Finding God’s Work in William Faris

faithworkpuzzle

I was stunned, quickly swept up in such brilliant insight. We were in staff prayer time; I was standing by the bulletin board. A section of this board holds William’s drawings of various Bible stories. Lifting my eyes while listening to others pray, this particular composition’s title grabbed my attention. Carefully scribed on the page is a combination of both thought-provoking words and detailed sketch. His picture’s simple, crisp lines drew me to further consider the implications—both deeply theological and practically down-to-earth.

Our church has been on a faith @ work adventure over the past two years, deliberately seeking to engage with God’s view of our daily work. We are aiming to see more clearly how we join his mission in our daily tasks. We’ve been learning to break up the sacred-secular divide, to view and do our ordinary tasks as kingdom initiatives, and to appreciate our everyday workplaces as our primary mission fields. By his grace, we are beginning to see God in all things, even in the dusty and seemingly mundane.

Just last Sunday, we enjoyed hearing Dr. William Peel, the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University and co-author of Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work.[1] During an extended interview, Peel shared one of his favorite practices for faith integration. “Ask the WIGD question each morning and throughout your day. What Is God Doing? What is God doing in and through my business today? What is God doing in this client or coworker’s life? What is God doing through these opportunities, and how might I join him?”

WorkplaceGraceCover

It should not have surprised me that William Faris’ artwork expresses kindred theoretical sentiments. He listens carefully in church services and his weekly Life Group study. His hands then skillfully join his mind, both working together to express what he sees. This particular drawing is simple yet poignantly intriguing. A bearded stick figure is draped in a strange-shaped gown, with unique décor embellishing the garb. William supplies a top-of-page biblical passage as the source of his inspiration: Exodus 37:1—39:31.

William Faris sketch

My suddenly curious yet cursory review of this Scripture validated my dusty recollection. Here is a description of the work performed by the ancient artisans of Hebrew sacred relics. Bezalel, Oholiab, and a team of craftsmen created the Ark of the Covenant, tabernacle furniture, and the priestly garments. Chapter 36 sets the stage: “the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary . . . to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.” I am deeply moved by this realization: such scriptural setting supplied inspiration for William’s own artwork, now thousands of years later.

I must confess the reason I am so stunned. William Faris faces a great personal challenge; he lives with a profound cognitive disability. Now in his fifties, William lives in Faith Friendship Villa, a couple miles from Manor Church. He faithfully attends worship services each weekend along with other residents. Willam and friends are vibrantly involved in their Life Group, led by people who are lovingly committed to working with individuals and families affected by disabilities. With such passionate work, this group regularly chooses to see God in all things.

William Faris

So, I am personally stirred by William’s artistic expression. Not only does he reflect theological savvy in his sketch; his own work remarkably reflects the image of his creative God and the extraordinary capabilities God has granted.

Drawn in by his work—both the sketch and the link to the biblical account—I am stirred afresh by the fact that it is God who gives skills and abilities to workers. William captures with loving stroke of pen on paper the old, old story. And he embodies with vibrant Spirit the very essence of such gifting. As William Peel reminded our crowd, we can see God at work daily in all things. WIGD? We see God at work through William Faris and his art.

And I am further captivated, swept up in this oh-so personal, yes, even convicting question: Am I personally integrating each day with such skillful sophistication—daring to see God at work in the “all things” of my own life—both in the old, old story, and in the current story of our lives?

[1]Bill Peel and Walt Larimore. Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work. (Longview, TX: LeTourneau Press) 2014.

See Your Work through Better Lenses

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

What do you see? Is your vision blurry?

Michelle gets up each morning to teach math at Donegal High School. Plenty of days, it could seem like exponential drudgery. Amid tedious numbers and grading ad nauseam, what might infuse her daily work with real joy and significance?

Andy works on broken-down automobiles every day, rain or shine. His tasks are greasy, grimy, and often knuckle-numbing. He’s a FORD guy at heart, but willingly turns wrenches on anything with wheels. In the past two years, he has curiously discovered fresh purpose and greater sense of personal mission.

Charlie designs and installs high-end video/audio in primarily commercial applications. In recent months, he’s been overheard saying: “We used to have a good business; now we have a seriously GREAT business.” Why such advancement?

Abigail is in her 20’s, a brilliant art student, passionately discovering how her crazy creativity and design flair might actually evoke God’s smile and express Christ’s own passion for recreating and redeeming.

Each of these hard-working leaders has very intentionally engaged in a next-level adventure during the past twelve to twenty-four months. They have embarked on the audacious quest to more fully integrate their faith and calling in Christ with their daily tasks.

