Have you ever gotten to the place in your work life that you wondered to yourself, “Why am I doing this? This is just not worth it!” Maybe it was after a bad day, a tough week, a difficult month, or an overwhelming year. I’ve just gone through a season of “WHY?” and as many of you know, that can be a painful place to be. But the experience is part of being human and in the field of social work, it is somewhat predictable. We expect tough times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. We anticipate seasons of difficulty.
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon discusses the various “seasons” of life and having a season for everything. Paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a season to do social work with your whole heart, soul, and strength, and a season to step back, reflect, and renew.”
Last fall, during a particularly foggy period in my work life, I listened to a podcast by Christian writer and speaker, Bill Hybels, on this passage in Ecclesiastes. Hybels suggests that Solomon’s message for us is that to grow as Christians we should: (1) recognize the season we are in; (2) determine what the Lord wants us to learn from the season; and then (3) “move on” to the next season of our lives (Are You Satisfied Part 2, 2013).
I think this is particularly true for Christian social workers. Truth be told, I had been engaged in a season of “How much can one person possibly do (all good things, of course) and still survive?” for several years. The season of crazy over-commitment had gone on long enough and the Lord was leading in a new direction and to a new season. It was time to move on, to engage in self-care, and regain a genuine interest in the welfare of others. I realized with all that I was taking on, deep in my heart, I really didn’t care like I used to. Of course I continued to pretend to care. I had the “right” empathetic responses, but I had stopped having that passion for loving people that is so vital in providing service to others.
Understanding the “seasons” of life and how to navigate them has helped me take a step back this year from feeling overwhelmed, burdened, and at times wondering if I am making any difference at all in the world. Solomon’s reflections on the seasons of life reminded me why I ultimately do what I do and to whom I am accountable as I use my time and talents on this earth.
The Ecclesiastes passage reassures me that there is a reason for the season, I can learn something from every season I find myself in, and when I have learned the lessons I need to, I can confidently move on. Taking this quiet time of reflection provided me with a new perspective on that painful season and allowed me to come to my work life renewed and ready to serve once again.
Dr. Rene Drumm writes from Collegedale, Tennessee. She has served in higher education for over 20 years and has published research on small social work programs, substance abuse, social capital, sexual orientation, and domestic violence. Rene is a member of NACSW’s Board of Directors, and has been a member of NACSW since 2001.