Have you ever felt stuck, dissatisfied, in your work or wondered if your vocation had any significant future?
President Eisenhower’s Dissatisfaction
At the age of 51, this is exactly how Dwight Eisenhower felt. He considered himself to be a failure with not much hope for achieving what he had longed and worked for: to be a soldier, a commander in battle.
As author Stephen E. Ambrose points out in his book Eisenhower: Soldier and President, Eisenhower’s disappointment and dissatisfaction with his career as a soldier began early.
After graduating from West Point and looking forward to a stellar career in the military, Eisenhower was elated in April 1917 when America jumped into World War I, expecting to finally get a chance to lead troops in combat.
Instead he was assigned to train the 57th Infantry in San Antonio, and later, to build the new Tanks Corps. Finally, his orders came to leave for France on November 18, 1918. But on November 11, World War I ended – he never made it to battle.
Despite being a brilliant leader (and recognized as such by all who came into contact with him), he felt stuck, dissatisfied, and frustrated by not being able to get ahead.
As his career continued, these feelings were intensified by serving under the shadow and ego of General MacArthur for 10 years.
Eisenhower was bored to tears working on administrative items for the general. He longed to “see action” but every time he requested a transfer, MacArthur would turn him down because of the value Dwight provided him.
Despite the severe disappointment Eisenhower experienced for years, he didn’t allow himself to become bitter toward his superiors. He endeavored to accept his work situation and simply kept doing his job to the best of his ability.
Because of his attitude and discipline, his superiors remembered him. And though he never could have envisioned it, he eventually ended up serving as one of the outstanding leaders of the Western world in the 20th century as the Allied Supreme Commander of World War II and the thirty-fourth President of the United States.
The disappointment, dissatisfaction, and the feeling of being stuck in our careers, or knowing that we were made for more, is something, at one time or another, we all can resonate with.
But, I hope we can also grasp something else that is powerfully illustrated by President Eisenhower’s story: THE PRINCIPLE OF ACCEPTANCE!
The Principle of Acceptance
In part one of this 3-part “Tipping Point” series we considered that neglecting to develop and display godliness in and through our work is a key factor to work dissatisfaction.
In part two, we examined the second key ingredient to greater satisfaction and impact at work: contentment.
In this final post, I would like to suggest that the linchpin between godliness and contentment which connects us to the fullness of satisfaction at work that God intends is acceptance.
John the Baptist
In John, Chapter 3 John the baptist’s disciples come to him all bent out of shape. Why? Because they caught wind of the droves that were turning to Jesus and getting baptized by Him instead of by John.
Essentially, as they viewed the landscape of their competition, they were concerned about their future vocations, perhaps even envious that another was experiencing more success than they were.
“The petri dish of comparison is a place where the bacteria of dissatisfaction can germinate and quickly multiply.”
As I’ve talked about the problem of personal work dissatisfaction and biblical solutions in various settings, I often bring this story up. In response to the question, “What was John’s response to the concern his disciples brought to his attention?,” many reference John’s famous and humble response:
“He must increase, and I must decrease.” ~ John 3:30
But then I prod a little further. “What else did he say?” Do you know? He uttered this profound statement:
“A man can only receive what he has been given by God.” ~ John 3:27
“He must increase, and I must decrease.” That is a mindset, a posture, of humility that recognizes our greatest purpose in life is to be a person who exists to increase Christ’s fame.
“A man can only receive what he has been given from God” is a predisposition of the heart that accepts the assignment (or vocation and accomplishments in that vocation) we’ve been given for how we will go about bringing attention to Jesus and His work.
We can never wrestle with God for a different assignment and win.
“Our greatest satisfaction will only be found in accepting and being faithful in the assignments God has preordained for us.”
This is not to say that we should ever give up on the visions, dreams, or aspirations God has implanted in our hearts. It might well be, like with President Eisenhower, that God is preparing us for an assignment with the broader impact and influence we desire.
Regardless if that is the outcome or not, the secret to finding greater satisfaction in our work is to accept our assignment as from God and to do it to the very best of our ability.
Steve Farrar in his book God Built notes that John Calvin was right in his observation:
“When the light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from the extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care.” ~ John Calvin
Sounds like kind of a satisfying soul-state doesn’t it? And then Steve, adds:
“So get over it. He is in control of your life. And He knows precisely what He is doing.”
- What is it about your work and leadership that you sometimes find difficult to accept?
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