They are each seeing and developing life vision with bolder clarity, utilizing some better lenses for discovery.

First, they are developing a bolder perspective that includes a serious theology of work. They’ve started to see God as the first creative Worker and each of us, made in his image, as coworkers, co-rulers and co-leaders over his creation. They are seeing a bigger vision of God’s redemptive plans to reclaim humans and all of creation—including our everyday work—as marvelously instrumental in His redemption story.

Each of these workers is also seeing more clearly with a second lens, a greater commitment to personal integration. Instead of viewing their daily life as split-up, compartmentalized between secular life and sacred life, they are learning to see life as WHOLE, gaining a more holistic integration of faith and work. With the opportunity to love God and neighbor with all they have, every action, decision, and conversation in ones’ workday can be and should be all to the glory of God. They’re finding they can truly BE the church Monday through Saturday, not just on Sundays. It’s WHY Christine was so instrumental in helping one of her clients, Robert, come to a renewed faith in Christ this Christmas season. It was such a joy to see him baptized in early February. Christine was taking her faith to work everyday and impacting Robert, and then bringing him along with other friends to church on Sundays. Robert was responsive to Christ, and Christine stood with him helping him as he publicly declared his faith in Christ at his baptism.

And that’s the third lens. It’s not only a theological lens and an integrated lens, but it’s an intentionally relational, missional lens. For people like Christine, as well as my friends, Kevin, Greg, Chuck, Barb—and others who are passionate about connecting—there is this growing perspective that their workplace is their primary mission field. With such clarity of vision, leaders say, “Yes, I am there each day to glorify God with extraordinarily excellent work, including superb products and services. AND I am there to build life-changing connections that can potentially change people’s eternal destinies.”

Michelle, my friend who teaches math, says this about her own vision now:

“I never realized that my workplace could be my mission field. I always felt that my work had meaning. I just did not realize the potential for mission that was surrounding me every day. Throughout this experience, I felt an amazing shift in my spirit. I started to see that I could be a positive role model for other professionals. I realized that my mood, attitude, and actions could influence others. I now look for ways that I can make a positive contribution to the world through my work—from the simple act of redirecting a negative conversation to discussing the Bible with a colleague. I feel more comfortable sharing my faith and being a positive example for others in my workplace.”

How about your vision at work? What do you see?

Vision—eye

 

>GREATER Things @ Work in ‘15!

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Back to the daily grind—our first work days of January. Holiday euphoria has dimmed. Why do early December’s dazzling decorations seem so treasure-like, but the same items become pesky junk by early January? It’s SO hard to find the motivation; the boxes taunt us to be packed back in the attic. And there’s a strong probability that any intentions you had of crafting fresh resolutions or objectives have now drifted. Like so many people, you could just settle into a repeat of ’14’s same old, same old. Same outlook, attitudes, and modus operandi in your workplace. It’s easy to say, “Just hit REPLAY.”

How about discovering deeper and lasting motivation, prompting you to aspire to greater things in 2015? What might make the difference in your aspirations for 2015? Three methods can lift your intentions and lead you away from settling, to instead aspire to greater things:

First, seriously contemplate: How deep does this run? How much do I desire this and believe in this? Wisdom from habit-change gurus Prochaska, Norcross, and Diclemente is also applicable for new aspirations. They describe the necessary steps: contemplation, preparation, and then action. “In the contemplation stage, people acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. . . . Most people in the preparation stage are planning to take action within the very next month . . . Action is the most obviously busy period, and the one that requires the greatest commitment of time and energy.”[1] Here is stand-out methodology, essential for achieving greater aspirations. Such preparation and action only come after serious personal contemplation. Ask yourself, “Am I passionate, deeply and desperately serious about embracing new attitudes and actions?”

Second, search your confidence source: Where is my confidence placed—whom am I trusting to pull this off? If you’re counting only on your own UMPH and sweat to achieve those new business goals, you might as well add them to the dusty pile of yesteryear’s best intentions, never achieved. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews proclaims Christ Jesus to be greater than any other life focus, philosophical ideology, supposed power source, or past religious paths. In fact, Jesus is the one who is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1, verse 3) If we believe Christ is truly leading, overseeing and empowering in such great ways—and if we believe “all things” include our workplaces—we must aspire to greater things in the New Year! Why would we hold back, dream small dreams, or expect less?

