I hate wasting things. Growing up in a household of nine, wastefulness was a luxury we simply couldn’t afford. I’ve carried some of that with me into adulthood. Whether it’s food that’s been in the fridge a bit too long, a pair of pants with a hole twice patched, or a phone call ticking past an hour on hold, it physically hurts to say, “I’m done with this.”
My strange habits aside, weighing our efforts against our results is a part of life. And we often come to a point when the time, resources, and energy we’re putting into something seem more precious than the outcome. We don’t want to waste resources if there’s little or nothing to show for it in the end, right?
When my daughter was three, we bought a tricycle for her. Naturally, she was excited, and as first-time parents, we were probably more excited. It was a big step for all of us. We finally had a space big enough for things like bikes and trikes, and she was finally going to learn to power her own machine.
It was a secondhand tricycle with no brakes, and for most of our outings, my husband and I were doing most of the work (And let me tell you, it was a lot of work). Our daughter had short legs and no clue how to pedal, so we had to keep positioning her feet and helping her sit properly.
Our apartment complex had a few steep hills, twists, and bends, so steering was an issue. For most of the ride, we had to push her from behind or run ahead to keep her from coasting too fast. As three-year-old children are prone to do, she insisted on doing things herself and would meltdown when she couldn’t. We returned home with stiff fingers and achy backs. Emotionally, we were wiped out.
In Galatians 6, Paul instructs us to take care of our brothers, of ourselves, and of our teachers in the faith with humility and gentleness. Galatians 6:9 says,
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
That first part of the verse is the hard part, though, isn’t it? When we took our daughter out riding for the very first time, adrenaline carried us most of the way. The next time was a little harder, and every time after that, we were cringing inside whenever she asked to take her trike out. Honestly, there were days when the efforts we were putting in felt like a waste of time. But the day she rode her tricycle all by herself through the breezeway made everything worth it.
In the same way, helping out a believer once or twice may not feel like a big deal. We might even get a little rush when we help someone. The first time, that is. But what if they need more help than that?
As we walk the path God has chosen for us, we’ll meet people who need our care and support. And just like my daughter on her tricycle, the effort it takes to walk with someone, guiding them in the ways of God, encouraging them, correcting them, and even pushing them forward can be exhausting. Sometimes, it may seem like our efforts are wasted or unfruitful. But the end goal is spiritual growth, and Paul encourages us to continue doing good so we can see that harvest come to fruition.
The good we do is not just for others. It can be just as hard taking care of things for ourselves as it is helping someone else. At least when I help someone else, I hear a thank you from time to time. But who thanks us for doing our own work? No one walks up to me and thanks me for getting myself dressed, paying my own bills, or taking my kids to school. And doing those things is exhausting. Life is sometimes just . . . exhausting.
But here’s the good news. None of that effort is wasted. What looks like the daily grind on the outside is producing stability and peace in my home. God uses even the most mundane of our acts of faith to bring about fruitfulness both in our lives and in the lives of others.
Even though it’s hard sometimes, we must continue to be faithful and intentional in whatever it is God has assigned us to do. There are no wasted efforts here. It’s not for nothing. It’s for God’s glory, the good of others, and for us.
Need a little more help with this? I encourage you to read Jason Williams’ post on how to Live With the End in Mind.