“In one’s vocation there is a cross” that God has ordained, and a man is to “learn to suffer and die” through it, says Luther according to Gustaf Wingren in Luther on Vocation.
This cross, on which “the old human nature is to be crucified,” includes “even the most trivial of difficulties such as: in marriage, the care of babes, which interferes with sleep and enjoyment; in government, unruly subjects and promoters of revolt; in ministry, the whole resistance to reformation; in heavy labor, shabbiness, uncleanness, and the contempt of the proud.” In fact, “no person who lets the work of his vocation go forward without grudging will escape troubles, hatred, and persecution.”
Depressing? At first. But incredibly encouraging to know that no less than Martin Luther himself believes the challenges of work, even the most trivial ones like working with a difficult colleague, having to work weekends on an urgent matter, or getting tired while changing diaper in the middle of the night, can rightly be labeled “cross.”
What is the purpose?
Identification with Christ: “The human being who in his vocation serves his fellow-men fulfills his task out of love for Christ, and receives the same poor measure of gratitude as Christ did.”
Faith: Vocation leads to “occasions for faith, for trust, for practice of faith,” forces us to “look up to heaven, expecting daily bread from God and trusting God to provide sustenance,” and compels us “to look to God to lay hold of his promise (faith).”
And union with Christ: “Through both, the individual is incorporated into Christ; through vocation, into his cross, and through the church, into his resurrection.” “In all this, one is incorporated into Christ: the cross in the vocation is his cross, and the faith which breaks forth from that cross in the vocation is his resurrection.”
Rich. Very rich. This theology of vocation from Luther.