Greater logo

Still wondering what your greater aspirations might include in the New Year? Try some of these ideas:

  • What will you aspire to read, to strengthen your heart and skills?
  • Whom or what group might you aim to serve?
  • Whom will you aspire to mentor?
  • Can you identify a new “garden” to plant, aiming for longer-term results?
  • How can you develop healthier habits in both body and soul?
  • How about a fresh creative dream to pursue? Can you dare to “color with brighter crayons?”
  • Will you dare to do something you know will be very difficult, because you know it’s worth the price?

Third, prayerfully plan: Make a sketch of your strategy for greatness. The old axiom still rings true: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Like most people, I’ve been a quitter on a stack of resolutions. But there have been several aspirations—praise God—that I have actually achieved. Each of my own “Yea, God!” success stories were indeed infused with deep passion, confidence in Christ’s power, but also a deliberate action-bias. Try these strategic approaches with each of your aspirations.

  • Keep your list of aspirations concise, ambitious yet achievable. Focus your energy on one, no more than three, new endeavors.
  • With each aim, identify at least three doable action steps you will take during January through March. Write down the action steps and give yourself a date for completion.
  • Prayerfully commit your plans to Christ each day. Ask him to guide, empower, and change your course where needed (that’s why it’s a sketch). And constantly pray that Jesus will be glorified in your new endeavor.
  • With each new aspiration, name and invite three to five other people to help you make this endeavor become a reality. Committing to others for encouragement and accountability is vitally important.
  • By mid-March, revisit your action steps and the list of people who make up your dream team. Revise your sketch strategy as needed.

Get ready. By January 15th, enthusiasm will be waning as you struggle with feelings of inefficiency. You may feel less-than-productive or even totally incompetent, still lacking the necessary knowledge, skill or ability to achieve those greater endeavors. Ed Silvoso winsomely reminds us: “If your job is your ministry, then God, who appointed you as a minister, has a supernatural empowerment for you to be able to do it His way.” By February 1st, you will consider scrapping your greater aspiration(s) altogether. Here’s why placing your confidence in Christ makes the deeper difference.

Silvoso challenges us: “Officially welcome the Lord Jesus into your workplace for His perfect efficiency to replace your own deficiency or insufficiency. Literally go to the front door, open it and say, ‘Welcome, Lord Jesus. Come in. I need you.”[2]

Remember, Christ is greater. He will sustain and empower you to aspire and achieve those greater things! Now gather your courage, and go put away those miserable Christmas decorations.

[1]James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. Diclemente. Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving You Life Positively Forward. (Collins: New York) 2006, pp. 41-44.

[2]Ed Silvoso. Anointed for Business: How to Use Your Influence in the Marketplace to Change the World. (Regal: Ventura) 2002, pp. 152-160.

Brighter Bulbs for Christmas Busyness

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

‘Frazzled and burned out by holiday business’ busyness? Perhaps the long string of tasks on ye ‘ole yuletide list has you feeling less than merry and bright. Consider these concepts to brighten your season!

_______________

“A steal of a deal—just five bucks!” Dad heralded his find with great triumph. “But Ken, it looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.” Mom voiced honest disappointment. Christmas 1978—money was tight, so even the five dollar tree was a splurge. Mom did her best to brighten the dismal tannenbaum, banishing its sparse side to stand in the corner. For filler, she crammed our entire ornament collection onto the branches. Along with stapled construction paper chains, we wrapped the sad stick with every last string of lights we owned. It was brilliant—vintage, old school, multi-colored, glass bulbs—fat, bright, and most certainly a fire hazard. Mom was apprehensive so I was tasked with fastidiously checking each bulb. Some light strings shot sparks, so they got pitched. Strands that merely flickered were retrofitted. Looking back, it is nothing short of a Christmas miracle that our house did not go up in flames.

Amid Yuletide’s stress of extra deadlines, the rush and push to deliver products, and the craziness of added customer expectations, we can all feel frazzled. Perhaps you sense your personal “light strings” are flickering, sparking, or even going dark. Consider these brighter bulbs for the busyness of your Christmas business.

Joyful Bulbs

In whatever field you work this season, consider anew the heart of Christmas. The heavenly messenger’s declaration to Bethlehem shepherds at work that eve included “good news of great joy, for all people.” God was thinking of us, you and me in the “all people” to experience this business of joy. On any given day, we cannot control our circumstances, but we can choose our attitudes. We can slow down enough to pray prayers of peace, both for ourselves and for others. Take a deep breath. You can plug into Christ’s deep and jubilant joy.

