Are You Serving for the Wrong Reasons?
As Christian women, there's a particularly strong pull towards serving. We feel this pull from our own expectations and from the expectations of people around us. We are expected to serve our families, our churches, our communities, our neighbors, and our friends. We are expected to be "servant-hearted" and willing to give of ourselves sacrificially to all needs and causes.
Sometimes we focus so much on those expectations that we run ourselves ragged and end up feeling bitter and exhausted.
Isn't it good to serve? Aren't we called to love others well? Absolutely. But problems arise when we serve for the wrong reasons. We need to serve and love and take action, but all of the "doing" in our lives should flow from the "being" a daughter of God. Too often our identity is insecure and clouds our ability to serve selflessly.
As Christians, we need to be careful of adopting wrong motivations for serving. Here are two reasons I see women serve others that are not aligned with God's desire for us:
We serve to be seen & valued.
When I made the transition from career to childrearing, I didn't realize that my desire to be seen and recognized would be unmet in my new role as a stay-at-home-mom. Motherhood is good and holy when we choose to follow God's desire for us to raise children, but that doesn't mean we won't feel unseen and unappreciated. There are no pay raises and promotions to regularly tell us we're doing a good job.
Because we have this felt need to be seen and valued, we start doing more to serve in our home and out of our home in hopes that someone will notice what we're doing and voice their appreciation. We hope our friends will compliment us on the amazing meal we dropped off at their house or we hope that the church staff will recognize all of our hard work organizing the year-end youth event.
When we serve other people in order to make ourselves feel better, we will always be left feeling bitter and exhausted. By placing those expectations on other people, we give them the unrealistic responsibility to make us feel secure in our identity. Only God can do that, and we will be left disappointed and discouraged by the people around us.
We serve to earn God's love.
When we don't feel secure in who we are and in God's love for us, we often seek to please God and earn his affection by doing #allthethings. We take on more work but end up feeling more unfulfilled and more distant from God. Why? Because all of our work for God isn't what he is asking from us. He wants us to be with him--to abide in him. We no longer need to work for our salvation and we certainly don't need to work for God's love.
For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. - Romans 10:3-4
We get so caught up in our to-do list and our holy attempts to do good work for God that we forget to actually spend time with him. We're so busy trying to show God how much we love him and how much we deserve to be loved by him, but if we would just slow down and be still, we would realize that God is right there waiting to pour out his love on us.
When Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished" before he took his last breaths, he meant it. The striving is finished, the earning God's love is finished, the working for your righteousness is finished. You don't need to serve God to prove that you deserve the gift he gave you. A gift is that which is freely given--no payment is needed in return.
We should serve because our identity is secure as women of God.
When we truly understand how much we are loved and valued and seen by God, we can serve others the way he intended. He wants to fill us up with his love so that it overflows from us and is poured out on others through us. The only way we can do that is by prioritizing our relationship with God.
The more time we spend with God, the more our hearts align with his heart, and the more our lives become more like Christ's. We get it backward in thinking we need to serve well in order to be closer to God. We naturally become better at loving and serving others as we learn to live in close connection with God.
There's nothing wrong in wanting to do good works for God and for wanting to love and serve the people around you. But if you find yourself feeling worn out and wondering why your life lacks joy, it's time to assess your heart and decide if you've been serving for the wrong reasons. Take time to re-align your heart with God's because you can love people better when God's love for you feels deeper and stronger.