Do you enjoy a summer break after a busy year of work?
At the beginning of their summer holidays most people are preparing for Christmas, and thoughts might occasionally stray back to work and the to-do list which didn’t quite get done. But after lunch on Christmas Day we can finally breathe a sigh of relief: the feast is eaten, the presents are opened, and we can start to relax.
If you’re very blessed you may take off for time at the beach or for camping in some idyllic spot. By now work has been left behind and is out of mind.
But soon before you are due to go back to work, a seed of worry forms in your stomach. It gradually grows into full-blown anxiety as you contemplate returning to the ‘real world’. Finally the day comes when your alarm wakes you early again, you dress in your uniform once more, and off you go.
The first day back at work after the Christmas holidays (usually the second or third Monday in January) has even been given a name—Blue Monday.
I’d like to share how I cope with going back to work, and hope it might help you at some point in the future—maybe even now as your brain and body get back into gear and the stress levels are raised once more.
The first secret for a successful re-entry to work is to replace fear and anxiety with thoughts of all the positive things about your job. What do you enjoy about it? There might be particular colleagues that you enjoy working and joking with. Maybe there’s an exciting change at work this year that you are looking forward to.
As Christians we have extra positive reasons to feel good about our work. Work is part of God’s good purposes for our lives. It is a way of expressing love to people as we contribute to the good order of society and earn money to look after our family and support our church. Work also puts us in daily contact with people who are a lot like us and who need to hear the good news about Jesus.
Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. Work is a good thing.
Secondly, think about the word hebel from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. It is often translated as ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’, but it literally means ‘a breath’ or ‘vapour’. Holidays (leisure) are hebel. You might have had an enjoyable time, but you can’t hang on to it. It doesn’t last. It is short-lived. This is what Solomon found as he pursued pleasure in Ecclesiastes 2:1-3:
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity (hebel). I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.
Solomon realizes that pleasure doesn’t last. It is vanity: hebel. It soon passes, in the few days of our life (v. 3).
Similarly, work is hebel (Eccl 2:18-26). You might not love your job, but each day will pass quickly. You will have other holidays that will race by, and eventually, if you trust in Jesus, you will rest from your labours forever in paradise. Having this big picture of life puts work in perspective for me. It helps me not to worry too much but to try to be content and to take each day as it comes, knowing that heaven isn’t too far away. Hebel helps.
On a lighter note, a final positive reason for me in getting back to work is to save myself from eating myself to death. Maybe you are more disciplined than me over long summer days of reading novels, watching sport and partying with family and friends. But I definitely lose my discipline and eat in increasing measure. Getting back to work, and to some structure and discipline, helps get the overeating under control!
By Craig Josling