Excellence Bulbs

Under pressure, up against deadlines, it seems easier to settle for second best. What if instead, you determine this will be the season you and your coworkers serve up the greatest care and most stellar products for your customers, to the glory of God? Wayne Grudem uses shoe production as one example: “When we produce pairs of shoes to be used by others, we demonstrate love. . . If we do this, as Paul says, working heartily, ‘as for the Lord and not for men’ (Col. 3:23), and if our hearts have joy and thanksgiving to God . . . then God delights to see his excellent character reflected in our lives, and others will see something of God’s character in us as well. Our light will ‘shine before others, that that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven’ (Matt. 5:16).”[1]

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Brighter, Difference-making Bulbs

Attitudes, speech, and ethics can run amok in busy seasons. Writing to the first-century Philippians, the Apostle Paul urges: “Do everything without complaining or arguing . . . as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Phil. 2:14-15). Michael Baer explains: “Christians live in a dark world that is filled with corruption, sin, and unethical behavior. Their presence is to be in bold contrast to their surroundings. In place of darkness, they are light; in place of corruption, they are purity; in place of immorality, they are brilliant reflections of the moral character of God.”[2]

The season’s rush, fatigue, pressure, and over-the-top expectations have a way of evoking our most critical outlooks and caustic spirits. Instead, Christ’s workers aim to be extraordinary for Christ’s glory. We resist the tantalizing temptation to cheat, slouch, slime, or cut corners of any kind. As difference-makers, we trade grumbles and gripes for the radiance of grace.

Our family still chuckles over Dad’s tree of ‘78. Despite its misshapen branches, gaping holes, and flickering lights, it now magnificently glows in our fond memories. No matter how frayed, pushed, fearful, or stressed your Christmas seems this year, you can choose joy, plug in excellence, and make a brilliant difference for Christ!

[1]Wayne Grudem, “How Business in Itself Can Glorify God,” On Kingdom Business: Transforming Missions through Entrepreneurial Strategies. (Crossway Books: Wheaton), 133.

[2]Michael R. Baer, Business As Mission: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God. (YWAM Publishing: Seattle), 133.

Workplace Sex Trysts: A Strategy for Standing Strong

?????????????????????????????????????????

Diet Coke, circa mid-90’s, flaunted one very steamy TV ad. An office full of women suddenly begin whispering to each other, “It’s 11:30.” As the commercial commences, they scurry to the office windows to ogle. A male construction worker on ground level removes his sweat-soaked shirt and begins lusciously drinking a Diet Coke. Apparently, this has become a daily workplace ritual for these women. Though lusting should never be a laughing matter, the commercial’s format draws a chuckle twenty years later. The gawking women wear big-framed 80’s eye-wear and oh-so-poofy hair; the bare-chested eye candy is sporting a far-from-chiseled four-pack. And in retrospect, what real man sips Diet Coke anyway?

Workplace temptation runs rampant. Place people together for extended blocks of time, working close on endeavors of big consequence, and the affection temperature is bound to rise. Glances are exchanged and soon feelings are shared; flirtation seems innocent, but sparks begin to fly. Then all too quickly, something hotter kindles. So how can we develop a strategy for sexual integrity in our workplaces, a wholesomeness that matches Christ’s heart for business leaders and workers in every profession?

The young biblical hunk, Joseph, stands as a stunning example in overcoming workplace temptation. Genesis 39 records the racy scene. Promoted to second in command over a large estate in Egypt, Joseph soon caught the wandering eye of the owner’s wife. Mrs. Potiphar repeatedly made her temptress moves, “day after day,” the story records. Joseph repeatedly resisted, finally stating emphatically that such indulgence would be a serious violation of his relationship with God (Gen. 39:9). This young man’s conviction and stance, so far away from his father Jacob’s oversight, was astounding. Finally, Joseph employed the best strategy ever. In a moment of brilliant insight, he did the most courageous thing. He ran away! (explore more on such a strategy in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20) His reward? He was quickly framed by the scorned, pouting, plotting temptress. (I know, shocker!) And he was promptly tossed in the deep, dank confines of prison. (See the rest of the story in Genesis 40 through 50.) Tom Nelson elaborates: “When it comes to sexual temptation in the workplace, we don’t have to go out of our way to look for it; it often finds us. Joseph’s wise response to sexual temptation in the workplace is a model for us to emulate. Joseph didn’t cozy up to sexual temptation, he fled from it.”[1]

