I have been an RN in the medical department of a 400-person prison for eight years. In the last year, things have become more difficult—inmates on a new drug program are increasingly hostile, staffing has decreased, and mandatory overtime has spiked while vacation time is often denied. I used to know God had me here for his purpose, but now I’m not sure. I care deeply for this underserved population and have seen the Lord do wonderful things, but I’m struggling with a crushed spirit. At my age jobs don’t come easily, though, and the thought of finding another tires me just thinking about it. What should I do?
Seeking God’s will in specific situations can be tough, especially when it involves personal decisions like relationships and jobs. These decisions have long-lasting consequences; we don’t want to make them hastily. Thankfully, God hasn’t left us without counsel.
Before I lay out a biblical perspective that may provide some practical wisdom, let me commend you on a number of things you have done to integrate your Christian faith into your career journey.
The Lord Has Done Wonderful Things
You’re on a tough road right now. Your concerns—the potential for violence and increasing amounts of overtime—are legitimate. These are real challenges, with no easy answers.
On the other hand, years ago you chose to pursue a degree in nursing. That wasn’t an easy road, either. Your faith in God must have played a big part in that decision, and you, no doubt, had to depend on him to get through it. Your profession is marked by the same humility that Jesus displayed as he washed his disciples’ feet. You have a servant’s heart.
You said you “used to know God had me here for his purpose.” That’s an important foundation in a theology of work—knowing that God is going to work in and through you to love your neighbor. There’s purpose in your situation, even now.
You shared that you “care deeply for this underserved population.” This indicates a heart of compassion that has developed as you came to understand how God has had compassion on you. You’ve also “seen the Lord do wonderful things” on the job, which tells me you have been walking in your career by faith, seeing evidence of his presence in your work.
What Does the Bible Say?
Paul’s advice to the church in Corinth—about whether or not people had to change careers when they got saved—may be applicable to your situation. In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul instructs: “If you can gain your freedom, do so.”
We aren’t stuck in a job for life. Some jobs or careers are only meant for a season. Even if your job is one God called you to, he may now be calling you in a different direction, for your good and for his glory.
We are free in Christ to seek employment and to make wise, Spirit-led decisions when a job is offered.
This corresponds with Paul’s decision-making in Acts 13–20, as he considered his options in pursuit of his mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in Asia Minor. There were rare times when the Holy Spirit spoke to him directly or he received marching orders in a dream. But most of the time he merely decided to go to a certain town, and then to another, and then to another. We are free in Christ to seek employment and to make wise, Spirit-led decisions when a job is offered.
The idea of contentment, highlighted in Philippians 4:11, also applies here. We, like Paul, can learn to be content in any circumstances. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t take actions to improve our situation if we’re able. It certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t seek treatment when we’re sick, that we don’t put ourselves out there when we’re looking for a mate, or that we shouldn’t look for God to provide alternate means of employment when our job becomes unbearable.
What Can You Do?
Look at all of your options. Is there a chance to move into a supervisory role with less direct contact with these patients? Is there a similar facility close by that may have things a bit more under control? Are there other areas of nursing that you’ve considered moving into? Would you be interested in pursuing a graduate degree that might open doors to other work environments where you can still make a difference (perhaps teaching)?
God may change your circumstances, or he may change you. No matter what, he is working on your behalf because he is always faithful to his children.
Pay attention to the holy dissatisfaction you feel—God may be preparing you to begin another chapter in your life. And remember: if you decide to go, God will be with you. If you stay, he will be with you. He may change your circumstances, or he may change you. No matter what, he is working on your behalf because he is always faithful to his children.
It’s important to spend time reflecting on God’s attributes, particularly his power to give you strength to endure and his ability to rescue you from bondage. Praise him in the midst of this trial and ask for wisdom and grace as you navigate it. Surrender completely to the lordship of Christ. Trust him and let him lead.