A while back ago I posted about a quarter-life crisis. I expressed the feeling that a lot of my friends had: they don’t feel fulfilled and happy. I got so much amazing feedback from that post, people saying they were meeting up to social expectation’s (like college and a lucrative job) but they didn’t see the point in life. Since then, I’ve made a few discoveries and I want to share one that really stood out to me.
I confess, it’s a basic idea but it hit me like it’s the newest idea on the market.
John MacArthur did a series on the Fruit of the Spirit—the first fruit is love. (Here is the link.)I thought I knew everything there was to know about love, but he said something that stopped me in my tracks. And actually, it’s something that’s been on my heart for a long time concerning fulfillment.
He said that loving people is our goal, not changing the world. We can change our part of the world by being involved in our own corner of Earth, in love. I think we hear the phrase “change the world” and accept it as a personal mantra. We want people to accept our view of politics, our view of life, or religion, our help, our organization, etc… and we get carried away trying to “help everyone in the world.”
Changing the world sounds good. I mean, positive change is always good, right? But maybe such a big task shouldn’t be our goal. (And often, we make it our goal even though we don’t realize it.) Maybe God wants to see that we can be faithful with small things before we are allowed to do bigger, global things. Maybe fulfillment isn’t so foreign, after all. Maybe we can make a difference within a 10 mile radius through love. Maybe Jesus said love was the “greatest commandment” because its our source of fulfillment?
For example: our inspirational Instagram post was only liked 10 times. We get discouraged and feel like we aren’t making a difference. But we need to stop trying to focus on all the people we didn’t reach, and instead focus on the 10 people who took the time to say, “Hey, that’s cool. I needed to hear that.” Don’t get caught up in the trap that your words didn’t wow the whole internet.
You see, God doesn’t put the whole world on our shoulders. But he does expect us to carry a small piece of it. It might be a 100, it might be 10, it might be thousands of people you know—but focus on the loving those guys, not the numbers. Focus on the fact that God used you to reach 10 people. Success isn’t being on top of the world: success is obedience to the small things God has called you to do.
I asked myself, what if the reason we struggle with feelings of inadequacy and depression and un-fulfillment is because we are setting our sights too high? What if God never intended for us to change the world? Maybe the point is to change one person’s life because that person is meant to change two lives, and that person changes three lives, and thus the world is changed slowly. And God does this because he doesn’t want us taking credit for it. Essentially, all goodness is his, and he deserves the spotlight. Our command is to love people and take the word to every creature. We can’t physically witness or help every person in the world, but we can take The Word and give love to every person in our life.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, I have dreams of opening my OWN store with my OWN products and my mission is reaching out to struggling people through my brand. That’s a big dream. I want to help others, help my family, and help myself. And it’s easy to get lost in trying to “help everybody” and get my name out there to EVERYBODY and trying to “change the world” for EVERYONE. That’s stressful. And not Biblical. And it’s going to end in a stressed out and unsuccessful attempt, even though my intentions sounded good.
I’m realizing that I’m not called to reach everybody. I’m realizing that I’m not called to have all the answers. I’m realizing that I am God’s vessel, and HE uses ME as he WILLS to tell the people HE chooses that need to hear his message. Being kind to the people in my life, is my mission. Loving the lost people that come across my path, is my mission. Taking time out for people in my community and family, is my mission. That’s what God meant when he said, “Love your enemies and neighbors.” You don’t have to go searching for your enemies or your neighbors like a celebrity seeks out fans—they are all around you. Co-workers, taxi drivers, friends, children, the waiter, the boss you hate, neighbors are everywhere! I think when we obey God and just love people, and serve just the folks we know, we will find true fulfillment. And if we just focus on the ones we have, we will find that we don’t have time to change the world.
This can apply to you, too! Are you stressed about life and your direction? Are you worried about who you are and where you are going? Do you feel lost in a career that was supposed to make you feel important? Maybe the answer to life isn’t about US, but maybe it’s simply focusing on the needs of the others around us. Jesus said the greatest thing in the world is love. Life is about giving love, and also accepting it. Cushy jobs and admirable careers are pointless if we can’t love the people around us, or accept their love.
I’m a list person so I’m going to write a brainstorm list of ways to show you how you can love others:
- If you like something someone else is doing, say it. I’m so bad about thinking and not saying my thoughts out loud. If I like my friend’s attitude, I admire them from afar and I don’t even think to tell them how encouraging, strong, kind, or beautiful they are. This can go along way when we make it a point to tell others how amazing they are.
- If you see someone hurting on social media, don’t just comment. Send a handwritten note. Call them. Be a listening ear. Doing is so much more powerful than commenting on their post.
- One way I feel loved is when people ask me lots of questions. This tells me they are sincerely interested in me and my life. I feel very important and cared for.
- Don’t be afraid to: make a meal, do a load of laundry, plan a relaxing night out, walk someone’s pet, wash the car, run errands, pick kids up from school, baby sit, leave a thoughtful gift on the door step, stay up all night with a newborn, offer to listen, clean a house, and plan weekly coffee dates are just a few ideas for friends going through a rough time.
- I have this friend who often asks me to go walking with her, and it is always like a therapy session. She asks how I’m doing, and before I know it, I’m asking her for advice and getting wise counsel to all the daily issues I have. She’s listened to my problems as a working mom, wife, military wife, and all those life issues. Love doesn’t cost you anything but time and a walk in the woods.
- Open your home. I believe as Christians we should have a spare bedroom with clean sheets, towels, robe, and all the luxuries of a hotel. We should have an open kitchen table for anyone who needs a meal or a conversation. Our couch should be a safe space to talk or cry or laugh. Making people feel comfortable at our residence is a wonderful opportunity to love people who need a place to crash. The Bible talks about “entertaining angels unawares,” and how exciting would it be if we ministered to angels or loved someone for Jesus?
- Go through your friend’s list and see who you’ve not talked to in a while and shoot them a text or call. Tell them you were thinking of them and want to reconnect. I love getting messages out of the blue!
- If you sense someone might be hurting or tired or depressed, sweetly ask how you can pray for them.
- Be the person who remembers birthdays, and plans parties, and includes everyone to everything. Be the person who hands out generous tips, and the person who treats waiters and janitors like the CEO. Be the person who acknowledges things like a tired mom, a struggling off duty police officer, or a lonely child. Little acts go a long, long ways…and their free!
- Do public service and ministry without being involved in an organization. Ministry is awesome, but it’s not mandatory for serving others in love. Donate clothes. Buy a homeless person a meal. Offer to stay up with a colicky newborn. Offer to teach a class.
I’m not perfect at loving others. As always, this post was written for my own benefit because I needed to hear it. I’m not the most sympathetic, and I get tongue tied when I try to speak words of affirmation. I’m sitting here literally thinking about all the opportunities I’ve missed to love someone, and feeling guilty about it. I have a long way to go. But the first step of success is noticing the problem, right? You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. I’m challenging you today to stop looking at YOU, and stop looking at the world as something that needs your help, and instead, start loving yourself. Once you got that, go love the people God has put around you. Open your heart and homes to them. You never know how big God will grow you once you prove yourself faithful with the small things.