Imagine working your normal shift, and having a regularly scheduled meeting in the breakroom. Except there was nothing ordinary about it. One of your managers announces the start of the meeting. Then, your other manager comes up, seemingly out of nowhere, with a menacing blank stare on his face…and starts shooting at people—intending to murder them.
This is the trauma the overnight workers in Chesapeake endured Tuesday evening.
The saddest thing is that this tragedy could have been prevented, and the six lives that were cut short by the shooter could have been spared.
One thing that needs to happen in all workplaces, no matter what the company or how small or large the workforce, is zero tolerance for a toxic work environment. No, a toxic work environment is NO excuse for murder, but it can create lifelong trauma for those around it and is also bad for productivity and eventually the bottom line of a company. I have seen it firsthand. Symptoms of a toxic work environment that I have personally witnessed are pervasive gossiping, tension between colleagues, and an attitude of apathy about work performance and work related issues.
Upper management, including corporate officials, of a company need to create a culture where people are not terrified of or hesitant to bringing up concerns to them. For instance, my store director always tries to listen empathetically to our concerns and helps bring about a viable and helpful solution to them. I also think that there should be mandatory training for all workers on how to listen empathetically to others without interrupting, invalidating, or verbally assaulting them. Not only that, but time should be set aside regularly (i.e…at least every month) where people can voice their concerns about serious workplace issues to management without being interrupted or invalidated.
If these measures were put in place in Chesapeake, I believe the tensions there and the resulting tragedy could have been prevented. Again, I am not trying to place blame on anyone. I am just pointing out what could be done to promote a more positive work environment in all companies.
Another thing that I learned from this tragedy is that we should value everyone and not take loved ones for granted, because we never know when they may be taken away from us. We can do this by taking note of those co-workers and others around us who are hurting or broken, and give them extra grace instead of condemnation and judgment. Look for ways to minister to them and make them feel worthy. For instance, a coworker asked me if I was going to be OK when she found out I was spending this past Thanksgiving alone. If a coworker is fallen on hard financial times and cannot pay for their groceries, we should offer to help them out if we can. We should also find ways to compliment people on genuinely good work. If someone works hard to get things done efficiently and correctly, we should tell them we appreciate all they have done to do so.
Also, we should strive to forgive those who hurt us, so that a root of bitterness does not spring up and cause undue harm to us and others. If the shooter forgave those that he alleged hurt him emotionally, this tragedy would have never happened. Yes, maybe certain people do not “deserve” forgiveness, but how much do we deserve the forgiveness of God? That is why it cost God His Son, because we don’t deserve forgiveness at all.
Let us normalize quitting jobs that foster a toxic work environment, where stress levels are too high and tensions get the best of us to protect our mental and emotional health. And let us pray for the families of the victims of this shooting, and pray that tragedies like this will never happen again.
Someone I know wrote the following words “I feel cursed.” I can certainly relate to how they feel, as I have been rejected, tossed aside, ignored, and my feelings trivialized by many in society in general. More than once, I felt hopeless and in despair about my life. Worst of all, I felt utterly alone and stuck in the rut that I made. I thought this was the end of my life story and that I would be cursed to a life of utter helplessness and despair forever.
Thankfully, God intervened…more than once. God brought people into my life who saw the value He did in me. However, they did not come overnight, but through my circumstances, the Lord would not let me give up on myself or on the life He gave to me. One such person I will refer to as J. J was my mentor. She believed that I could go far in life and even get a full time job working with many people, even when many around me doubted that I could handle such a job, due to my autism. It took six months for me to even believe that what she was trying to do would help, but finally I relented. A few years later, I got a full time job in retail that involves dealing with many customers. I am still in retail today.
Another such person is my now-former manager Elizabeth.* I had a dream that I wanted to learn to cashier, and she supported me even when many of the other managers and a so-called friend did not. Finally, after several months of training, I became a substitute cashier, and a few weeks after that, a customer was already commenting how fast I was checking her out, to her delight!
