Best of Daily Reflections: When Work Seems Useless

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”

Isaiah 49:4

In Isaiah 49, the Lord speaks to his Servant, sometimes pictured as Israel, and at other times pictured as an Israelite who embodies Israel’s own experience. This individual Servant of the Lord will restore Israel and beyond (49:6).

Yet as Israel languishes in exile, it seems that her efforts to live for the Lord are in vain: “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose” (49:4). Nevertheless, Israel, as God’s Servant, decides to trust the Lord for the value of her work. “Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward” (49:4). Though she cannot see how God will make use of her efforts, she is willing to entrust him with this concern.

Can you relate to the situation of Israel in this text? Are there times when you can’t see the value of your work? Perhaps you put in hours on a project, but nothing seems to come from it. Maybe you go way out of your way to help one of your teenage children, but don’t even get a simple thank you. Or you serve tirelessly on your church’s evangelism committee, while your attendance numbers continue to decline. There are many times in life when our labor seems to be in vain. But, like Israel, we will find peace and hope when we entrust our efforts to God. Indeed, we are encouraged by Paul’s good word to the Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you known how it feels when your work seems to be in vain? When have you experienced that feeling? What parts of your work right now seem to be fruitless?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, how encouraging it is to realize that I’m not alone among your servants in feeling that my work is sometimes in vain. I think back over the past twenty-five years of my pastoral ministry and remember so many times when it felt as if I was just spinning my wheels. Sermons preached bore so little obvious fruit. Pastoral counseling sessions seemed to make no difference. And so on.

How good it is, Lord, to be able to entrust my work to you. When I do, I don’t have to worry about the results. They are in your hands. Maybe someday I’ll learn how you used my effort. But, in the meanwhile, what matters most to me is that I’m serving you. You are my Lord and Master. Your pleasure is what means the most to me.

I do thank you, Lord, for those times when you allow me to see that my work matters. You know how much I am encouraged to know how you have used my efforts in people’s lives. So, though I work for your delight, I thank you for sharing some of that delight with me. Amen.