Work is not in Vain
The topic of work and ministry have been heavy on my heart especially in the last few months. I spend a LOT of my time, both because I have to and because I want to, working. I have given more of my free time to work in the past 6 months than probably ever before in my life. Yet there are often days I come home and wonder if anything I said or did over the day meant anything to anyone- whether any of it really made a difference?
I was reminded again last week of the beautiful book These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot. For lacker of better words it is a very depressing book overall and yet the glimpse of hope that shines throughout it makes it somehow beautiful. It is basically the daily grind of part of her time spent ministering in Ecuador while feeling estranged from anyone or anything familiar and even distant from the Lord. She just talks about the little things that happen each day the people, her translating, her thoughts of the man she was in love with at the time, etc. And as I said it is largely depressing to see that it is just the daily drudge and no big miracles or happy ending. And yet Elisabeth Elliot embodies what it means to simply live, simply walk day by day, step by step with the Lord when he feels near and when he feels far, regardless. I want to read that book again soon.
Right now I am reading through Spiritual Care by Judy Shelley. It is a book I bought at Urbana where I heard a lot about the missions going on related to healthcare through the United States and beyond. This book specifically talks about how to be equipped to care for people spiritually. Now religious care is politically incorrect as I was also taught in nursing school but spiritual care is now largely accepted and even encouraged. Even those unbelieving nurses and doctors and caregivers cannot explain that there is a deeper reason for some health issues that only spiritual needs can heal. I know that truth all too well.
The particular part of the book that stood out for me in the last couple of days was after the author introduced the assessment table for assessing patient spirituality she immediately introduced a self-assessment tool particularly encouraging two students or friends to interview one another using the assessment too. She goes on to say how important it is for each caregiver to make this personal step first before trying to learn how to assess others. As a believer it is evident that without intimate communion with God this tool is largely useless. Nothing is impossible with God, he will use us as he wishes, but to partner with him in ministry is only possible in experiencing his presence. I will list some of my favorite thought provoking questions:
1. In what ways did you experience God while you were growing up?
2. How would you describe God?
3. What were the crisis points in your relationship with God over your lifetime? What issues were involved? How did your relationship to God change?
4. Who was the most significant person in your faith development as a child? An adult?
5. Describe your faith community. In what ways has that community nurtured your faith? In what ways has it hindered your faith?
6. Where do you find the most support in your relationship with God?
7. How has your faith influenced the major decisions in your life??
8. How has your relationship with God influenced your care for others?
9. What spiritual resources do you draw upon when you feel overwhelmed?
And two of my favorite quotes so far:
"People long to know and be known in the depths of their spiritual being, but many fear rejection if the truth were known."
"All people experience the need to 1) be loved and to love in return 2) experience forgiveness and extend it to others and 3) find meaning and purpose in life and hope for the future."
The problem with reading too many non-fiction books in my life I know can be lots of "great thinking" and not as much really living. That is my greatest prayer that Christ will use these questions and thoughts and his healing to literally restore my heart so that it can be used to help others heal as I care for them physically. I see hurting people physically everyday at work but I see hurting people spiritually everyday no matter where I am. Even if you are not a caregiver this is a great read and there are great needs in our world in the realm of spiritual care.
The Lord is using my daily grind to teach me what it means to be in his presence continuously and bring him into all the details of my life each moment, each day. My work is not in vain when it is for him, no matter how empty it may feel somedays.