God also taught me that I don’t have to “fit in” to my peer group or in society to be truly loved, and that only what He thinks of me truly will matter in the eternal perspective of things. When I remember this, I feel more confident in who God has created me to be and less afraid to reveal my quirks and my dreams to others, even at the risk of ridicule and dismissal of them by others.
If you have ever felt cursed by society or by your life, you are not alone. Whatever pain you may be facing right now due to your abilities and gifts not being taken seriously or if you feel you created a rut in your life and you don’t know how to get out of it, please do not give up. I almost did—more than once, but thankfully, God intervened each time. Things can and do get better. God continually renews and restores people. Will you trust Him to do so?
For me, seeing that I am not a cursed person that repels others has taken many, many years and I am still recovering from the pain of rejection and ridicule in my life, but God has opened my eyes to see that I am blessed and that He is continuing to restore and renew me to conform to His image.
Almost two years ago, near the end of October 2020, I felt like my life was over. This was during the height of the pandemic, where I felt so isolated and alone that I didn’t even see God working. I gave into fear and disillusionment. I was on leave from work because the increasing stress had caused me to have an anxiety attack and nervous breakdown.
What I did not know was that after my leave was over, the stress at work would dissipate for awhile, before becoming bad again. Fear paralyzed me and threatened to permanently steal the joy I should have had as a believer in Christ.
A little over a month ago today, God blessed me with my current job. One Wednesday night, I went to church service, but didn’t expect anything great since there were very few people in our congregation that attended (the rest were with the children to celebrate the kids’ accomplishments in AWANA). What I didn’t know is that service has the potential to change my perspective and my life forever.
A missionary in our congregation spoke on living the victorious Christian life. This was not some sort of feel-good easy-believism kind of sermon. No, this was personal. This missionary’s message was both challenging and hopeful at the same time. He spoke of surrendering one’s entire self to God instead of trying to live the Christian life under one’s own power and strength. He spoke of the spiritual battles that will happen when one makes this commitment to God, but that we also need to use God’s strength and power through the shed blood of Jesus to bind these evil forces that try to dissuade us from fully following and surrendering to Him.
I suddenly realized why I was feeling so stressed out in my previous job, and still struggling with Impostor syndrome when people complimented me at my new job. I was trying to navigate the stressors at work under my own power! I realized that my life could be radically changed if I just trusted God in this area and let go of the illusion of control over what happened at work. I needed to let go of the pain I experienced in the past, whether from previous jobs or other past experiences.
I did not need to “prove” to anyone anything. I did not need to be the best at work just to be “acceptable” in God’s or my manager’s eyes. I just needed to give up the illusion that I could control things or that I could do anything worthwhile in my own power. Most of all, I needed to put my “self” to death, that is my selfish desires and ambitions, and give it all to God to allow Him to use me however He sees fit, and I can trust Him because He will always work all things to my good and His ultimate glory! I also realized that I needed to not fear trials and tribulations of life, but trust that God would lead me through them in His power and for His glory!
Sometimes, I still struggle with my fears, especially of trials, because I doubt I can handle them. However, by God’s strength and love, I know God will bring me through them for His glory.
–Reflections on life and the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy
by: Patricia A. Go written: May 25, 2022
I can see the world around me sinking. Two years ago, COVID-19 was born, which crippled operations of the entire world. Many millions of people perished from the virus; many more got sick. There is the ongoing war in Ukraine, where many people are being slaughtered and are suffering because of the anger and hatred around them. Inflation here in the States has been at 40-year high, making everything from gasoline to our daily bread becoming more expensive than ever. Then, just yesterday, an 18-year old gunman opened fire in Uvalde, Texas, shooting 19 people, including his own grandmother and several elementary school students, for who knows what reason.
