Be honest. How do you feel when you hear the word “service”? Does it fire you up? Or does it make you feel a little guilty? Maybe it’s a little of both.
I imagine most of us have a nagging feeling inside that we should be doing more to serve others. Typically, during the holidays, we feel especially motivated to put those good intentions to work. But most of the time, it’s tough to put that motivation into action.
Why is that?
We know what the standard is.
We know what the stakes are. After all, Jesus came right out and told us:
“Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIrV)
We know that serving others should be our priority:
“Work hard to feed hungry people. Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.” (Isaiah 58:10, NIrV)
Not only that, little eyes are watching. They see when we give up something that benefits us in order to benefit someone else. I think all of us would say that somehow, we want to pass along the value or serving to our own kids. We want them to “get it.” So why not model it?
Why is it so hard?
So why is it so hard for us to get out there and serve? I don’t think it’s because we don’t care. I don’t think it’s because we’re selfish—at least on purpose. I think it happens because life happens. And there’s another layer that crowds out service that I think has been building more and more in recent years: we’re afraid that we’re doing it wrong.
I think that’s the result of living in a connected, social society. We’re more aware than ever about other people who are doing good things in the world. That feeds our guilt about everything we aren’t doing. At the same time, it seems like every good thing WE do comes along with a nagging objection.
Let’s say you write a check to help a local nonprofit.
That’s too easy. You really should get some skin in the game.
Your son goes on a mission trip with the youth group.
That’s great; but come on. It’s one week. And aren’t there people in need here at home?
You bring canned food for a food drive at your church.
The problem is so big and so complex. Honestly, will these few cans really make a difference?
Those nagging voices can basically talk us out of doing anything. But as followers of Jesus, we have no choice. We can’t throw up our hands and abandon our responsibility for the needs of others. We have to remember that we can’t do everything . . . but we can do something.
Our kids don’t need to watch us rail against what’s wrong. They need to see us actively fight to make the world a better place.
The Joy of Serving Together
As for our family, we’ve discovered a way to serve that actually counteracts those voices of negativity. We’ve discovered the joy of serving together. We’ve chosen to use our time, resources, and creativity to volunteer with Lighthouse Family Retreat, an organization that strengthens families living through childhood cancer.
For us, this does two things. It allows us to work with others to encourage and serve people in a time of great need. It also lights us up inside.
I can look to one side and see my older daughter filling up cups with lemonade for retreat attendees and volunteers.I can look to the other side and see my younger daughter laughing with her new friends—friends who needed someone to show them love in a dark, scary time. I see my wife lead our volunteer team with confidence, positivity, and excellence, communicating clearly so everyone knows what to do, where to go, and why their service matters.
The Way We’re Wired
As I see my loved ones serving in such practical, yet profound ways, it occurs to me that each of us is serving in a way that mirrors the unique way were made. Maybe that’s what Peter meant in 1 Peter 4:10:
“God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully.”
That doesn’t mean serving is ever easy. It still requires sacrifice. But if you can find a way to serve that comes naturally to you, two things will happen:
1) You’ll be really good at it.
2) You’ll want to do it more and more.
As we tuck into the covers at night, after a day of exhausting but rewarding labor, we can affirm each other. We can express gratitude for the way each of us served and acted selflessly that day.
Instead of letting objections keep us from acting in the first place . . . instead of second-guessing the good we’ve been able to do . . . we can cheer each other on as we dream of what’s to come tomorrow.