Validation. We all long for it. Whatever the work is, whether it be at home, corporate America, or the local church, we all want to be told that we're doing okay. That our work is good. That we don't pine away in vain. Unfortunately, validation isn't promised to us. We very well might strive through, day after day, and never hear that we have made a difference, or that we're even noticed. Not only does it hurt to feel so unseen and unvalued, but it makes working that much harder.
When my husband and I moved across the country after graduation to revitalize a church, I didn't have a paying job. I continually got the question, "Well, what do you do for work?" and each time I would explain I was just here for the church, which sometimes meant cleaning toilets or hosting Bible studies, or meeting the needs of our congregants, or practicing music for the services. Blank stares. Confused, furrowed brows. I didn't get paid for it, so how could it actually be work? All I wanted to do at that time was serve our little church. But everyone seemed to be confused by that. And I began to become confused by it, too.
We often find identity or value in our work. When we are able to measure the hours or pay by which we work, that immediately seems clearer; it is easier to value something when you're able to mark the time you dedicate to it with a stamp, or you get a paycheck for your duties. The Christian life, the call that every believer has placed on them, isn't always measurable, though. Sometimes this leads us to forsake the things that we should be doing. Sometimes this leads us to call ministry to one another as worthless.
Ministry can be hard. It can be exhausting. And I'm not just talking about "formal" ministry as a vocational occupation. I'm talking about visiting your fellow church member in the hospital. Or taking meals to that brand-new mom. Sharing the Gospel with the clerk at Panera Bread. Paying the electricity bill for the elderly in the hottest month of the year. Weeping with the widow, rejoicing with the newlywed, listening to the broken-hearted. We don't get paid for these things, but that doesn't nullify their value. Giving ourselves wholly to the work of caring for God's people can feel emptying. It can also feel fulfilling. Regardless of how it feels, it is mandatory.
Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24
There is eternal significance to the work that we do on this side of Heaven. Paul tells us in Colossians that we work for the Lord, not for man. We work not for the recognition, the money, or the validation. We work out of obedience to the Father. We work because of the eternal impact that our actions have. Each person we meet has eternal weight, and each word we speak to them has an eternal effect. When we care for the widow, weep with the weeping, and exhort those in our churches, we are involved in a ripple-effect through the ages of eternity. We dedicate ourselves to God when we care for the people He's entrusted us with. This is work that is lasting and good.
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.Romans 15:1-3
I frequently feel far from strong. Oftentimes that struggle is rooted in my own pride and selfishness though. I know it is my duty to care for those who are in my church. I'm not always successful; in fact, I'm often not as successful as God requires. But each of us has an obligation placed on our lives to bear the burdens that stiffen the necks of our fellow brothers and sisters. It may not give us a salary to disciple a young Christian in our local body of believers. We may not receive validation when we forsake a Saturday morning to sit with a lonesome saint for breakfast. It may not be recognized when we serve and feel like there's nothing left in us. But it is worth it. And it is needed.
We look to Christ Himself when we need to garner the necessary strength to serve those around us. Jesus spent His ministry being mocked, but still serving. Tired, but still working. Crucified, but still loving those who put Him on the cross. There's no way that we can adequately care for those around us in our own strength. We do it from the strength of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:31 admonishes us to do everything for the glory of God. Whether we're eating or drinking, we should be glorifying God in our actions. Whether we, or those around us, deem our work as mundane, whether it something that is our second nature, whether it is something that is challenging to us–all of it can be used as a means to point the gazes of those around us to Jesus Christ. Our validation doesn't come from anything that this earth offers us, the only "well done" worth hearing is from the Lord.