I was not made aware of the Uvalde tragedy until I came home from work last night. What I feel now is numbness, shock and disbelief. How can this tragedy keep on happening? How long will it be until something changes? Yes, I agree with people who say we need to change governmental policies, especially with certain people having access to guns that shouldn’t. However, even if we change policies and enact stricter laws, I am convinced that evil will continue to rear its ugly head in other, but equally tragic ways.
I sense God saying to us as a society: It’s time.
It’s time to stop chasing after the temporal in life like money, material possessions and notoriety or fame.
It’s time to hold our loved ones close, treasure the time that God has given us, and look to the things of eternity that will never fade, be stolen, or rot away.
It’s time to teach children how to love and be loved in the most biblical, selfless way possible.
It’s time to seek God’s will and ways.
It’s time to care for those who are on the brink of suicide or desperation. Engage with them. Encourage them and be there for all those who are suffering. Don’t add stigma by giving moral labels to people’s feelings and thoughts in self-righteous condemnation or judgment.
It’s time not just to enact change in governmental policy, but also bring hope and show Christlike love to those around us, which will enable the Spirit to change hearts, which will initiate a true, lasting change in behavior and temperament.
It’s time for us to forgive our enemies, and to make peace with all those around us.
It’s time to not live in fear but to live with a sense of urgency, joy and fulfillment.
Time continues to tick, and we do not know how much of it we have left. I believe God is urging us to wake up. WAKE UP! God is telling me—telling us— to not be complacent with life and to make as much positive difference as we can.
Wake up and live each day as if it were your last, because one day it will be. Either you will regret how you lived your life for eternity or it can be a day of rejoicing and fulfillment of your God-given purpose!
Despite it being a sunny and pleasant day, weather-wise, I had no motivation left to do anything. I felt ashamed, useless, angry, and powerless. Much of who I identified with was tied to my job. I was one of the top performers there, and since my job and seemingly everything that went with it was taken away from me, I was devastated. Most of my friends were tied up either at work or being swept through with the daily stressors of their lives. Besides, I no longer wanted to add burdens to them by relating *my* stresses.
I planned to take the books, magazines and DVDs my parents and I had borrowed and return them to the library, and then go to my church as a last ditch effort to get the emotional care I so desperately needed at the time. It was around three-thirty in the afternoon. I did not think anyone was in there, since most of the staff I thought already went home during this time.
I thought to myself that if that didn’t work, then I was going to have to find some way to end it all. I did not really have any specific exit plan, but I knew if I didn’t get help, this Monster inside me was going to take over and destroy me forever.
I tried to open the front door, that led to the church sanctuary, where services were held. Of course, that was locked, since there was no service at that time of day. However, I saw several cars parked in front of the church office.
“Good,” I thought to myself. ” Maybe someone is there.”
I tried to open the door to the church office. It was unlocked. I walked quickly to the church foyer where people usually ate and congregated before services. I saw a man. Immediately, I felt a heavy spirit pressing upon me, as I wept from utter relief and overwhelm.
“I need to talk to a pastor.” I told him, in desperation. Then, the man quickly notified a couple of my pastors that I was there and needed support.
After that, the assistant pastor Ted* and the youth director, A.J came out. They immediately sensed something was wrong with me. All the overwhelming feelings and past experiences that were attached to my depression, spilled in words of desperation out of my mouth. I had expected to be condemned or ridiculed, or just brushed aside. Ted and A. J did neither of those. Instead, they listened patiently and encouraged me, as I dealt with my feelings of shame, anger and hurt that I tried to bury for many months before. A.J invited me to volunteer at church the next day to clean and organize some things in it, and he prayed for my healing and strength to get through this tough time. The teens in the church were also planning to volunteer. I felt a sense of relief and hope that I was finally heard and that I was not rejected by them. I knew God had brought them there at that time to save my life!
The next day, I went to volunteer at church. I almost felt like I was working again. I was energized and felt better about myself and the world around me. What I did not know, is that God would be working again through the speaker in the evening service, later that day.
