For the longest time, I felt guilty about the way in which I served others. And if I’m being completely honest, occasionally I still do.
This is ironic on one hand—because to many people, my life looks quite “others-focused”:
- I moved cross-country, to a place where I knew no one except my husband and children, so Steve and I could devote our lives to an organization restoring survivors of child trafficking
- We adopted two beautiful children from high-need backgrounds, ending up with three kids less than two years apart in age
- My husband often travels as part of his work with Love146, leaving me to hold down the fort at home solo as my contribution to the cause
These situations had me tapped out and in survival mode for years. I wasn’t out on the streets feeding the homeless, surprising neighbors with homemade baked goods, or volunteering on any committees.
I was giving my all in the specific ways I knew God had called me to, but that was all I could sanely offer (& sometimes I didn’t offer it sanely, either!).
Also adding to my below-the-surface subtle guilt was that the three points above were all things I wanted to do. They sprang from an inner impulse that perfectly suited my personality. Because I had freely chosen them, I didn’t think they completely “counted” as true service. I had the mistaken idea that serving had to be uncomfortable and unnatural.
I don’t think I would have verbalized this belief, or even recognized that I had it, but it was there—gnawing with self-condemnation when certain situations arose.
As often happens in my life, a book read at just the right moment began to open my eyes. In reading Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, I came across this passage:
“God’s promise is that He will work in us to will as well as to do of His good pleasure. This, of course, means that He will take possession of our will, and work it for us, and that His suggestions will come to us, not so much commands from the outside, as desires springing up within.
They will originate in our will; we shall feel as though we wanted to do so and so, not as though we must. And this makes it a service of perfect liberty; for it is always easy to do what we desire to do, let the accompanying circumstances be as difficult as they may.” (emphasis mine)
I underlined and highlighted, put exclamation marks and “Wow” in the margin, then leaned back on the sofa to give this serious thought. In my spirit, the words rang true.
I slowly began to understand that God had formed me to meet certain needs in this world, and had given me the exact qualities I would need to do so naturally and well. Therefore it isn’t selfish to take my temperament into account when it comes to giving to others—in fact, it’s vital to do so!
If you’re an introvert, your ways of serving will differ to that of an extrovert. We aren’t carbon-copies of each other, so we won’t be drawn to the same opportunities, causes, or people. That’s okay—as long as we have our hearts open to the inner voice that leads us to reach out in the ways only we can.
Here’s a benchmark I use when deciding which opportunities to take on and which to decline:
If I feel guilt or compulsion as my main motivator, I always say NO.
I’ve learned—often through painful trial and error—that when guilt leads me to say yes, the experience is a disaster for both myself and others.
Our passions and strengths have been divinely entrusted to us, to steward and to share. Serving doesn’t have to be a burden, or one more thing on our overflowing to-do list. When our natural gifts touch the lives of others, it becomes a double blessing for them and us.
This month, let’s deconstruct some of the myths we may have unknowingly assumed about what serving should look like and embrace how we’ve been uniquely designed to meet needs in our families, communities, and the world.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Have you ever discounted the ways you were serving others because they came easily to you rather than feeling like sacrificial serving?
- What are your gifts and natural inclinations? How do those uniquely equip you for serving?
- What areas of serving are you passionate about?