A friend of mine just lost his job, and he's taking it pretty hard. What's hardest for him is feeling that he has given his heart and soul to this job for the past five years and that no one appreciates or values his contribution.
I've never been laid off, but I do know what it's like to feel unappreciated at work. When things hit a low point some years back, I poured my heart out to a co-worker. I can still remember sitting in her office as she listened patiently to my tale of woe. And then she told me that she was learning not to look to other people for appreciation. It's one of those truisms that seem easier to repeat than to really feel, but she'd been so kind to me that I felt I should hear her out.
She said she was learning that her work was a gift of love to humanity. She did it because she loved God, and this love for God expressed itself naturally in a love for God's other children. Knowing that she was giving her best with an earnest and honest heart was enough affirmation for her. She trusted that God saw and valued her efforts, and she found peace in that knowledge.
It seemed remarkable to me that anyone could really be content just knowing she was pleasing God. From the time I was a child I'd always been perfecting the art of pleasing people, and I seemed to need human approval to feel worthwhile. But I longed to find the freedom and integrity she had found in knowing that God was pleased with her.
So I seriously investigated what the Bible could teach me about how God was seeing me. I particularly loved thinking of these words God had spoken about Jesus: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5), and I grew to love the idea that the same God finds each one of us delightful.
It began to dawn on me that I could really make a difference to other people by noticing and valuing the good they were doing. I hadn't realized that I'd been so wrapped up in my own need for attention that I missed countless opportunities to give to others the very support I longed for.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, once said that our response to the question "What am I?" should be: "I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 165). So my reason for existing is not to gain applause or recognition. My reason for existing is not even to be loved. It is to impart. It is to give, to share, to nurture.
I'm learning that I can actually be content knowing that God loves and appreciates me, because no one is wiser or understands me better than the One who made me. If the all-wise intelligence that formed the universe is satisfied with my work, shouldn't that be enough? What could be more important or satisfying than that?
A good friend was kind enough to share this lesson and her example with me, and it has made a deep impression on me over the years. So now I'm doing my best to help my friend who was laid off glimpse the source of encouragement and support that is available to him in turning to God, rather than people, for approval. It doesn't bother me that it hasn't completely sunk in yet. Because I've seen in my own life how these experiences ultimately help us grow, and these lessons about God and our relationship to Him do blossom into spiritual strength and fulfillment.
Study to shew thyself
approved unto God,
a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Timothy 2:15