It was around 5:45 in the evening, and the wind was fairly strong, but not overly so. I was sitting outside on the church steps leading to the sanctuary waiting for the church to be opened, so I could go inside and eat my dinner, which I had stored in the church’s refrigerator.
Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a car pull up by the church office. “Good!” I thought. ” Maybe that’s A. J and he will be able to open the door for me.”
It turned out to be the missionary, Tim Bundy, who was going to be a guest speaker at the church that evening! I told him that my name was Patricia and that I was a member of the church.
Then, later the children’s ministry director, Sara, * opened the door for me and I was able to eat my dinner.
I was still feeling a little depressed and lonely as I waited for service to start. However, I was still a lot better than I was the previous afternoon before I went to the church.
Bundy talked about how God had led him into the ministry and how he had found his wife. However, it was when he turned to the message that I really felt God speaking to me through him that would change my mindset for the better.
He talked about how God can use anyone, even those who have disabilities or problems to accomplish His will in their lives.
He says, “There is nothing we can offer God, but the willingness to be used of Him. [God says], ‘I have called each and every one of you to be used of Me equally. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have riches, or strength, or popularity, or fame or influence; you have Me, and as I lead you, that is all you will ever need.”
Bundy also talked about the extent of God’s love, and how God does not love us less based on what we do or experience in our life. Furthermore, he talked about how God loves all kinds of people, even the drug addict or the difficult boss or family member who does not want to hear about Him, that we should look at them with the boundless grace and mercy God looked at us even before we were conceived.
I felt God speaking to me, right then, saying, “You can forgive the people that hurt you at your former job and in your past. You don’t have to be angry and bitter at them anymore. You can let them go now. You can let Me take care of them for you. You don’t have to get even. You just show them the love and grace that I showed you.”
God also said, “I still can use you even though you don’t have a job now. You still can be used of Me if you are willing to trust me that I have the best possible plan for you. You are not useless, powerless or shameful. You are Mine, and you can draw upon My strength to persevere throughout your life.”
God saved me from making a mistake that could have taken my life prematurely, through the support and care of my pastors, the message that He spoke through Tim Bundy, and the determination and joy that Tim and Jennifer have for ministering and soul winning for the people of Ethiopia. I still struggle at times, but knowing that God is on my side and will help me persevere gives me peace and strength to not give up on what God has for my life.
If you would like to support Timothy and Jennifer Bundy’s ministry, please see this link . Like me, they are trusting God to use them mightily.
*= These names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.
This year has been an adventure for me, in both good and bad ways, but God has still been working in the midst of it all. While God has worked, He has also taught me so much about how to live life in the midst of the chaos that is this world. Here are some of the things God taught me this year:
1) Be grateful for what you have.–In mid-February of this year, much of the city where I lived in, including my family, experienced either a water or electricity (or both) outage for days on end. Before this past winter, I took water and electricity for granted. I did not think about the precious commodity that water and electricity are. I was extremely grateful that during that time, our electricity still worked. However, we did not have running water for about 5 days. Thankfully, God provided snow for us to be able to boil so that we had water to at least flush the toilets.
2) Be compassionate and patient with others.– God showed me the pain and suffering some of the people around me are facing this year, either by the person relating their pain to me or through another person relating that someone they know was going through a tragedy, illness, or emotional distress. Through this, God taught me to be more compassionate to what others may be going through and not get easily angered or upset when people inconvenience me or are rude to me. God also taught me through this that when people snap at me for no good reason, sometimes their anger is not really about me, but about what they are going through at the moment. I don’t need to take it personally, or that they are spiteful.
3) Don’t be so anxious.–God has really been working to help me become less anxious. He allowed me to experience a drop in my performance to test my reaction to it. In the past, when my performance dropped below my expectations (note: NOT my managers’ expectations) or a certain number, I got really worked up and had an upset anxiety to my demeanor. Now when that happens, I may get slightly annoyed, but I do not really think too much about it anymore other than to try better next time. I also learned to anticipate these and other anxiety-provoking situations better, and plan what to do in case an anxiety trigger happens next time, so I don’t completely freak out.
