“…for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:43
I crave kudos. As a writer, graphic designer and creative type, much of what I do is on display. Like a second grader during craft time, I retreat to my creative cubby wielding a keyboard and computer instead of crayons and construction paper. Hours, days or weeks later, I emerge proudly proclaiming, “Look what I made!”
Others aren’t usually as excited by my “masterpieces” so I’ve learned to temper expectations and savor scraps of praise like gold stars on a spelling test. When I work as a professional, the money I earn speaks for itself. When I voluntarily use my skills as a ministry, payment comes in other ways. A nod in my direction, a “wow” or “well done” is typically all the affirmation I need to live another day—creatively speaking.
A while back I tackled a ministry project bigger than any I’d ever done. It challenged me to use all my creative talents, plus master some new ones as well. I poured myself into the project. I missed meals. I lost sleep. Weary, exhausted and emotionally spent I pressed on to completion and dragged the project across the finish line. And then I waited for the applause.
“Thanks, this is great,” they said. “We really appreciate it.”
Inside I railed, That’s it?! Do you realize what I’ve accomplished? Do you have any idea what it’s worth? Can you see the wounds this project inflicted? I want a parade, a marching band, a float with me on top, a banner proclaiming my greatness. (Perhaps I got a bit carried away.)
And that’s where the enemy spotted an opening. He planted seeds of grumbling. Seeds of discontent. And seeds of anger. My logical side cautioned against nurturing them, but the emotional side eagerly supplied the watering cans.
Lingering at the junction of bitterness and resentment, one morning I went for a walk to sort things out. As it happened, God sorted me out.
My thoughts boiled, Lord, I’m so hurt and angry.
“Did you do this project to bring glory to my name…or yours?” God countered.
But I worked so hard and they took it for granted.
“Didn’t I give you these gifts to use for my glory?”
It’s not fair!
“As my servant, don’t I ask you to pour yourself out like a drink offering?”
Don’t I deserve more?!
“Are you seeking the praise of man or the applause of heaven? Isn’t my praise enough for you?”
I didn’t want to be wrong, but knew I was. Humbled, I saw how clearly I craved the human and not the holy. But, how hard it was—and is—to let go. Holy Spirit, free me from this prison that’s choking my heart. Please rescue me because I can’t do it myself.
God didn’t “cure” me in that moment, but He infused peace where anger had been. He spoke truth I didn’t want to hear but needed to hear. He refocused my heart on the joy of serving Him. And that is enough.
We all go through times when we give far more than we receive—as a parent, Bible study leader, ministry volunteer, spouse, caregiver or the like. Where do you feel unappreciated? Where has the enemy sown seeds of bitterness and discontent? Get honest with God, pray for the Holy Spirit to change your heart and listen for His reply.
Be blessed and be a blessing,