jesus, I form a (possibly crucial) part of His pursuit of them.

When it’s time to be brave, be brave. Don’t settle for love that is anything less.

But before all that, ask God to give you the eyes to see the treasure in that field. Therein you’ll find all the joy you need.

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Why you should stop grumbling

by Rhema Seng | 10 July 2018, 3:32 PM

In Chapter 10 of the Book of Numbers, the Israelites were off to a great start journeying into the wilderness.

However, by the start of Chapter 11, they began to complain and “the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”

“Grumbling is a sin that can have serious consequences,” said City Harvest Church’s executive pastor Bobby Chaw, who preached on the weekend of Jun 9 and 10.

Numbers 11 also recorded another incident of the Israelites’ complaints. The second complaint started when the mixed multitudes among them – those who were not from Israel – craved meat. These people were not descendants of Abraham and they did not know God. Their grumbling infected the rest of the people, and soon the whole camp started to complain.

“Grumbling begins among people with little or no spiritual insight”, Chaw pointed out. Like a virus, grumbling spreads and even those who should know better can get “infected” with the complaining bug.

“But I’m not suggesting that we should cut ourselves from the non-spiritually minded,” Chaw clarified, “But in such incidences, we need to be clear who is influencing whom.”

Like a virus, grumbling spreads and even those who should know better can get “infected” with the complaining bug.

In John 17:15-16. Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus’ instruction to the disciples is to be the salt and light of the world, but also to be conscious of the dangers and spiritual diseases that can infect God’s people.

Grumbling can also distort one’s vision. Numbers 11:5 goes on to describe how the Israelite began to reminisce about their past in Egypt. The place where they suffered as slaves became wonderful all of a sudden. But manna – which the psalmist described as bread from heaven – became boring!

Grumbling is a crisis of faith, not circumstances. When the people complained to Moses for the first time, he prayed and interceded for them. When they complained the second time, the Bible said Moses was troubled and he himself began complaining to God – he was even suicidal!

Faith looks to God but unbelief turns inward

“Moses was not grumbling about the food, but about the people,” Chaw pointed out. Grumbling is grumbling, no matter what one is grumbling about. “Faith looks to God but unbelief turns inward. If we do not move from unbelief to faith, we will grumble under any circumstances.”

So what does it take to overcome the temptation to grumble? Chaw provides the answer: Faith that conquers grumbling. The eyes of faith do not stay in the past or the present, but are fixed on the future and promises of God.

“We have to understand that the wilderness is not our home. No matter what sort of bad situation we are going through, we are just passing by,” said the pastor. “The Promised Land is our home, so have faith in God’s promises for our future.”

HOW TO NOT GRUMBLE

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. That is why devotion towards the Word of God is so crucial. Psalms 119:97 says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.”

Chaw explained that the Christian meditation is different from other kinds of eastern meditation. “Instead of clearing our minds out, we fill our minds and hearts with the Word Of God,” he said. “It is during meditation that we can hear the still small voice, and receive the rhema word of the Lord.”

The pastor went on to demonstrate how he would meditate upon the Word daily. He would focus on individual words in the verse, then on the author of the verse. Sometimes, he would focus on the context and the circumstances the author was facing at the time of writing.

Drawing to the end of his sermon, Chaw brought the church back to Numbers 11:33 where God granted the Israelites what they wanted, but also meted out judgment upon them. But Moses was not judged by his grumbling. That is the sovereignty of God: He will have mercy on whomever He chooses – and compassion too.

Said Chaw in closing, “Let’s walk in the fear of the Lord, holding firmly to the Word of life.”


This article was first published on Citynews.sg, and is republished with permission.

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Why do I always think that I’m not good enough?

by Karen Kwek | 2 July 2018, 11:21 AM

“I’m really stressed,” my friend Anna* sighed, slumping into her seat opposite me at the café.

“I need to do well during this probation period, but at the rate my department head keeps criticising me, I don’t think I’m gonna make the cut.”

Anna, in her twenties, started work in the education sector last year. She’s good at what she does and really helps her students, so I was a little surprised that things were not going smoothly. “Is it personal?” I asked. “Is he just out to get you?”

Anna shook her head. “No, he’s just as strict with the other new staff. And he has a point – we can’t afford to make mistakes. But it feels like I’m being judged all the time. Like I need to prove myself. I’ll be really upset if I’m not confirmed!”

I could relate to Anna. When faced with challenging circumstances, I tend to fret that I might mess up. If I take up the challenge, I pray and do my best, but I still feel a degree of anxiety. And I’d be thrilled if someone who could do the job better would put me out of my misery.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy self-doubt, is there? Isn’t it only natural?