Overall, I think this has been a good year for me, despite still being in a pandemic. I not only learned to be more grateful, to be more compassionate and more patient (but still learning continuously), and to be less anxious, but I also found some places where I could belong and to impact the world for the better.
I can somewhat relate to Simone Biles, but on a smaller scale, of course. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and being pressured to be the Best by oneself and those around you. I can also relate to the feeling that you have let everyone down if and when you fail. I can relate to the burdens of having to conform to 1,080 (a hyperbolic estimate) or so expectations of you placed by those around you. However, God used my feelings of stress and overwhelm to teach me many things about being human and coming back stronger.
Last year, in late October, I became so overwhelmed with the pressures and stress of work that I had to take a leave of absence from work. I had just moved from the state where I lived in all my life, about six months prior, and suddenly I felt like everyone had just abandoned me because I didn’t meet their expectations. Additionally, since this was in the midst of the pandemic, I could not attend church or meet new people. I thought my life was over.
However, even though I had significant stress even in my leave, one of the good things God brought me from this situation is to make time for self-care. Often, Olympic athletes like Simon Biles and Kerri Strug are pressured to do so much for others’ viewing pleasure that they are forced to neglect rest and self-care. This needs to change. The Bible says self-love is wrong and is one of the negative qualities listed in 2 Timothy 4. However, I don’t think the Bible means that taking care of one’s physical and emotional health is wrong. What I think was meant by that passage in 2 Timothy is one that is self-indulgent to the point where they neglect others’ needs or that they love themselves in such a way that they become vain and self-serving. Also, not taking care of one’s own emotional and physical needs in order to meet someone else’s expectations could also be considered the self-love that is condemned in the Bible because we are withholding part of ourselves just so that people would see us a certain way or as stronger than we really are.
Another good thing that I learned during my time off work last year is to not worry so much about other people’s expectations of me. One of the things my friend Alex taught me is to be more comfortable in being who God has created me to be, and to weed out those who try to change me into the image that they think I should be. What if we valued these Olympic athletes, and more importantly, those we say we love and cherish the most, by demonstrating in word and deed that they are loved unconditionally? After all, the Lord also loves us unconditionally. It even says in Romans 5:8, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV).” Even when we were yet sinners, God loved us. Even when we were actively rejecting Him and His ways, He still loved us.
I still struggle with not worrying about others’ expectations of me, but I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am becoming more confident in how God made me, and this has in turn made me more able to minister to others who are struggling.
Through this trial, God also taught me to not be paralyzed by my fears. He has helped me through times even more recently where I felt like my performance at work wasn’t as good as it could be, and not delve into the belief that I am a complete failure. God has made me realize that being true to myself and glorifying Him are more important than meeting all the metrics that people may expect me to meet. Yes, I still want to do the best I can at work performance-wise, but I don’t want to stress if I cannot do as well as I (or others) may expect or want of me. I can also remember what one of my managers said to me, “ I assure you that all of the management team know your work ethic and how consistent you are so don’t stress out if you have a slower [performance] occasionally.”
I also wish all the Olympians and anyone else who feels pressured to perform at a certain rate would know that it is OK to fail sometimes or not be able to be the Best all the time. I wish those around them would remind them that they are still worthy as human beings even when they show vulnerabilities and shortcomings because we all do. No human is perfect, but every human has intrinsic value. That is what I ultimately learned during my time off work last year.
I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before. This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.
However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable. The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be. Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.
When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework. Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.
When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.” That is, find joy in the work you are doing now. Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work. Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do. This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me!
Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?” First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever. Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted. Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic. This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard. Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually lead to my work quality getting better.
Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department. If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work. For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area. After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store! This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment. My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me. Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me. Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up. Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy. When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.