A short while ago I got the chance to help with a task at our local church. I have a disability and there are a lot of things that I can’t do, so finding something that I was able to do - something that helped with Gods work and that was a way of doing good to others - was special, and I was really glad to do it.
But as I started working, others didn’t give me the support that I needed, and the whole thing was taking far more time and energy than I thought it would.
The result, of course, was stress. I became really frustrated and impatient, because other people’s lack of support was preventing me from doing a good job.
What else could I do?
I knew that this frustration, this impatience wasn’t right, but what else could I do? I tried to think positively about it. Maybe people were just very busy, maybe there were good reasons why they couldn’t help. When I thought about it this way, I got a bit calmer. But it didn’t fix the situation; it just helped me for the moment not to get angry - until the next time things didn’t go according to my plan.
On this project, I was working together with my younger brother. Having grown up with him, I know his weaknesses almost as well as my own. I know he gets just as frustrated as I do when people don’t do what is needed.
But as we worked, I didn’t see any frustration in him. I didn’t see any signs of irritation and impatience. Instead, I saw that he had peace. Not a “sitting back and doing nothing” peace – but an active peace that got things done without becoming upset. The result of how he took it was far better than the result of the way I took it. No taste of anger or impatience. No demands or putting pressure on people. Just getting on with the job as well as he could.
While I was watching him, I thought of what is written in Colossians 3:23 (NLT), “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Doing things in a way that pleases God
That is exactly what my younger brother was doing. Although we were working on exactly the same task, I was simply trying to finish the task, but his focus was on doing it in a way that would please God. He chose to say No to thoughts of irritation and to be patient instead. He chose to say No to the temptation to tell people they were not doing their part of the job well enough – instead treating them with respect and thankfulness. He made sure that his behaviour was pleasing to God and then everything else fell into place.
Completing the task on time would please people – and many of them wouldn’t even know how impatient I’d been. But a task done in anger and impatience cannot please God.
My unrest was caused by my pride. I wanted others to see that I was good at this task. I wanted other people to help me in the way I wanted them to. The problem wasn’t “the others”. It’s true that the way “the others” behave shows me just how much irritation and frustration I still have in my human nature, but the way I react to their behaviour is still my own choice. I can choose to give in to this irritation and frustration – but if I do that, then I am not pleasing God.
The better way is to give up my way of thinking and choose to follow Jesus instead - He who was humble and gentle of heart – changing my attitude so that what I do isn’t just good on the outside but is truly pleasing to God.
Is that really possible? Absolutely. I know, because I have seen it in my younger brother!
And, by God’s grace, it will become reality in my life too.