RE-THINKING “GOOD ENOUGH”

It’s easy to see why Anna felt inadequate; the external pressures of her job and her boss’s demands were real. In our student or working lives, we are usually assessed according to certain criteria and standards. Doing our jobs well means having a certain amount of knowledge and competence.

First, in Singapore, the competitive education system attunes students to this kind of rigorous assessment from an early age, handing out grades that seem either to open the door to further opportunities or to put up barriers, saying to a child, “You’re good enough” or “You’re not.” We become alert to the perceived cost of failure, so self-doubt begins at an early age.

God challenges Christians to look at the world through new lenses because we now belong to Christ (Romans 12:2).

Second, our culture is two-faced about achievement. On the one hand, we prize success. On the other, we are suspicious about self-promotion and have been warned not to let success go to our heads. So we learn to be self-effacing. “I’m not good enough”, even when records seem to show otherwise, can become our knee-jerk reaction to praise or recognition.

We want to believe it’s the healthy antidote to pride or boasting. But is it?

We may have grown up with certain assumptions and cultural biases, but God challenges Christians to look at the world through new lenses because we now belong to Christ (Romans 12:2). Here are a few reasons why self-doubt, or a fear of inadequacy, may not be a valid way for Christians to respond to difficulties or a competitive environment.

3 REASONS TO GET RID OF “GOOD ENOUGH”

1. “Good enough” is arbitrary

The world we live in often assigns a ranking or hierarchical value to objectively neutral human characteristics. In God’s perspective, these spectrums of difference are real but equal. For instance, rich and poor, tall and short, beautiful and plain, young and old – such characteristics are points of difference on a morally equal, horizontal scale.

Being tall, rich, young and/or beautiful does not make anyone better than someone else who is short, poor, old and/or plain. Yet our world persists in making those distinctions, rewarding some traits over others. Such a warped value system gives rise to racism, sexism and other kinds of prejudice against those who are merely different from, not inferior to us.

In his letter, the apostle James reminds believers that God has a different standard and expects us to love all people equally (James 2:1-8) because all of us are sinners alike who have received grace before God. So His standard is the only one that matters, and we are “good enough” in the sense that God loved us enough to send His Son to save us.

2. “Good enough” is fleeting

The second problem with basing our idea of “good enough” on human achievement and approval is that “good enough” lasts only as long as the next hurdle.

A few weeks after my conversation with Anna, she told me that she had not been among the five employees offered a contract at her workplace. She was hurt and disappointed. She felt like she hadn’t measured up – hadn’t been “good enough” for that institution.

“If you’d been confirmed and given a contract, would you have been satisfied?” I asked her. “Of course,” she enthused, before adding, “At least until the next round of appraisals …”

The world’s favour is fickle indeed. If we put our hopes in being “good enough” for the world, our security will always be threatened by someone “better” – subject to the world’s changing standards and trends.

… ask whether we are being assessed for the qualities God cares about.

3. “Not good enough” is not true humility

It may seem humble to refuse a challenge or decline taking on something that I’ve been asked to do because I don’t think I can do it well. Sure, real limitations exist, and there are times when saying no is not about being humble but merely being wise about those limitations, such as when I choose not to join the next record-chasing Mount Everest team, or when I decide against driving because I’ve had a few glasses of wine.

But much more often, when I worry about not being good enough to serve God in some way, I’m not really being humble. It’s still all about me relying on my own effort rather than depending on God and what He can do through and despite me. It is me looking not at God but at myself through the world’s judging eyes and being afraid that the world will expect “more.”

At times like this, I think of Moses’ self-consciousness in Exodus 3-4 – how his “[slowness] of speech and tongue” made him beg God to “send someone else”. God’s anger burned against Moses then, because his “not good enough” stemmed from a fear of human judgement and an inability to trust God with his weaknesses. This kind of “not good enough” is false humility, a form of pride.

3 STEPS TO A BETTER WAY

1. Recognise that we are worth much more to God than any grade or verdict assigned by the world

When we’re tempted to think we’re not good enough, it’s worth asking whose standards we aspire to. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that we truly aren’t good enough. We are all sinners who fall short of God’s standards and yet He died for us.

If in Christ, God has approved of us, then we should always ask whether we are being assessed for the qualities God cares about. This is usually not the case in our schools and jobs, so it means that while we still have to negotiate the hurdles of exams and appraisals, we can see them for what they really are: Gauges of our level of knowledge or practical skills at a certain point in time, rather than tests that determine our eternal worth or significance.

If God wants something else for us, are we humble enough to accept that He knows best?

2. Not “how well” but “how loving”

If we find ourselves overwhelmed by the pressure to “do well”, maybe pursuing things like grades, a job, lifestyle or image has become more important to us than trusting God to place us where we can serve Him. Anna realised this when she started looking for her second (and current) teaching job. “I was devastated about being let go until I realised that my obsession with keeping the job had been blinding me to the busy, stressed-out, competitive person I was becoming.”

