Posted by: gaylejervis | February 24, 2011

FEAR OF NOT MATTERING

Will performing good works dissolve our fear that we don’t matter?   I listened to an interesting sermon that reminded us what God thinks of us and if Christ would die on the cross just for me – then I should know that I matter.  So true.

However, I have been wrestling with the pastor’s practical solution to changing our perception that we matter when he quoted Ephesians 2:10 :    “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

He suggested that this passage not only reminds us that we are God’s workmanship – His handiwork, but he suggested that good works could make us feel that we matter.  This has created quite a quandary for me.  We were urged to “Do something beyond the scope of your own life.  Be part of something bigger than yourself.”  I couldn’t help think of the number of chronically ill people who have difficulty “getting through the day” let alone visit a nursing home or help that neighbor.

And yet, who can dispute that we need to think outside of ourselves? There is enough evidence to suggest that an effective remedy for the depressed is to help someone else.  Many of us who are chronically ill do try to help others but it is very limited due to our circumstances.

This leads me to the question:  How much good works are necessary to make us believe that we matter?  I was recently reading a book that mentioned a new trend of   people quitting donating money to good causes since their dollar seems insignificant compared to the philanthropists who donate millions.  These people obviously believe that their small contributions don’t matter!

And yet conversely, I wonder if we can legitimately assume that all philanthropists know that they matter.  Or are they philanthropists because they have a desperate need to believe that they do matter and must work hard to try to muster that feeling?

Robert McGee in The Search for Significance maintains that one of the lies we buy into is that Our Worth = Your Performance  + Others’ Opinions.   He urges his readers to embrace God’s Truth = What God Says About You.

Well, I’ve made a full circle back to the beginning of this pastor’s sermon!  Possibly, if I don’t fully embrace what God says about me, no amount of good works is going to change that!  I realize that the pastor preaching would assume his congregants know that our good works could only be motivated by our understanding of who we are in Christ.

Unfortunately, too often we want some simple remedy – some simple actions to make our fears disappear.  It might be easier to do good works that fits into the world’s standard of performance rather than focusing on what God says about me.

What would it be like if we viewed each person through the lens of who she is in Christ rather than on performance?  What would happen if I could look at a homeless person, a chronically ill person and a philanthropist and say, “This person matters apart from his performance because Christ gave his life for her”.

It would be an interesting experiment to take two groups of people who acknowledge that they are worthy because Christ died for them.  Have each one of the participants rate their perception that they matter.  Tell one group to go do some good works daily for 30 days.  Tell the other group to read every day all the Scripture that tells us who we are in Christ. At the end of the 30 days, which group would believe most wholeheartedly that they truly matter to their creator?  I hypothesize that the group that has focused solely on who they are in Christ will have the most significant change in their perception that they matter.  I also speculate that when this latter group begins to engage in good works they will be motivated by a tremendous desire to glorify God.  I even wonder whether the results of their good works might be more spectacular!   And what is important to the chronically ill, I also speculate that when circumstances may change and they can’t do as many good works, they will still know that they matter.

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Responses

  1. Excellent post! The writings of St. Therese of Lisieux help me very much with this issue as she teaches (and lived) that even the tiniest hidden acts are of value.

    An example, there was a nun in the convent with her who, during what was supposed to be silent, contemplative prayer, would habitually make a click-click sound with the rosary worn on her habit though no one was saying the rosary during the gathering. She sat behind St. Therese who had a very difficult time not turning around to shush the offender in irritation.

    Eventually, Therese had the inspiration that she could offer that irritation to Christ as a tiny gift. She even came to look forward to the irritating noise as an opportunity to give her little gift.

    Therese’s little way has become for me a reminder that God sees all efforts, large and small, and smiles upon His least child’s efforts to take a step.

    So when I bend down to pick the little bit of something or other off the floor, and offer that effort thinking “for you, Jesus” I know that though no one else sees, He does – and it matters.

    Good works are sometimes big and visible – people given the grace to perform them are obviously blessed. Good works that are hidden and tiny but done with love…ahh, those are my opportunities!

    Besides, who could be given the blessing of helping the sick if no one was sick? ;)

    With thanks for your thought-provoking post,
    Peace.


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