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

What’s the big deal? Our core struggle with lust is that we imagine how people can be used for our self-serving interests instead of genuinely loved. God’s style of selfless love aims at practically caring for others’ best interests, not using or abusing them. How do we develop a strategy, to stand strong against workplace temptation, or as in Joseph’s case, to decisively run away? In Taking Your Soul to Work, R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung urge these five strategy steps:

(1) Know that your heart’s desires are for God. Hunger and passion for God put all lesser desires into perspective. (2) Reduce exposure to erotic stimulation in your choice of movies, novels, and Internet sites. Put a plan in place that will help you avoid temptation on business trips. (3) Pray for a colleague, a customer, or a supervisor whom you find attractive. Choose God’s perspective on the person instead of treating her/him as “just a body” to be visually consumed. (4) Seek accountability partners. (5) Identify the early beginnings of lustful thoughts. Heightened vigilance in advance allows you to be more responsive to the Spirit’s guidance.[2]

Instead of being trapped in daily rituals of workplace lust and other sexual sins, we can stand strong. We can run away, stay pure, and truly honor Christ. We can honor others with more wholesome love at work.

[1]Tom Nelson. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 173.

[2]R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung. Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 26-31.

4 Reasons You Can Whistle @ Work

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I could not help but chuckle. My morning walk on the golf course cart path was proving to be gorgeous. Leaves revealed a hint of fallish tint. The mid-September sky was bright, and the air was crisp. Amid the rustling treetops, birds were chirping, but I was suddenly struck by another high tone, piercing the soundscape. Overtop the birdsong and gentle hum of a green machine at work, there danced a stunning, pronounced melody. The tune was distinct, recognizably classic in cadence, echoing off the arcade of trees and turf. I scanned in all directions, eventually to discover that the beautiful whistling was coming from the lips of the hard-working grounds keeper. It was a stunning, spot-on-pitch performance—and he was oblivious to having an audience. ‘Top of his lungs, he kept whistling, and I laughed aloud.

Immediately struck with amazement and query, I thought, “It’s very early morning; his work is tedious, mundane, for sure. It’s repetitive and ridiculously thankless for that matter.” Confession: I’ve never gone back to the clubhouse after a round of golf to deliberately compliment, tip, or otherwise praise the grounds crew. But here’s this early morning laborer, whistling as he works, with volume level at Max 10.

So what gives? ‘Something special in his 5 a.m. java? How can the rest of us find healthier joy in our daily work, whatever we do? Based on God’s view of work, I’ll suggest four reasons we can whistle in our work this week.

YOUR WORK TODAY MAKES GOD SMILE.

God originally made us in his image—his very likeness as creative coworkers—and he called us to work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover that a great big part of this imago Dei and our original call was for humans to work the garden. The Hebrew word for work carries the ideas of labor, service, and worship. Originally, this was all good, all positive. Yes, Genesis 3 records the curse in response to the Fall, but work was originally a part of God’s very good plans for humans. In response to the Curse’s ugly consequences, God’s story unfolds redemptive plans to renew all of creation, including work and its creative outcome (Rom. 8).[1] When we work, God smiles.

YOUR WORK TODAY IS THE OVERFLOW OF GRACE.

Our everyday work is part of our living out God’s saving grace. He planned for it! Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith; it’s not of our own good works. Yet, we discover with verse 10 that the overflow of God’s creativity, his remaking us, is that we now ACTIVELY live out creative good works. Faith is indeed about DOING something. He planned in advance for us to accomplish good works.

WHATEVER IT IS—YOUR WORK CAN SERVE CHRIST AND MAKE HIM FAMOUS!

For your own deeper inspiration and recalibration of perspective, explore these verses. Soak up fresh motivation for the soul of your work. See 1 Cor. 10:31 and Colossians 3:23-24.

YOUR WORK MATCHES JESUS’ HEART, ACTIONS, AND MISSION.

Jesus’ own example and his kingdom teachings are full of business and workplace implications. Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a tekton, one who works with his hands. We often forget that Jesus was a carpenter and/or sculptor many more years than he was the traveling rabbi and miracle-worker. As a result, Jesus knew business and marketplace workers. Perhaps this sheds some light on why the majority of his parables are infused with business context and kingdom principles related to everyday work scenarios. Tom Nelson reminds us:

“Working with his hands day in and day out in a carpentry shop was not below Jesus. Jesus did not see his carpentry work as mundane or meaningless, for it was the work his Father had called him to do. I have a good hunch that Jesus was a top-notch carpenter and did top-notch work . . . I am sure there were many things that made the Father well pleased, but one important aspect of Jesus’ well-pleasing life that we must not overlook was his well-pleasing work as a carpenter.”[2]

So, as the golf course greens keeper continued whistling, I found myself grinning and saying, “Sign me up! I want what he’s having!” God’s smile, great big grace, his glory, and Jesus’ own work—four reasons you can rejoice with God in your work today. Let’s get whistling!