Perhaps we should be less concerned with “passing” or “failing” and more dependent on God’s help in our circumstances to be a loving neighbour to others. In other words, who I am as a believer – loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled – matters more to God than whether I am in one school or another, one profession or another.

True humility also teaches us that we won’t always succeed in the world’s eyes or get what we want. And that is fine. If God wants something else for us, are we humble enough to accept that He knows best?

3. It’s not about us

Ultimately, Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our selves. Constantly thinking “I’m not good enough” or even always wondering whether we are, takes our focus away from the power and purposes of God.

Anna confessed that after she realised that she had not trusted God enough, she then felt guilty for “disappointing God”. This is yet another form of not feeling good enough! It’s important to know that we have full forgiveness in Christ when we confess our sins to God. He is big enough, and Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient – it’s not about us.

Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our selves.

In his book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, pastor and writer Timothy Keller observes that “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. … True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

And so, I am learning that our correct perspective is at the foot of the cross, gazing at our Saviour.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” (Romans 12:3-6a)

Rather than our achievements, abilities or the world’s approval, Paul says faith is the measure of how we should think of ourselves. This is hugely significant because faith is never about us – it is a gift of God so that no one can boast.

Paul goes on to say that in Christ we are all different because we are designed to serve one another. These verses are strikingly matter-of-fact. Paul’s saying, “God made us and saved us, and we’re His now; there’s Kingdom work to be done, so let’s just get on with being what He made us, without comparing ourselves to others or trying to be what we’re not.”

I find it so encouraging that the New Testament writers ultimately remember Moses not in terms of his weaknesses but as one “powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22) and “faithful in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:2), because he faithfully did as God asked.

What do we make of his transformation from timidity in Exodus 2–3? God was working powerfully in and through him, despite his fears! Always thinking I’m not good enough is a hard habit to break, but I pray for God’s truth – that it’s about Him, and He powerfully helps me love others – to move me out of self-regard to action.

Are you prone to feeling inadequate, too? Will you let God’s words comfort, encourage and inspire you?


*Name has been changed for confidentiality.

This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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What I learnt from 12 months of job searching

by Cyril Tee | 28 June 2018, 4:01 PM

Getting a job shouldn’t be that tough. Besides, I’m a Singaporean and I’m going to graduate with a bachelor with an honours degree.

That was my mentality towards my impending job search while still in university. Though this was going to be my first time stepping into the workforce, I was sure I’d land a job easily because my industry was always publicised on the news as an one that is constantly growing and in need of employees.

I couldn’t be more naive.

As my job hunt began, I decided that I shouldn’t be idling around at home, waiting for interviews to be offered to me.

So I decided to work as an Uber driver as the incentives were enticing then. After my last exam in university, I took the car and started driving. I signed a 5-week contract with the car rental company, believing that I would be able to find a job within that time frame and I could return the car by then.

I imagined that the job search wouldn’t be too tough as long as I kept sending resumes out. What I didn’t realise was that I was going to be sending resumes for a much longer time than I had imagined.

God is working in my waiting.

After a month of driving, chasing after incentives and earning the most that I could out of it, I still had no job. My situation then evolved from “I should look for engineering jobs” to “I need a job – any job will do.”

The stress of this silent wait was compounded by the fact that my wife was pregnant with our first child – we had even more financial responsibilities to bear. I started to worry about my situation. I became desperate.

I started to send out resumes everywhere like a mad man. I even applied for jobs that weren’t in my industry or area of expertise. The outcome was not good: Less than ten out of the many companies that I’d written to had even gotten back to me, and I wasn’t offered any second interviews or positions.

It didn’t help much when friends around me started asking if I’d found a job. Some even questioned if I was being picky. The truth was, I had nothing to even be picky about! It was honestly a very trying and disappointing time.

Some thought that my asking salary was too high as I had no prior experience. Other jobs rejected me because they thought my results were “too good” for the positions they were offering. I was simply running into dead ends.

It didn’t help at all when I read a viral article about a Singaporean’s eight-year-long unemployment. It made me wonder if I might never get a full-time job. One by one, my peers started working in their full-time jobs, and there I was wondering why I was still unemployed. My self-esteem plummeted and I started faulting and condemning myself.

I should worked harder. I should have decorated my resume with more work experiences. This is the end for me.

… prayer should be our first response rather than our last resort.

I wondered whether God would ever give me a stable job – whether I would have to do odd jobs for life. What was all that hard work and studying for? Did God forget about me?

But each night, as I spent time alone with God, He assured me that He was there for me. It was in this difficult time in my life that I decided to trust God by faith and continue to press in and pray. A friend once told me that prayer should be our first response rather than our last resort.

