Genesis 3:17 “…cursed is the ground for your sake…”
God spoke to me Sunday morning. It was in His usual way of laying out thoughts from nowhere. He said the struggle is normal and necessary, and why did I think any differently.
I was leaving the retirement community where I visit a couple of times a month and thinking about the same things I usually think about after a visit. Did I do any good? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in the ministry? Am I even supposed to be in the ministry or did I get everything wrong? If I’m supposed to be here, why does it still seem so difficult after all this time?
I have officially been in the ministry for twenty-eight years, and except for the youth minister position I held during college, it has all been voluntary. While there is certainly nothing wrong with doing volunteer work, there are some caveats. You have to have other means of financial support, you cannot expect any recognition or sometimes even gratitude, and unfortunately, since you’re not in a church position or classified as a missionary, your work may not be seen as true ministry service. My latest job played out six months ago, some other doors for ministry have recently closed, and lately I’ve had others question whether I was even in the ministry. I tried to share my frustrations with a ministry peer. I thought perhaps he would suggest some other ministry avenues or even offer to mention my name to other ministers. His only response was to suggest that I hadn’t actually been called to speak. Hmm, really? Did you catch the part about doing it for twenty-eight years for nothing?
I’ve been praying about all of this for a while, but one aspect had been weighing heavily on my mind of late. I have a strong passion for teaching and preaching the Word. I love getting into discussions about spiritual things. I receive the most satisfaction and fulfillment when I can help someone understand something from the scripture. So why have I always had such a hard time doing my own reading and studying of the Word? Why do I seem to have to force myself to have quiet time with Him? Why is it so hard to give Christ the preeminence in my life? Where is that passion? Those are the questions God answered.
After Adam sinned, God told him the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake. Part of his punishment was actually for his benefit. How did that work? Because of the fall, all of creation would now be in a downward spiral. All things would move to a state of death. Nothing would improve on its own. Man left to himself would deteriorate until he wasted away. The only way to combat this would be for man to struggle, to fight against the downward pull of his sinful nature.
We are instructed to read, study, and meditate on the Word of God, to learn as much as we can, to make it a part of ourselves. Like a typical man, I saw this as a task to complete, something to work on until it was finished, and for some reason, fully expected the task to become easier as I did it. However, the point has never been about the task, but the results of it, what you gain from doing it. The task itself, having a daily time with God, reading the Word, searching the scriptures, will always be difficult like every other task on this fallen planet. The important part is what we learn from the reading, studying, and searching.
Fortunately, when God spoke, I was still in the driveway of the retirement community so I could pull over and consider what He had said. I felt rather foolish for not seeing the forest for the trees. But I also felt great relief. Getting my focus off the task and on the results has not only relieved some of my anxiety, but it’s also freed up the motivation that was actually there. So strange that the desire I sought was present, just out of sight.
I still have questions about what He wants me to do, why doors aren’t opening, why He is quiet on many things. But I choose to trust Him. And I’ll enjoy the new found sense of purpose in spending more time with Him.