Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.-Psalm 139:23
A young Christian chemist struggles to neutralize a caustic blend of workplace personalities. Sometimes she wonders: should I stay or should I go? Across town, a reporter pursues truth against a growing tide of political correctness and cynicism. Sometimes he questions: is my career worth all this grief? Even in the church down the street, tension is no stranger. Staff members ask these same questions and their answers are frightening. Ever since the fall, friction has been the by-product of human interaction, and these days it's kindled white hot.
Even before the fall, work was an important part of God's plan and tending a garden in Paradise must have been a dream job-no weeds, no weevils--no pesticides, no perspiration-all this and a great Boss! In an ideal workplace, employees share a mutual respect, a genuine work ethic, a sense of satisfaction, and, hopefully, a sense of humor. Such synergy is a beautiful and productive thing that approaches paradise. But when these qualities are absent, Dante's Inferno is a more like it. You may have worked in both places, perhaps at the same address.
We all know this was not God's original intention, but it happened--even in Paradise. So how do we cope when we find ourselves sweating profusely in less than ideal circumstances? There is biblical precedent for this predicament. Maybe you can identify with the future King David as he fled before the relentless pursuit of a jealous King Saul. He had chances to retaliate and end the harassment, but when given the opportunity to strike back, David consistently replied: "I cannot lay a hand on the Lord's anointed." Or maybe, like Queen Esther, you're in a pivotal position to make a positive difference but at great personal cost. Jesus certainly understood that. In fact, he volunteered for it, knowing it would result in death and knowing it would be worth it.
Most of us will not be called to sacrifice our lives, but within the spiritual battles that rage, a little dying to self can cool the heat and improve the atmosphere in a breakroom or a boardroom. Instead of throwing more oil on the fire, apply it to the overheated personalities by praying for them and save some for yourself. It's harder to hate when you've genuinely prayed for the object of your anger. Maybe your prayers will be the instrument God uses to make a positive difference, not only in other lives, but in your own.
Once, when a difference of opinion ripped my heart to shreds, insight spoke: if my heart hurt this much, what must the situation be doing to the heart of God? So I took my grief to the great mediator Jesus Christ and poured out my case, looking for some peace and some justification. In a moment of brokenness and humility, I realized I had to give up my "right" to be right--just as He had given up His rights when He died for me. Then, and only then, could I know true peace and be able to love as He loves. At that moment my storm ceased. As always, He had majestically swept past the issue at hand and gone to the war that really mattered, the condition of my heart. The peace that followed was incredible--the kind that makes it possible to genuinely pray for your enemies wherever you are, whoever they may be. The kind that has the power to change our world for the better, whether we stay or go.
Most often, during tough times, when I've felt tempted to quit and walk away, I haven't felt release to go when I've prayed-only grace for the moment, day by day, and a sense that He was with me and would redeem my pain. Ironically, once the smoke cleared and the crisis passed, that was the time, the very time, when a door would close and another opened. If I hadn't stayed, I would have missed it. Because I stayed, I was ready to walk through it.