Doing or Being?

February 16, 2012


Do any of these activities contribute to your sense of self-worth? These kinds of action words—and many others like them—validate our beliefs that we are making a difference in other people’s lives. It’s a great feeling to do something and then feel the pride of accomplishment, the exhilaration of other people’s praise, the warm glow of another’s appreciation. 

What if an accident or illness struck, and you physically could not do any of these activities anymore? What if you had no energy to serve or suffered too much pain to work? What if you were paralyzed and could literally do nothing but lie in bed? Could you accept the love of God, or even the love of your family and friends, if you were so physically incapacitated that you could do nothing but say “thank you”?

These questions have touched me deeply because of the plight of beloved family and friends. I have a teenage daughter with chronic fatigue, who has the desire but not the stamina to work and serve in all the ways she wants to. Also, several years ago a very active friend was struck with a brain aneurysm that left him a quadriplegic. Because he had to be intubated, the poor man could not even eat or speak. He lived that way for seven years before he went home to the Lord.

Sometimes infirmity strikes. Other times our bodies or minds just wear out due to age. My 94-year-old friend Virginia has told me many times that she doesn’t know why she’s still living, since she can no longer do much of anything. She clings to her faith that God has a reason for keeping her here, and I continue to thank her for the blessing she has been to me. 

We are left with the question, how do I measure my value when I can no longer do all the things I used to do, still want to do, and everyone else is doing? How do Christians who believe they are called to an active faith understand their worth when chronic pain or illness—even mental illness— rule out the possibilities of being active? These are tough questions that every one needs to consider—healthy or not.

Certainly, we need much more compassion for the people in our communities who struggle not only with physical limitation itself but with its accompanying guilt, frustration, and resentment. They need our recognition that they are fighting battles we’ve never even imagined, and more importantly, they need to know that they are dearly loved. 

We also need to be aware of how Western work-hard-to-earn-your-way, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps philosophy seeps into our spiritual thinking. Our salvation, of course, is not dependent upon how much we do for God. Neither is our worth to God. He loves us for who we are not what we do

If we are able to be very active in our service, we need to be careful that we don’t fool ourselves into thinking those acts of service make us extra special. None of knows when, in an instant, the capability to DO can be taken away. 

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!

(I John 3:1) 

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

(2 Corinthians 4:16)

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