Although my church is large, and one of several places of Christian worship in a small town, Christ-following believers are in the minority. I remember a pastor at our church saying that roughly five percent of Canadians are Bible-believing, regular-church-attending Christians.
So, if only one in every twenty people is a Christian, it stands to reason that out of 100 employees working in a single grocery store, one might never work side-by-side with a fellow believer.
Say, for example, that there are six departments: meat, grocery, check-out, deli, produce, and dairy — statistically speaking, none of the employees in one of those departments will be a Christian. No wonder it’s so exciting to meet a fellow believer at work!
My Frustration Grew
I live in a country with very few religious restrictions according to Pew Research. Yet, “two-thirds of Canadians (67%) say it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values. […]. About three-in-ten Canadians take the opposite view, saying that in order to have good values, belief in God is essential.”
I’ve worked part-time at the same grocery store for over four years, and I like it very much. I am surrounded by people. I make food (feeding people is one of my love languages) and sometimes help customers find things.
Periodically I can do something special for a customer, which is a huge treat. We chat with the regulars when it’s quiet. My coworkers tell me about their lives, the movies they’ve watched, or meals they enjoy. There have also been opportunities to share the gospel or answer Bible-related questions.
But it was lonely for a long time. None of my coworkers was a solid, Scripture-reading, gospel-focused Christian. I wanted someone to help me when tough topics came up so we could tag-team — and believe me, they come up frequently.
What does God think about tattoos? What’s your church’s stance on the LGBQT+ community? Can I be a Christian when I’m so messed up? Why are Christians so pushy? I’d always walk away thinking “that would have gone better with a helper.”
Praying for a Helper
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). I was never alone because the Holy Spirit was with me the whole time, but I was frequently tongue-tied and lost for words.
I asked God to please send me another Christian to work with. She would be an authentic believer unafraid to share her faith; one who wouldn’t expect me to keep it secret. I was prepared for this individual to speak truth to me in love where necessary and to receive the same.
Ideally, this woman would live out her faith in ways, which told me she really believed the gospel; that she didn’t just think Jesus was a good man; that Jesus was her whole life.
Finally, after about three years, God sent me a helper. And then another. And then some more. I now work with at least two Christ-followers and am meeting more of them in other departments ranging in age from mid-teens to early sixties. Two people, in particular, get really excited about Jesus and their enthusiasm fills me with joy.
Happy as a Dough Boy
One of these excited individuals is a big man, an overnight baker, and former construction worker whom I chat with at the end of his shift if I start early in the deli.
Our departments are side-by-side. Once he realized I was a Christian, he started talking to me at work all the time to share something he’d read or thought about.
He has continued to do this, with great joy and energy. I love sharing the gospel with him because his enthusiasm makes a wonderful start to my day and reminds me to walk in the light. It’s particularly reassuring to know he’s there if I even just want to ask for prayer.
He has asked me for prayer. We can uplift each other. I have noticed a distinct lack of Christian feeling among his co-workers — perhaps he prayed as I did for someone to come along and provide fellowship.
Joy and Excitement
One lady in my department is exuberant about her faith. She smiles and bounces up and down while recounting the extent of God’s love for her in the little things. Like the gentleman from our bakery, she is 60: they have experienced death, divorce, and assorted trials.
Their faith is a particularly strong testimony because it has survived considerable testing, becoming stronger than ever. There is such joy in these two people.
Facing the Strain
There have been lots of situations where employees were fired on the spot or had a tantrum and left. Employees who got drunk at work. People who arrived high on marijuana or stronger drugs. Staff members who punched a wall or broke a window after being disciplined by a manager.
I often hear about cases of verbal abuse. A month hardly goes by when someone isn’t given a written warning. The depth of despair among staff members is chilling and reminds me that there are people working in grocery stores and other forms of retail right now who are an inch away from the ledge, ready to tumble into an abyss at the slightest breeze.
All it’s going to take is one more rude customer or a customer who refuses to wear a mask, and I’ll hear that another employee couldn’t take it anymore. “Did you hear? So-and-so got drunk and punched a hole in the wall.” “Oh, is that what’s under the random cute dog picture across from the staff washrooms?” “Yep.”
I realize that it’s not as simple as saying “have a good attitude and things won’t get you down!” Where does that attitude come from? How does one get started, and then maintain such a way of thinking and seeing the world? If a person’s natural tendency is towards anger or depression, he or she needs help.
Watch Out for the ‘Weirdos’
Part of what marks the Christians at my workplace, sets them apart, is their perspective. The lady I work with, in particular: isn’t quick to get angry. The world doesn’t usually get her down.
If it does, we know something big happened. She is ready with praise for every small act of kindness he shows her, like helping her locate her car keys or connecting her with an old friend.
I have been told many times that I’m a little bit different, and periodically it’s meant as an insult. Perhaps I’m just plain weird. But working with authentic believers has given me insight into how I must appear to a lot of people.
These two Christians I’ve been talking about are certainly different but in a highly positive way. Their joy is deep and rich and infectious. Am I merely loud and strange? Well, sometimes, probably.
But apparently, it’s a positive kind of weird for the most part. I’m often asked, “How do you cope with [fill in the blank] without losing your cool?” The answer is easy, if perplexing to some — that’s the Holy Spirit.
In my own strength, I’d be like many of those employees who have left under a cloud. I used to get angry and offended more easily.
The Gospel for Me
With fellow believers nearby, I can turn to someone and ask for prayer, even if I don’t want to say why. “God knows the details.” They’ll just nod and pray. For so long, I thought that my one reason for working among so many unsaved people was to share the gospel with them.
It’s true that I can do that, it’s a gift and a privilege, but having coworkers full of zeal for the Lord reminds me that I am beloved by God. He wants to work in my heart. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.