fast-food-worker1Most of us have spent at least a little time working in jobs we weren’t thrilled about. For me, it peaked with McDonald’s (no offense, Ronald).

For Trevin Wax, it was Cracker Barrel:

I never wanted to work at Cracker Barrel. I had business experience as an office manager, plus five years of international missions experience tucked under my belt.

But none of that mattered when the most pressing question was, How will you provide for your wife and son this week? Like many before and after me, I did whatever was necessary.

In the past, I’ve referred to such work as “needs-based” — an adjective that would seem highly redundant to most of our ancestors, not to mention plenty of today’s poor. Our now-widespread discussions and contemplations about vocation and personal calling are somewhat new, and we should be careful to recognize why exactly we have the reactions we do about working at reliable, air-conditioned joints like Cracker Barrel.

Each new wave of economic progress and individual empowerment has brought more opportunity to look upward and onward, beyond meeting our own needs and toward something bigger and brighter and so on. This is a marvelous thing, but with such opportunity and privilege also comes a temptation to look inward when it’s convenient — to rejoice in ourselves when we succeed and get grumpy when we wind up sniffing grease at Cracker Barrel.

Wax, however, looks back on his experience as much more than a pay-the-bills moment. Rather, the 18 months he spent at Cracker Barrel serves as “a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness to us during a difficult, sometimes frustrating, season of life.” Pointing out that “there are hidden blessings in unwelcome work,” Wax proceeds to offer four reminders for those who find themselves in work situations that don’t seem to fit the mission.

Although he writes primarily to those who, like him, are pursuing some kind of full- or part-time ministry outside the “for-profit” sphere, his reminders apply quite well to those of us who feel called to some kind of ministry within the workplace but haven’t quite found the right “vocational fit.”

His reminders are listed below, with key excerpts following each.

1. Remember that God has a plan, and He is still at work.

God’s promise to us isn’t that we’ll spend a lifetime of ministry on the mountaintop. The promise is that we’ll be made into the image of Jesus. Trouble is, there are a lot of valleys on the road to becoming like Jesus. So trust that He has a plan – not just for your foundation in ministry but for your formation as a minister.

2. Focus on your identity as a missionary, no matter what.

It’s silly to think that we have to be paid as a full-time staff person [in "ministry"] in order to be on mission…From conversations in the break room to witnessing encounters with other employees, God reminded me: you are always My missionary. The same is true for you. The locale may have changed, and the tasks may be different, but you are still on mission.

3. Get used to serving when it’s hard and your heart’s not in it.

There were many nights when that dimly lit restaurant was the last place I wanted to be. But through the experience, I’d pray, ask God to fix my attitude, and then I’d try to treat every guest – no matter how ornery, picky, or insufferable – like I’d want to be treated. I couldn’t make everyone happy, but I could do my best to serve.

(Related: Work is service. Acknowledge it and maximize your contribution.)

4. Remember this is only for a season.

Glean what you can from the difficult times, because the truths you learn in the valleys keep your feet steady on the mountaintops. There is a time for everything – even unwelcome work. Look for the hidden blessings.

Read the whole thing here.