No one wants to be in a difficult situation. Given the option, we would prefer things to be as easy or pleasant as possible. Children teach us this, because by default they will take the course of least resistance. We must be trained to do a good job in cleaning our rooms, our teeth, our homework. We must learn the value of saving rather than spending, eating vegetables rather than only candy. The big challenge of maturing is learning to delay gratification for a purpose. Self-control is necessary because reality is complex. We must work our bodies hard physically, so that we can move more easily. We choose not to eat something indulgent, because in the long run we want our bodies to feel better. These principles we have learned in childhood apply everywhere—and certainly in a tough work situation.

The principle of delayed gratification is essential in considering a hostile work environment. All things being equal, we prefer to be in a healthy office culture, on a happy and functional team. However, there are times where God’s purpose for you may be to remain and endure, at least for a season. Consider Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?  (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

This may seem like a bit of a stretch to take this paragraph and apply it to the workplace. After all, this is talking about situations in marriage. The point here is that married people who become Christians should remain in their marriages, even though their spouses are not Christians. Men have an additional responsibility (in that culture, especially), because their wives would be destitute if their husbands left them. However, the main reason given to both husbands and wives is the opportunity to be a clear witness of Christ in their family—to their spouses, and to their children.

Take that same rationale and apply it to the workplace. It makes sense that a Christian would want to be in a faith-friendly environment. It would be easier to be in a place that aligned with their values, did not belittle their beliefs, or pressure them to act against their convictions. However, God has called us to go out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). That often does not turn out well for the sheep. There are times when, for the sake of our witness in an otherwise Christ-less work environment, God calls us to remain and to speak prophetically in that space. We do it by excellent work, lasting integrity, genuine kindness, and after we have gained a hearing, giving honest answers about why we do our work that way. We are called to live as image bearers of God.

It is certainly easier to leave a bad work situation, provided there is a better option available. Not every Christian is called to stay. This calls for wisdom and discernment. In Acts 12, Peter was right to leave the prison when God miraculously broke his chains, stunned the guards and opened the doors. He escaped, and God blessed his later ministry. In Acts 16, Paul was right to stay in the Philippian jail after an earthquake shook the doors open. In staying he saved the life of his jailer—and that man and his whole household believed in Christ. Even more, Paul earned respect for the Christians in that city, so that the church there grew and prospered.

Are you wrestling with a difficult decision concerning your job? There is no one size fits all answer. Pray for God to give you wisdom. Consider your witness. Ask God which way will best honor Him through your work. And then be courageous to act in faith, whichever way He leads you.