I am currently in convalescence from burnout and depression. Physical pain and depressive episodes severely inhibit my mobility, so being able to attend church regularly is a struggle for me.
Yet, despite my health problems, l serve in church on our translation team. I live in Germany, so l help translate our church services from German to English.
With so many healthy, able-bodied members of the body of Christ available to serve, l know that no one would blame me for cashing in my “Get out of Service Card” to focus on my recovery.
However, serving has been an invaluable experience for me. Here are nine things that l have learned since l started serving in church during my convalescence.
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1. We have been created to serve.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Serving is not a requirement reserved for pastors, missionaries, or even our church elders. Serving is essential for building a church community, and everyone has a role to play in it—even those of us in convalescence.
Nothing that happens in your life comes as a surprise to God. He wrote your name in the Book of Life, and He knows the valleys and lofty mountain tops you will experience on your journey with Him, including your health struggles.
And yet, God created you through the salvation of Jesus Christ to be a part of His kingdom, to serve in love, and to help others. He has a role that He has been preparing in advance for you to fulfill.
And who knows—maybe God needs you to use your experience with sickness to be a testimony to encourage others who are in a similar situation.
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2. Time spent in service is not wasted time.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Maybe you have been thinking for a while that you would like to join a service team in your church. However, you’re still on the fence because you’re unsure whether you want to spend what little free time you have between doctor’s appointments, therapy, and physical rest filling other people’s needs.
God assures us in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that serving in His name is not fruitless labor. There could be someone on the other side of your obedience who needs your help. When you make loving God’s children a priority in your life, He will open doors of opportunity to realize your own plans, give you time to rest, and bring joy into your life.
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3. God has given us gifts so we can serve others.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
God has given each and every one of us gifts. They are not only to be used to serve our individual purpose but also to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of the gifts that God has so graciously given to me is the gift of language. I have been living and working in Germany for the past 20-odd years as a British expatriate. I speak German fluently and have even taught the language in my previous vocation as a teacher. Additionally, l am a writer. I feel so incredibly blessed.
I believe that everyone who comes to church has the right to be able to understand the Word being preached—even if it is in a language that they have only a working knowledge of. For that reason, l am grateful to be able to use the gift that God has given me in service to help others.
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4. Our bodies should be a living sacrifice for God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
In response to God’s merciful gift of salvation through His son Jesus Christ, Paul urges us to offer God our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him, to use for whatever plans and purposes He pleases.
Jeremiah 1:5 states that God set us apart before we were even born. That means that who we are today, sickness and all, is acceptable to God to do His work.
We don’t have to wait until we are healthier to be able to fulfill God’s will toward others: we can offer ourselves today, while we journey through recovery, as a living sacrifice to worship God and give Him glory.
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5. God appreciates your sacrifice to serve.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.“ (Hebrews 13:16)
Out of everyone, God is the one who understands the most how much pain and discomfort you are going through as you recover. Therefore, He is all the more pleased when you look beyond your present state to give something of yourself to others who need it. Yes, it is a sacrifice, but one that God appreciates.
When we consider all that God has done for us in our lives and how much He loves us, isn’t the temporary inconvenience we endure to do good for others worth it?
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6. If Jesus served others, then so can we.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus’ three-year ministry was based on teaching us who God is, as well as spreading the gospel, so that all may know of His mercy and glory on earth. Jesus did this by not only preaching but also showing us God’s nature through His own acts of service.
Jesus healed lepers (Luke 17:11-19), dined with sinners and tax collectors (Mark 2:13-17), healed the sick, and brought the dead to life (Mark 5:21-43). He even washed His disciple’s feet (John 13:1-17). However, Jesus’ biggest act of service toward mankind was the atonement for our sins that He accomplished on the cross of Calvary through the shedding of His precious blood (Matthew 27:32-56).
If Jesus, the Son of God, could serve others, even at the cost of His own life, then maybe it isn’t too much to ask that we give a bit of ourselves to serve others, even when we aren’t at our fittest. After all, Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten, humiliated, and crucified in order to serve those who needed His gift of salvation.
Who do you know that could come to know the love of Jesus through your act of service?
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7. Serving gives you a much-needed perspective shift.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
I know from experience how easy it is to get caught up in the mundane reality of recovery. Life quickly becomes monotonous, consisting of a dreary cycle of doctor’s appointments, therapy, and medication.
Before we know it, we are wallowing in a pit of self-pity, fear, and despair. We indulge our bodies and tell ourselves we’re too tired to give something of ourselves to others, that we don’t have the strength and, frankly, we don’t want even want to help.
However, when we serve, we take the focus off ourselves, which distracts us from our current woes. It opens our eyes to the trials and tribulations of the people around us, which we were previously unaware of.
Most importantly, when we make the effort to serve, this act of humility sends a message to our resisting flesh that God is in control—not the sickness. Serving can sometimes be the much-needed shift in perspective that we need to help us come out of a health slump.
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8. Serving teaches us gratitude.
“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)
The people for whom l translate have come to Germany for varied reasons. Some are international students keen to embark on an adventure of travel and higher education. Others have risked their lives to seek asylum on our shores, having lost all that they hold dear to war, genocide, and religious intolerance. Then there are those who have come to Germany to seek specialist medical advice for an illness.
Listening to these people’s stories, l am in awe of how God brings people together. Furthermore, l am so grateful for His provision in my own life, enabling me access to highly qualified doctors and giving me the freedom to worship Him without fear of religious persecution.
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9. Service goes beyond church.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
If health issues prevent you from actively serving in church, there are other ways you could be a source of salt and light for others around you.
You could visit an elderly neighbor or offer to babysit a friend’s children while she runs errands. Maybe you could buy a homeless person a sandwich or call an old friend you haven’t had contact with in a while and ask how they are doing.
Your act of love will speak volumes, and through it, they will be able to see the love of Jesus that shines through you.
God’s love for us is not dependent on our actions. He understands that the health challenges we face can overwhelm us and negatively affect our ability to serve in church.
However, as followers of Christ, it is a blessing to extend the love God has for us to others in whatever form we can. Not only can it deepen our own spiritual life and bring us into fellowship with others, but our obedience in serving can also help break chains in someone else's life and bring them into an eternal loving relationship with our Father. They could experience the freedom that you enjoy as a child of the Most High God.
Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She is British but grew up in Australia and now lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. Madeline has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine, and is a freelance contributor for YMI Magazine. In her spare time, she gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she dances to Sister Sledge whilst cooking. You can contact Madeline at email@example.com or Tweet her at @MTwooney.
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Originally published Thursday, 16 May 2019.