Work That Can Make You Happy
“I REALLY loved my work as a printer,” says Antonio in Genoa, Italy. “I was well-paid, and this made me work many hours of overtime. In just a few years, in spite of my young age, I became my employers’ right-hand man.” Antonio seemed to have attained the goals that move many to work hard: wealth, status, and an absorbing job that he enjoyed.
Was Antonio ‘seeing good for all his hard work’? (Ecclesiastes 3:13) And was such work really making him happy? “Because of the tension caused by our frenetic life-style,” he continues, “we began having problems as a family. This made us unhappy.” Neither Antonio nor his wife was happy despite their fulfilling jobs. How about you? Are you ‘seeing good for all your hard work’? Is your work really making you happy?
A major reason for working hard is to make a living. In some countries, people must work long hours just to get by. Some slave away day and night so that their children will have a better life. Still others work compulsively to accumulate riches.
Leonida in the Philippines had two jobs. She worked at a bank during the day and taught at a college three or four hours in the evening. Was the extra money worth it? “I was always watching the clock,” she explains. “I was bored. I was doing it with no satisfaction.”
No, working just for money does not result in true satisfaction and happiness. “Do not toil to gain riches,” counsels wise King Solomon, “for without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.” (Proverbs 23:4, 5) Some eagles reportedly fly at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour [130 km/hr]. This well illustrates the swiftness with which hard-earned riches can fly away. Even if a person accumulates wealth, when he dies he cannot carry anything away with him.—Ecclesiastes 5:15; Luke 12:13-21.
Being absorbed in making a living sometimes poses grave dangers. It may lead to love of money. In the first century, there was a group of religionists called Pharisees who were known for their love of money. (Luke 16:14) As an ex-Pharisee, the Christian apostle Paul was fully aware of their life-style. (Philippians 3:5) “Those who are determined to be rich,” warns Paul, “fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have . . . stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Yes, “love of money,” doing anything and everything for it, can ruin one’s life. Such a course does not result in happiness.
For some, their motive in exerting themselves is to go up the corporate ladder. Nevertheless, they eventually face a reality. “Baby-boomers,” says Fortune magazine, “who made sacrifices in their 20s and early 30s to reach middle management are coming to the nasty but inevitable realization that, despite tons of hard work, not everybody will make it to the top. Staggering from exertion, they’re tempted to ask what it’s all about. Why fight so hard? Who cares?”
The life of one such man, Mizumori, had been centered around getting ahead in the world. Pursuing a career in managerial positions with one of the biggest banks in Japan, he did not have time for his family. After working hard for over 30 years, his health was ruined, and he certainly was not happy. “I realized,” he says, “that the rivalry for positions among the people who try to stand out as prominent ‘is vanity and a striving after the wind.’”—Ecclesiastes 4:4.
But how about those like Antonio, who enjoy their work? Fascinated by his work, Antonio sacrificed his family life on the altar of work. Others sacrifice their health and even their lives, as indicated by the sudden death of many prominent and overworked Japanese executives. A counseling service for their bereaved ones received a surprising 135 calls in just one day.
Some devote their lives to helping others. Jesus encouraged this spirit. (Matthew 7:12; John 15:13) Keeping busy in the worthwhile work of helping others really does bring happiness.—Proverbs 11:25.
However, such noble-minded industriousness is not free of pitfalls. For instance, Judean king Uzziah engaged in a massive civil work of hewing out cisterns in the wilderness. Uzziah must have had the benefit of his people in mind, as he was “searching for Jehovah” at that time and evidently heeded the divine mandate that the kings be unselfish. (2 Chronicles 26:5, 10; Deuteronomy 17:14-20) This enhanced his military success, and “his fame went out to a great distance.” But upon becoming strong, he became haughty, resulting in his fall. (2 Chronicles 26:15-20; Proverbs 16:18) One who is devoted to helping others but who is motivated by self-gratification and pride can also end up in a crash. Then, why should anyone want to work hard?
Man Made to Work
We can learn much about work from a man who accomplished far greater good than any other human who ever lived on earth. He is Jesus Christ. (Matthew 20:28; John 21:25) When he died on the torture stake, he exclaimed, “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) His life of 33 1/2 years had been fulfilling.
Jesus’ life helps to answer the question, “What work can make you happy?” It was the accomplishing of his heavenly Father’s will that brought him incomparable happiness. Likewise, doing the will of our Creator can give us a feeling of accomplishment and make us happy. Why? Because He knows our makeup and our needs even more than we do.
When God created the first man, Adam, He gave him both manual and mental work to do. (Genesis 2:15, 19) ‘Having in subjection’ all other earthly creatures, Adam had managerial work to do as well. (Genesis 1:28) As long as Adam abided by this arrangement, his work remained meaningful and worthwhile. Each small work assignment meant another opportunity to please the Most High.
This, however, did not continue to be the case with Adam. He decided to break away from God’s arrangement. Adam no longer took delight in doing the will of God but wanted to do what he pleased. He sinned against the Creator. As a result of his decision, Adam, his wife, and all his offspring were “subjected to futility.” (Romans 5:12; 8:20) Instead of bringing happiness, work became a drudgery. God’s sentence against Adam included these words: “Cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19) Work, which should have been dignified in having as its ultimate goal the pleasing of man’s Creator, now meant only painful labor just to earn one’s own bread.
What conclusion can we draw from these facts? This: Hard work brings lasting satisfaction and happiness only when we center our lives around doing the divine will.
‘See Good’ in Doing God’s Will
Doing the divine will was like food to Jesus Christ—something to be enjoyed and to sustain his spiritual life. (John 4:34) How can such enjoyment of work be yours?
You must perceive “what the will of Jehovah is” for you. (Ephesians 5:17) His will is for mankind to be restored to “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21; 2 Peter 3:9) Now the worldwide gathering work to accomplish this is taking place. You too may have a part in this most satisfying work. Such work will surely make you happy.
Antonio, mentioned at the outset, later found satisfaction and happiness. When he and his wife put their “futile” secular jobs first in their life and were deeply involved in them, their spiritual life suffered. That was when they started having domestic problems. Realizing the situation, his wife decided to quit her job and started to ‘exert herself vigorously’ in doing the work of preaching about God’s Kingdom full-time.—Luke 13:24.
“Immediately,” says Antonio, “we noticed a great change. No more constant quarrelling. Peace returned to our family.” His wife reaped the joy of helping others to gain the knowledge that means “everlasting life.” (John 17:3) Her happiness moved Antonio to reevaluate what really is worthwhile. His desire to serve God whole-souled won out. He turned down an offer for promotion and resigned from his secular work. Although the change meant his taking a more humble job, both Antonio and his wife are happy to be spending most of their time in the Christian ministry, doing God’s will.
Of course, not all are in a position to make such great changes. Mizumori, the Japanese banker mentioned earlier, enjoys his ministry as an elder in a Christian congregation and still supports his family with his secular job, where he holds a managerial position. However, his life is no longer centered around his secular work but revolves around the doing of God’s will. His secular work is the means that sustains him and enables him to accomplish that objective. Now working secularly is also meaningful.
When you cultivate this view toward your employment, you will no doubt exert yourself “not with acts of eye-service, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah.” (Colossians 3:22) Such sincerity may not seem to go a long way in this competitive society, but, as Mizumori admits, by applying such principles, you will be trusted and esteemed. Although he stopped working for promotion, it came his way.—Proverbs 22:29.
Yes, centering your life around the doing of God’s will is the key to finding happiness in hard work. That is why wise King Solomon concluded: “There is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13.
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Centering your family life around Bible study and the doing of God’s will is the key to enjoying the fruitage of hard work