Some days, doing what God has called us to do can feel meaningless. It can be difficult to identify any lasting significance or purpose in sitting through that meeting, taking that class, completing that training, attending that event, waiting in that line, or fulfilling that commitment.
The feeling of futility creeps in, and then often spirals into regret, frustration, and downright resentment — regret over committing, frustration with our responsibilities or those overseeing us, resentment towards God for not assigning us to something more manifestly purposeful and productive. When we can’t immediately identify the impact of the time and effort we’ve invested, we often doubt whether there will ever be any at all.
When we are tempted to label and limit our assignments as trivial or meaningless, we can renew our hope and resolve by remembering that God has brought about great things — eternally significant things — from small beginnings.
Great Small Beginnings
We remember Esther for her faith and bravery to confront wicked Haman and rescue her people. As her uncle Mordecai memorably said when the murderous decree came down to destroy the Jews, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). All the seeming futility Esther had gone through — traveling to Susa, earning Hegai’s favor, six months of oil treatments, six months of perfuming — brought her to this moment — winning the beauty contest of a pagan king, and coming to the position of queen — and for this purpose: saving Israel from genocide.
But Esther isn’t the only character in Scripture who God raised up in a surprisingly unspectacular way “for such a time as this.” King David was trained and prepared to defeat Goliath with a slingshot. Because of the years David spent serving as a shepherd in the pastures, defending his sheep against lions and bears, he became confident in the Lord’s ability to bring victory (1 Samuel 17:36).
Ruth, a Moabite widow, was grafted into the lineage of the Messiah, but only after following her mother-in-law back to a foreign land and people, working daily to gather just enough food for the two of them to survive, all of which led to an appointment with Boaz, her husband-to-be and kinsman redeemer.
Joseph rose to the position of second-in-command over Egypt, given charge of the whole land (Genesis 41:41–43), and thus able to provide for the needs of his famished family and people. His opportunity came because he served a fellow prisoner with his God-given gift during an undeserved and unjust imprisonment.
Our God works all things — acquisitions of power, daily chores, educations, heartbreaking loss, and even false accusations — for good (Genesis 50:20), and he promises to continue doing so for those of us who love him (Romans 8:28).
Your ‘Small’ Things
As we wait for and trust in him to complete that work, he also promises that no labor for him is ever done in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and that all tasks, all relationships, and all assignments — no matter how seemingly monotonous or meaningless — can be labor for him if we aim to leverage them for the purpose of glorifying him (1 Corinthians 10:31).
You may spend all day in a meeting while questioning your need to be there — only to have a coworker afterwards ask about the uncommon, unworldly wisdom you often share (Proverbs 9:10), leading to a conversation about the source of all wisdom himself, and about working towards goals far greater, longer-lasting, and more deeply satisfying than earthly status and wealth.
You may repeat the same errands every week, assuming them to be a drain on your other callings and ministry — only to have the unbelieving cashier who always scans your groceries ask why you are kinder and more joyful than the other customers she serves (1 Peter 3:15).
You may pour hours of investment into a small group from which you perceive no individual spiritual progress — only to have a group member suddenly break down with an honest plea for help at the tipping point of a long-hidden sin, igniting an avalanche of confession and repentance in the entire group, each member willing to open up because of the trust slowly built over time.
You may be confined to a hospital room for weeks or months on end, fighting against boredom and for purpose — only to use your newfound extended free time to write a letter, draft a poem, or compose a song that God uses to comfort and strengthen the hurting in ways you could have never imagined.
Or you may devote years of investment into a children’s Sunday school class that seems to derail weekly into the chaos of tantrums, messes, and accidents — only to one day see the eyes of a child widen like those of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32) as it all finally falls into place: the realization that every story and verse of God’s word fits together to point to the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ.
Take Heart and Press On
One day, we will know all things in full (1 Corinthians 13:12), but until then, we are right to go on entrusting our souls to a faithful Creator and continue doing good (1 Peter 4:19), confident that he will reward every work done as for him (Colossians 3:23–24), that the only trials we go through are those that are necessary (1 Peter 1:6), that he commands and enables us to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16), and that what really counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).
Every person we interact with is a soul that can be impacted for eternity. Every conversation is a platform to speak the truth that sets people free (John 8:32). Every task is an invitation to work as God’s workmanship appointed to that very task (Ephesians 2:10). And every task is an opportunity to leverage all we do for the glory of God (Colossians 3:17).