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Friday, June 28, 2013

Useful or Useless?

Useless:  Not serving the purpose; of no practical good.  I think there is nothing else more frustrating than to feel "useless" as we go through life.  I think this is the struggle of the elderly - they feel their past accomplishments and abilities beginning to no longer count or be called upon.  They feel of "no practical good".  They no longer see themselves as serving any purpose, so they often feel lonely, like their remaining days don't matter, and unproductive.  I daresay, the elderly are not the only ones who struggle with feeling a little useless at times.  How is it we can come to recognize a sense of usefulness in our lives?  I think the answer lies in what it is we are doing and not how much of it we do!

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.  (I Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

Paul wraps up his first letter to the Corinthian church with the idea of being strong and immovable.  Isn't that what we often struggle with when we feel so useless in life?  We don't see ourselves as "strong enough" for the challenge at hand.  We don't see our faith deep enough, our talent developed enough, or our resources significant enough to make any difference, so we just don't even try.  The truth be told, we struggle with these feelings of not being "useful" more than we like to admit.

Paul's remedy to this is in the one we chose to be useful for, not so much the magnitude of the task we set our hands toward completing.  As long as our hearts and hands are pursuing what God purposes, we are being as useful as we possibly can be.  I have friends who occasionally confide in me about their sense of "not being ready" for service in God's kingdom.  Sure, they see themselves as good nursery workers, but teaching children's Sunday School would be another matter.  It is not so much their lack of ability as it is their feeling of being inadequate for the task.

So, whether our sense of "uselessness" is because we have advanced in age, or we just haven't taken the step in faith God might be asking for us to take, we need to tap into this truth - as long as we are working enthusiastically FOR the Lord, our endeavors will never be useless!  My mother is 94 and most days she tires so easily anymore that even the simple tasks of days gone by are almost impossible for her.  What she can do is the little stuff!  She sets the table, gets me a tall glass of ice water when I come home, holds my hand on the sofa while we watch a movie together.  This may not seem like much, but we are still making memories, and that will serve a purpose long after she is no longer here to hold my hand!

If you struggle with feelings of uselessness, here are some things to remember:

* God doesn't call without also enabling.  This truth seems hard to grasp when you are struggling with seeing your "ability" in the face of the task at hand.  I think there is more to be said about our "availability" than their is our ability.  God can make us "able" - he cannot make us "available".  We do that!

* The focus of our lives determines the sense of "purpose" we will "feel".  Usefulness is really an expression of our emotional "reward" we get out of doing something.  We "feel" like our investment of time, talent, resources, etc. mattered.  So, we get a sense of "reward" from the pursuit.  Paul's advice to the believer - roll up your sleeves, do what it is you can do, and do it enthusiastically as though you were working for none other than Jesus!

* No one determines our purpose - only God does that!  Whenever we feel we are of no practical purpose, we are really doubting we still have a purpose in God's eyes.  Nothing is farther from the truth - for in God's eyes our purpose is eternal.  We may be limited in our natural ability, but by remaining available to him, he can take even limited ability and turn it into blessing beyond measure.

Useful vs. Useless.  Really the defining factor between these two is in what occupies the "space" in our lives.  People "full" of Jesus often feel very "useful"!  Just sayin!