1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy

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There are times when work is too hard. There are hospital shifts where things go haywire or admissions don't stop coming or the needs are overwhelming. Or semesters when we are assigned too many teaching responsibilities, or students don't do well on exams. There are colleagues who, no matter how hard we try to communicate with them, wires get crossed. There are organizational changes that throw us off balance. Sometimes huge upheavals knock the wind out of our sails. We try to hang on until the next shift gets out of report, the semester ends, or things settle down.

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Nobody likes those hard times. We tend to grit our teeth and just keep going. Sometimes we quit and try a new job. As Christian nurses, we wonder, Does it have to be this way? We know this wasn't God's original plan. He created a world where work wasn't supposed to be so hard. But after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and wrong entered the world, work became difficult. Genesis 3 records what happened, as well as God's verdict about "painful toil" and the "sweat of your brow" (Genesis 3:17-19, NIV). Work would now be hard because, like contamination of a sterile field that leads to infection, evil had infected the world, including work. We experience this infection of painful toil in nursing. But again, as Christians we wonder, How could this be different?


Recently I was asking God about the painful toil of work, and he brought a Bible passage to my attention. In 62 A.D., a church in the city of Colossae was struggling with hard challenges. The apostle Paul, in prison for his faith, wrote to the church. In his letter, the book of Colossians, Paul tells the Colossians how he prays for them. I like to read Scripture in different versions (literal word-for-word translations like the New International Version (NIV) and interpretive translations like The Message), to try to more fully understand what is meant by the text. The Message reads in Colossians 1:9-11:


We haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works... As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul-not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives [emphasis added]. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.


Wow! How do I get from grim strength to glory-strength? Can I really have joy as I endure the unendurable? Paul explains in verse 9, "As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work." The NIV says we ask God "to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The Amplified translation states, "The full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things." The key is spiritual wisdom, knowing God deeply, and thinking and acting like he does. We get this from careful study of his Word, the Bible.


Just yesterday, I ran into an unendurable work situation. In that horrible, sinking feeling of despair, I cried out, Help, God! What should I think? Feel? What should I do? I mentally scanned Scripture passages that related to the situation. I took some deep breaths, waited until my heart was calmer and began to form a plan based on biblical instruction (as opposed to Kathy's feelings). Even though I didn't want to deal with the problem, I began to sort it out, praying as I worked. Within hours, I had learned new things about the problem, how others felt and why they acted the way they did, and I learned new things about myself. To my amazement, I felt joy. The problem isn't solved, but we're on the right path and can stick it out over the long haul.


Once again, I find the Bible offers real-life help. As I study and apply God's ways, he brings wisdom and glory-strength to my work.