Even though I was very discouraged, I kept this reminder close to heart and hung onto God, knowing that He is with me.

In November, I received a phone call from a company that I’d applied to some months ago. They were going to set an interview date with me, but that dragged on for yet another few more months. I was all ready for it to be yet another futile attempt.

But six months after that phone call, I actually secured an interview and to my surprise – I got the job!

The commencement salary offered to me was also way beyond what I could’ve asked for as a fresh graduate with no prior experience. And as I write this, I’m finally starting work soon.

In retrospect, God’s timing is always perfect.

My year of not holding a full-time job meant that I had the flexibility of time to meet the needs of my family. While working as a driver, I had the flexibility to send my wife to work from the northern part of Singapore to the eastern part of Singapore.

I could bring her for check-ups comfortably in a car, send her to her night classes and pick her up afterwards. Our trips to baby fairs were always done quickly and efficiently with a car. We could bring home our purchases to prepare for the arrival of our newborn comfortably with ease.

The community of God around me has also been a tremendous blessing and support to me. My mentors and my cell group never once gave up on me, and they’re always spurring me on despite my imperfections and the negativity I held on to.

God’s timing is always perfect.

I’ve learnt that even through unfavourable situations, God is still watching over me. Even when it seems completely hopeless, God is still at work. God is working in my waiting.

While my eyes were fixated on what I was lacking and not getting, God was actually pruning me for something else. He planted me elsewhere to lead and serve my family in that season. He never forgot about me once even as I sat there in the waiting room.

Through this year-long wait, I have learnt to never look at the circumstance I’m in, but to God who’s backing me up and is in control of everything, even when it feels like I’ve run into a dead end.

He is always faithful.

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Finding my first job and learning when (not) to leave

by Chantel Tay | 19 June 2018, 5:03 PM

“Everyone has a job, all your friends are working, everybody is employed.” The voices echoed in my head. I was 18 years old and unemployed, looking for my very first job. The fear of stepping out into an entirely new environment alone scared me, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready.

I didn’t want to jump into a random job just because of societal pressure or just because I felt accountable to others. Yet the pressure I was facing was intense. I eventually succumbed to it, and began sending in emails to various companies to enquire.

I prayed that if God had a path for me to take, He would open the doors of opportunities to me because I did not have a direction in mind. But Romans 8:5 tugged at my heart: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Romans 8:8 further emphasises that “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” I knew that I was falling into the pit of fear-based, not faith-based decisions – but I was unsure of how to pull myself out of it.

By God’s grace, doors for employment opportunities remained close. I was so uncertain about so many things and I was extremely tired of trying to be in control; I wanted to learn to submit wholeheartedly to Him.

So I decided to take a break from job hunting and decided to focus on my walk with Him, allowing Him to guide my every step of the way. After a while, I no longer harboured thoughts of sourcing for a job on my own strength.

Four months later, I was having a conversation with a really treasured friend of mine, and she casually asked me if I was interested in helping out in an F&B chain. As I was always open to service line jobs and had a passion for food, I agreed.

When I began starting work, I enjoyed my job very much. I loved seeing food being cooked, and I took great interest in the small preparations that I was assigned. But not everything was smooth sailing, and problems began arising.

With no prior job experience, I often felt redundant and incompetent, lacking confidence to deal with on-job challenges, albeit how small they were. I really wanted to leave my job.

It was not until I chanced upon a video that changed my perspective on things.

I started to see that as an imperfect, fallen human being, was never going to achieve the desired perfection that I had idealised in my mind for so long. I was also reminded of the Parable of the Lost Sheep and how the shepherd left the 99 for the one lost sheep – a reflection of how much Jesus cares for us.

I also began to see myself not with the flaws I had, but as a child of God, one saved by His mercy and grace.

I knew that as a Christian, I wanted to model Christ even in my workplace. And leaving just because of small problems definitely wasn’t going to be the solution. Instead, it reflected irresponsibility. I felt that glorifying God in my work included being consistent, responsible and completing my job till the best of my ability.

Furthermore, this was my first job. I did not want to leave with the mentality that I could continue escaping from situations in the future. I didn’t want to give myself that chance to start this mistake, and go down the path of little perseverance.

I eventually made the decision to apologise for whatever problems arose, and continued my work with renewed strength and vigour.

Transitioning into work is often scary, especially when it is your first job. The environment is entirely raw, new and unfamiliar. But through this process, I thank God for constantly keeping me on track, for giving me the strength to work past each new day, and teaching me important lessons as I continue to be moulded in His image each day.

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Is there some higher purpose to a working life?

Do you see the treasure in your field?

Why you should stop grumbling

Why do I always think that I’m not good enough?

What I learnt from 12 months of job searching

Finding my first job and learning when (not) to leave