How do you serve God when you don’t feel like you are in the right place? A few years ago, I was struggling with feelings that turned my focus inward instead of upward. I wondered if what I did mattered, if I was making a difference in my work, and fretted that I wasn’t using my abilities and strengths to the fullest of what I could.
Accompanied by this uneasiness was a frustration that I was not getting the recognition I deserved. My downward spiral into self-pity was accompanied by guilt. Guilt because I knew these thoughts and feelings were not glorifying to God.
I wrestled day in and day out with this struggle to maintain my integrity while feeling like I had so much more to offer to others. I felt handcuffed, shelved, and insecure.
I prayed and confessed, and committed to doing “better” each day only to be waylaid day after day.
I contemplated all the ways out of this scenario and none felt right or smart. I tabulated all the reasons this was happening and all the other parties contributing to my misery and while all that helped me analyze the situation it did not help me find my way out of it.
Then I surrendered.
Surrendered to God.
I realized that whether my colleagues or employers ever recognized the good I did or gave me credit for my ideas, I served a bigger boss.
The Bible says to do everything as if you were doing it for the Lord, not as men-pleasers. (Ephesians 6:5-7)
I also resurrected a verse that had served me well years ago and began to pray and meditate on it again.
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25)
I had to stop obsessing about what others thought of me and whether or not they recognized my contributions.
This song became my anthem
A New Outlook
I decided that while I was certain I was not fulfilled in my current position and that it was clear I was not being called on to use the experience and strengths that I had, I would leave all that in God’s hands to sort out. I realized that this situation could change in the blink of an eye so I decided to stop fretting and to start focusing on what I could control.
Each day I started my day with a simple basic request: “Lord, give me one person today that I can help – and if at the end of the work day I have helped just one person I will feel successful and leave my desk knowing that I’ve accomplished something today.”
I did not try to focus on the BIG wins, large projects, or insightful ideas to implement. I focused on one person at a time.
And then a magical thing happened: Each day I did help at least one person.
Sometimes it was a group, but always someone confirmed to me that I had helped them. From a listening ear for a discouraged and weary leader to a simple trick shared with a new employee, day after day I heard words similar to these: “Thank you – that really helped me!” or “Thanks for your support and time today – it meant a lot.”
The world fools us into thinking that it’s only the big wins that matter. That unless we have 800 friends on Facebook we aren’t friendly enough. That unless we make a certain dollar amount we aren’t successful enough. Who makes up these standards anyway?
We can easily overlook the need directly in front of our face when we are striving to see beyond, setting our eyes and hearts on goals that we think will fulfill us. I know I am not alone.
Countless servants who understand what it means to serve others do this daily and go without recognition. The nurses that go the extra step to make sure a patient is comfortable or the doctors that call after hours with test results because they know their patient is waiting anxiously and worrying needlessly. The teachers who touch students’ lives minute after minute, encouraging them to try harder, believe in themselves, and never give up! The grandma that knits caps for newborn babies in neonatal units. The aid workers who quietly pass out water bottles to flood victims and those who serve in volunteer efforts around the world.
What is Your Mansion Going to be Worth?
Jesus taught us that He is preparing a place for us in heaven. He said he would give us mansions. (John 14:1-3)
But did you know that the materials he will be using to build your mansion (hut/trailer/modest ranch) are the materials you are sending ahead of your arrival?
You won’t get to pick out the siding and roofing and landscaping when you get to Heaven…no your abode will already be built for you…based on your good works here on earth.
I think that’s also why Jesus tells us not to store up treasures here on earth but to deposit our treasures in heaven for safe keeping. (Matthew 6:19-20)
We only have this lifetime to be ready for the next life…the forever life. So why spend soooooooo much time building things in this world? I don’t just mean the house you live in – honestly, I think everyone should live within the means they set for themselves and wealth is a relative term anyway.
What I mean is the striving for this world’s recognition, the promotion, the popularity, the big win. Again, all these are neither good nor bad…it just depends on the intent of our hearts when pursuing them.
It’s a matter of perspective, but when worldly success and striving take center stage, it’s been my experience the humdrum stooping to tie a little boy’s shoes gets pushed away. It may just be me, and if you have never struggled with this I truly do envy you (wait – isn’t envy a sin?).
It’s a Heart Problem
But for me when my focus is off kilter my actions are too, and it’s really a heart problem. It’s forgetting that I serve ONE master, and I must make His priorities my priorities even when that interferes with my work, my family’s needs, my societal obligations, my church’s expectations, and my own desires.
When I get the right things in the right place the others fall in line. C. S. Lewis said,
When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
This is a favorite quote of mine and one I think applies to all aspects of life.
I shudder at the thought of the times I missed serving or blessing or helping someone because it didn’t align with my goals or what I was pursuing at the time.
I don’t like the thought of those plastic towel holders hanging in my heavenly bathroom when I could have had brushed nickel. (That’s a joke because I don’t think we are going to take baths in heaven.)
And I suspect this analogy of a mansion is somewhat metaphorical – a way for Jesus to help his followers and us understand where our priorities need to be placed. In fact, maybe we should focus away from the mansion and talk about the crown.
We Lay Our Crowns at the Feet of Jesus
The Bible says we will get crowns with jewels – all bedazzled with the good works we did on earth…wow so cool, I am a princess according to my husband so it is only befitting I finally get a crown.
But, if you read in Revelation Chapter 4, you’ll see we won’t be wearing these crowns and showing them off like we do our titles and achievements on earth. We will take our crowns and lay them at the feet of Jesus.
…and [they] cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.’ (Revelation 4:10-11)
Because no matter how much we’ve achieved on earth or all the good we’ve done in His name, we are truly nothing apart from His great love and sacrifice for us. The fact that we can even store up treasures in heaven and have the capacity to do good and serve others is only because of His goodness.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
And can I be frank here, or should I say more frank than usual? If we are born again and redeemed we don’t get to choose our good works or how we spend our time. The Bible says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 The day I lost my job, I called my husband and said something like, “I’ve never lived my life on my terms, always on His, so why should this be any different? He has a plan that is not in line with the world’s ways and I need to trust Him.”
And lest I get prideful and self-righteous about my do-gooding and you think I am especially humble or obedient, I am reminded of two powerful stories of servant hood and I ask myself, “Would I/could I do these acts for ‘the least of them’ “? Humbling for sure because I find myself balking and not able to answer, or if I answer honestly, I would have to say, “I would like to think I would.”
I’ll leave you to listen to these stories for yourself because I could never do them justice. (Fair warning: get a tissue and maybe be prepared for some reflection time afterward)
~Forgetting all that I’ve left behind and seeking to bow low to lift up. ~ Mary
Beth Moore: The Hairbrush