When Your Work Isn’t Seen

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“I’m ready to be a martyr to reach the most unreached of the world.”

When I was a college student, I attended a missions conference. The speaker burned with passion to do great things for God. But then he said something that has stuck with me ever since: that his greatest fear was to grow old and be a deacon in some little church, just working some job and not doing anything big for the kingdom. His words shaped my understanding of work and calling more than I realized.

Have you ever heard words like this? Have you ever thought them?

This man assumed that his service to the Lord only mattered if he did something big. So he wanted to go and reach an unreached people group. Clearly, this is a wonderful and needed vocation. But his words also denigrated the work of most Christians throughout the history of the church, those who faithfully lived for Christ day in and day out.

What he was saying is a baptized version of what we see from online “influencers,” that if you’re not doing something “big” and getting a big response, then it isn’t worth doing. What’s worse, he was employing Christ’s name to place so little value on the small things of life. We know that’s not true, but we don’t always live that way.

We can live faithfully as we work in all the ways that only God sees.

Doing Little Things for God

Here at the Center for Faith and Culture, we long to see Christians understand that their faith impacts every aspect of their lives. One of the things we talk about is how our faith in Christ impacts the way that we work and how we think about our vocations.

Sometimes in these conversations, we have a tendency to highlight men and women who are already seen and known. Tim Tebow lives out his faith on the football field and with his platform, politicians can champion causes because of their faith, or artists reflect their faith through the work they produce. But sometimes I’ve wondered what that means for me when my work isn’t seen.

For most of us, we are doing the work that has to be done. Maybe you’re a janitor. While you may not “feel called” to scrubbing toilets, that’s the job where the Lord has placed you and the paycheck pays your bills. Maybe you’re a parent. You wonder if the endless diaper changes and mounds of laundry and dishes really matter for the kingdom. And maybe this is true in your job. You feel like the work you do doesn’t have real purpose because you don’t feel seen. Whatever your job, this may be true for you. It’s easy to feel like our jobs don’t have purpose when you don’t feel seen.

As a society, we’re conditioned to believe that our visibility is a large part of our value and identity. We can look to the number of social media influencers who earn an income by being seen and being very public. We know that younger generations struggle with an obsession over their number of followers or how many people respond to a post. Days can be crushed when an Instagram caption doesn’t get the response she had hoped. All of this trains us to place our value on the things that are seen.

I don’t know about you, but most of my life is not Instagram worthy or Pinterest perfect. There are days of responding to emails that just don’t seem to matter. There are nights of folding laundry… again… and washing dishes… again. I know that this is the work before me. I know every bit of it is given to me by the Lord, but that doesn’t always make it easier. And it certainly doesn’t feel like I’m doing something “big” for God.

But through the history of the church, most of the work has been done by men and women faithfully living for Christ in every sphere of life. We know the big names, but most of the work has been done by names we’ll never hear. We know Augustine and Martin Luther, and we should. But we don’t know the names of the countless scribes and monks who faithfully copied and preserved the Scriptures. Their work is not less valuable because we don’t know their names.

We know that man sees the outside and the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). While the people around us may not see the work we do, the Lord does. And even more, he sees the heart by which we do the little and the big things in our lives. While the world may value those who are tall and strong like Saul, the Lord knows the men and women who are after his own heart. The Lord sees those who faithfully do the everyday, mundane things for his glory.

When we’re able to focus on our faithfulness in the task and the people who we are serving through our work, we are free to do what God has given to us. Instead of focusing on what’s bigger and better or what’s next, we can faithfully do what God has placed before us. We can live faithfully as we work in all the ways that only God sees.

Embracing Unseen Work

My perspective on this finally changed when two things happened. First, we couldn’t be missionaries because of some family health issues. How could I serve the Lord if we couldn’t be missionaries? Second, my husband worked at a church with so many faithful men and women who had served as teachers, park rangers, coaches, and factory workers. I saw how their Christian faith changed the way that they worked and changed the people that they worked with. I saw how steady, ordinary, unseen work could transform a community when the work is done for the Lord.

In the coming months, the CFC will be hosting a series of articles on Unseen Work. We will ask questions about purpose and value. We’ll reflect on what it means to serve the Lord in these small and ordinary ways. We want to know how to keep working when we don’t feel valued or appreciated. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Editor’s Note:

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Megan Dickerson

Grant Administrator

Megan Dickerson serves as the Grant Administrator in the CFC. She holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from SBTS and is a current ThM student at SEBTS along with her husband Drew. Megan and Drew live in Wake Forest with their 4 children.

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