A wise man told me once that everyone has at least one bad job experience. He sure had his. His boss made arbitrary and irrational demands, fomenting discouraging working conditions. But he learned to focus on the work and how people would benefit from it.

I talked to him during my own bad job experience working for a boss who flashed the same degrading reactions. I only lasted six months in that position. But for decades now the residential subdivision I designed has been a place for growing families to laugh, cry, dream, and retreat. That’s meaningful.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but there’s a Christian principle here. Work can be a burden, can’t it? But doesn’t Jesus say something about burdens? “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). You can rest your soul through faith in Him. You can also relieve the burden of work by bringing it into His rest.

You do that by rethinking why you work and who you ultimately work for. The burdensome reasons to work range from just working for a paycheck to trying to establish an identity or chase away a sense of insignificance. Such reasons are a setup for disillusionment. In the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” one man ran in the Olympics to “justify my existence.” The other knew God made him fast and said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Both won their races but only one found meaning in his effort.

When you see your work as a calling, the place where God invests your life, your emotional muscle for carrying job pressures is strengthened. It attaches meaning to the work. You can endure much when you understand the why, the big picture. To “work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23) is to accept God’s purpose for your daily labors.

Dorothy Sayers’ startling claim is that “the worker’s first duty is to serve the work.” She takes issue with a focus on serving the “community” (loving your neighbor) if it omits the first part of the command: loving God. If you serve only the community, you may expect something in return for your trouble. But if you serve God in your work, then it matters less if anyone acknowledges your effort. To serve the work is to work heartily for an audience of One.

“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live,” Sayers writes, “but the thing one lives to do.” When you live to serve God through your work, you will find meaning, contentment, and rest. That is the best reason to work.