One thought kept circulating in my mind; “This is so unfair! The only thing I ever wanted was to make it good for everyone and now I get treated like this!” It was a situation where it felt like my efforts weren’t really appreciated, and negative thoughts pulled me down into discouragement. “Why do I even bother? Nobody even notices that I try so hard!” Then a verse came to me from Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”
There are some powerful exhortations in this simple verse that really caused me to examine my motivations. First, it exhorts me to “not grow weary while doing good.” Everything in my mind and body wanted to be discouraged, because it seemed like my efforts to bless others and pray for them weren’t paying off at all. So, what was the point? But it is the second part of the verse that gives tremendous hope: “for in due season we shall reap.” I realized that I just had to be patient!
The little sprouts
I was reminded of the time I tried to grow kitchen herbs. Diligently watering the little flower pot for days, while it seemed like nothing happened at all. And then, after a week, I started seeing the little sprouts. The sprouts grew into tiny little plants and the plants grew and grew until they started to give off a wonderful aroma. For something to grow, a lot has to happen in the hidden and it may seem like what we do doesn’t pay off, but we have to be patient for those little sprouts to break through.
The third part of the verse gives us a condition for this process to continue: “if we do not lose heart.” If I give up, stop praying for someone, stop trying to bless them or stop watering the soil and later the sprouts, things can go very wrong. The growth of a seed into a plant is a very delicate process and simple things like lack of water and sunlight can cause the little sprouts to die. I must be diligent, get rid of the thoughts of discouragement and continue in the good work that God is asking of me.
What motivates me?
In order not to grow weary or lose heart, I have to make sure that my motivations are in order. Why do I serve and bless people? Is it because I expect appreciation and love and thankfulness in return? Or is it because it is what I sense God is asking of me, no matter how it is received?
It says in John 5:44: “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
If I am motivated by people appreciating me, then I will never be satisfied. After all, those around me have a human nature just like me and that means that we don’t always express thanks, don’t always notice the details of how far someone went to make it nice for us, or how much work it took “behind the scenes.” That doesn’t mean that people are unkind or unthankful, but they can only see part of the picture. If my happiness is dependent on them, then I am always going to be disappointed.
But there is another motivation that I can have, or pray for: that I only seek to please God. Because then, even if my hard work is criticized or not noticed, I can still be thankful that I got to serve God, and that can be enough. Being content with receiving God’s honor may not come naturally; everyone likes appreciation and recognition from people we can see and hear, but it’s something I can fight for and pray for. God will mightily strengthen me in that, because He appreciates it more than anything, if I am willing to serve Him from the heart, without needing anyone else’s recognition.
God gives the increase
It was also discouraging when I didn’t see any “results” for my efforts at all. Those sprouts just stayed hidden, deep in the earth and it seemed like it took forever for them to break through the soil. Then, another verse came to me, in 1 Corinthians 3:7: “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”
I must trust that God sees the big picture. Importantly, I must acknowledge and make sure that I am willing to further His work, not my own. He knows what people need, better than I do. He can see right beneath the soil and see that little sprout that is hidden from my eyes. So, I pray with an upright heart and I serve those around me to my best knowledge and understanding. But I must fully put the whole situation in His hand and let Him give the increase. I must work hard with a mindset to give God all the honor, otherwise He can’t use my work and then it yields no fruit.
The whole situation really woke a deeper longing in me, to stand before God’s face and serve Him, without demands or questions. I’ve seen many examples around me of people who have chosen to do that, and it has made them happy and content. That happiness and contentment wouldn’t be there if they still relied on people’s recognition for their actions. So those are examples that I want to follow, because I want to be happy like that, independently of my situation, the people around me, or my feelings. Just always happy, without a “bad day.” It is possible, as long as I have my priorities in order!