Ask “What If?”

By Michaela O’Donnell

November 17, 2021

Make Work Matter

Scripture – Luke 5:18-19 (NRSV)

Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.


Part of work in a changing world is to think outside the box and to take seriously God’s invitation to imagine what is possible.

This is part four of a five-part devotional series adapted from my new book, Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World. The first three devotions were about wrestling with our work, making space to feel and practicing empathy along the way.


I’ve always been drawn to the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man—not only because Jesus completely disrupts his hearers’ imaginations, but because of the persistence and creativity of the friends in the story. Everyone has come to hear Jesus. In Luke 5:18-19, we read that a man who can’t walk is trying to get to Jesus. He’s lying on a mat, carried by some friends. The men do their best to get through the crowd.

There’s just one problem: there are a lot of other people trying to get to Jesus as well. I suppose the friends could have been discouraged and given up. But they don’t. Instead of giving up or pushing at the back of the crowd, they find another way. They decide to take the man up to the roof and lower him down in to see Jesus. Can’t you just imagine one of them saying, “What if we got up onto the roof of the house? What if we lowered him in? What if we could get him right in front of the healer! Jesus would have to heal him then!”

The friends were able to imagine beyond the initial options presented to them.

So much of our work life in a changing world requires us to learn to see beyond the traditional options. Sometimes we experience this inability to see as stressful; other times it might feel exciting. In fact, you may even feel both stressed and excited at exactly the same time.

Just as is true with the man on the mat, a lot of good came come when we imagine “what if?” As you think about your work in this season, consider where God might be inviting you to ask “what if?” Maybe it’s on a project or with a coworker, or more generally about your own vocational discernment. Even if you are inclined to naturally worry, go ahead and imagine what good might come if you think differently or outside the box. And consider who you’d be willing to “go up on the roof” for–and who might be willing to “go up the roof” for you.


When was the last time in your work you came up against an obstacle and had to imagine another way?

What happened? How did what happened shape your sense of what’s possible going forward?


Do something that is good for your creative being. Go on a walk in nature or to an art museum or cook a meal without a recipe. Let yourself enjoy the act of creating!


God, thank you for being God the Creator, the One who helps and sustains our imagination. Help me to know where in my work I might open myself up to new possibilities and imagine new ways of doing things for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: Walking Around in the Skin of the Mat Carriers

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Michaela O’Donnell

Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director

Michaela is the Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director Chair at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership. She is also an assistant professor of marketplace leadership and the lead professor for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Global Leadership, Redemptive Imagination in the Marketplace progr...

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