Frederick Buechner, Christian novelist and essayist, wrote:The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. He is speaking about vocation and his point, of course, is that God has made each of us in a unique way and places us in situations (work or school) in which our deep gladness in God, expressed through our own personality and passions, connects with the deep needs of those in the world who do not know this deep gladness. While I do not doubt the truth of his statement, I believe that life on the ground and in the grind often looks somewhat different.
Buechner makes a huge assumption in this statement. The huge assumption is that the people of God are living with deep gladness in God in their current work situations. While we may acknowledge that our gladness in God should be independent of our circumstances, we also know this is not always the case. In a perfect world where our work corresponded with our personality and passions in such a way that we loved what we were doing, deep gladness in God would surely be present. However, if truth be told, many of us are dissatisfied and feel locked into work situations which we endure rather than love. So the deep gladness which we are to connect with the deep needs of those in the world is not even present in us, let alone there to be shared with others.
However, Buechner is not wrong. The problem is not in what he says but in the lack of depth of our own thoughts about work (or school if we are students) from a biblical perspective. There is a confusion of category and perspective. Naming our work a “job” is only to make a statement about what we do. Naming it a “vocation” is to recognize it is something we are called by God to do. The work of all Christians is a vocation – provided by God for the purpose of God even when we would rather be somewhere else doing something else. Faithfulness at work/school is a response to the call of God.
In a perfect world, there would no challenge against deep gladness in God and one day, at the consummation, that will be the case. Finding the glory of the grind takes courage and endurance to battle for deep gladness in God in the circumstances (work/school) he has placed you in right now. And perhaps that is the point. If you acknowledge that deep gladness in God should be independent of your circumstances, then you have to fight for that gladness regardless of circumstances and not let circumstances determine for you the state of your gladness in God. Though it is a lifelong process, as you learn to experience deep gladness in God wherever he has placed you, you are in a position to connect that deep gladness to the deep hunger of the world.