Dealing with Boredom at Work
This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.
Discussion Question: Have you ever had a boring job?
Even if you have a job and feel blessed to have one, work can be boring. Many people feel bored in their jobs. If your work feels routine or mindless, or if you feel like it lacks meaning, you’ll likely feel bored. That doesn’t mean you should quit or do your job poorly. Here are some ways to counteract boredom at work.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
If your work is repetitive, you’re likely to get bored after a while. The writer of Ecclesiastes describes work as “toil” for this very reason. But he also says that it’s God’s gift to enjoy this toil. How does God give that gift? How do we get it?
One clue comes from Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk. In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence describes how he learned to feel God’s presence. While running errands or doing menial work in the monastery kitchen, Brother Lawrence thought about God and how much God loved him. When his superiors asked him why he was so happy, Brother Lawrence explained that thinking about God made him feel like God was present in his work. Brother Lawrence came to love his work, because he felt like it was something he and God were doing together.
If your work is repetitive, ask God to be with you in your work. When you’re doing a repetitive task, think about God and what he’s like. See if this changes your experience of your work.
Discussion Question: What task do you do over and over? How do you feel when you’re doing it?
Sometimes boredom comes from the idea that your work isn’t meaningful. There are several people in the Bible who probably felt like this. Joseph is one of them. He dreamed of achieving greatness, but he ended up spending years in slavery and then in prison. Only the passage of time made him see that his previous boredom was necessary.
And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Discussion Question: What do you think Joseph was trying to tell his brothers in this passage?
Your work may have a hidden meaning that you can’t see now. Maybe it will be revealed with time. Or maybe you can ask your family or friends if they have any ideas about the meaning of your work. Or ask God to show you the meaning. This could short-circuit boredom with work.
Lastly, if your work is really unenjoyable, let yourself cry out to God about your boredom. The psalmist writes “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1) If you are really unhappy at your job, share it with God in prayer.
Discussion Question: How have you dealt with boredom in the past? How do you plan on dealing with boredom in the future?