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

[1]Darrell Cosden, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work. (United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 2006), 86-91.

[2]Tom Nelson, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 90.

Work’s Agony and Ecstasy—Remembering Robin Williams

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

“Nano nano.” As a fourth grader, I tried to spread my fingers just like Mork from Ork in order to bid adieu to friends at school. (my right hand, no problem; left hand, I still can’t do it.)

We are awash in a sea of emotions at the stunning news of Williams’ suicide. Like so many funny men, the work of his early years was hysterical and at points raucously crude—symptomatic no doubt of youthful immaturity. As his body of work grew, so did his sophistication, choosiness of roles, and thoughtfulness of his characters. Still always treating us to jovial faces and good-like-medicine laughter, his work became more and more purposeful. Complexity of characters and message are profound in Patch Adams and Dead Poets Society. “O Captain, my Captain!” “Carpe diem! Seize the day, boys.”

So we longingly ask, what goes wrong? How does such a hilarious guy of stardom fall so far emotionally that he chooses to exit? The forensics and toxicology are still being completed. It is well documented that he battled both depression and addiction. Friends have been interviewed, and they confirm that he was struggling, albeit with a seemingly strong support system enfolding him.

None of us, especially those of us with deeply religio-spiritual backgrounds, should rush to hand out diagnoses and snap judgments. Let’s not forget, it was not long ago that Rick Warren’s family faced the tragic loss of their son. Let’s not forget, so many of our extended families have experienced first-hand the ravages of mental illness and suicide—including my own cousin just a few years back.

What can we say? Because God designed us for integrated living, we must resist the urge to compartmentalize, thinking that our mental-emotional health is incidental, a sidebar. If you are struggling with depression and addiction, reach out for hope and help, both to Christ through spiritual mentors and to health professionals—please do it NOW!

What else can we say? Because God wants us to work as his coworkers, in his image (Genesis 1:26-28), we need to balance life better. Work hard, yes, but resist defining our own identities solely on our work success. Here’s where our faith, a deeper trust, has to intersect with our creative good works, pre-ordained by our Maker (Saint Paul, Ephesians 2:8-10). Will we trust him? Don’t let your own identity become so wrapped up with your work outcomes that you descend into the abyss, especially in those seasons when your work is not producing a remarkably fruitful crop. You are so much more than the sum total of your portfolio!

I recently read Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel of Michelangelo.[1] We readily applaud the sculptor-painter’s amazing achievements, but we often fail to recognize the deep agony, work frustration, and overall despondency he faced with each artistic endeavor.

What hope can we find in our own dark moments, when work is less than stellar, when life seems to rot, and we hear those voices from the shadows? Let’s be real real. Most of us are moved by Robin’s tragic story because the psychological tremors hit too close to home, echoing into the depth of our own souls, homes, and workplaces. We all have our own moments and voices that whisper diabolical thoughts in the face of our agony.

Courageously recall, there is indeed an unseen battle. Some will accuse me of over-simplifying, but we dare not miss the essential power of prayer in putting on God’s protective armor (Saint Paul, Ephesians 6:10-20). The biblical leader of workers, master wall builder, Nehemiah, handled his own opposition from critics, the taunting voices, would-be distractions, and impending despair. He replied, “I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down . . .” And then he passionately prayed, “Strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6)

C. Neal Johnson, calling for vigilance in spiritual warfare related to our work-a-day business, asserts:

“There is also a form of prayer called inner healing prayer (IHP). It is an approach to prayer in which an individual can identify and resolve deep-seated emotional issues that have plagued his or her attempts at healthy living . . . Both research data and anecdotal testimonies evidence significant long-term, deep, inner healing as a result . . . Training in how to conduct IHP is highly recommended in order to be effective and to avoid unscriptural activities.”[2]

Let us pray fervently for the Williams’ family and close friends, for peace and strength, hope and comfort. Let us pray for one another, for deep healing in our daily work’s agony and ecstasy.

And by all means, Carpe diem. With Christ’s strength and for his glory, let us make our lives extraordinary!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

[1]Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo. (Doubleday and Company, 1961).

[2]C. Neal Johnson, Business As Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice. (IVP, 2009), 450-51.