“…that you may be mutually disposed, having mutual love, joined in soul, being disposed to one thing--nothing according with faction, nor yet according with vainglory -- but with humility, deeming one another superior to one's self, not each noting that which is his own, but each that of others also. For let this disposition be in you, which is in Christ Jesus also, Who, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and, being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:2-8)
We are encouraged to be disposed to one another with love, unselfishness, and humility. Reading that exhortation is much easier than applying it. The more years that I live life, the more I realize how many things we do and give more for our own sakes than that of others. It is in our imperfect human nature to take care of and please our own selves first and others later...
I have even discovered that when I selflessly do or give for others, often times I am still hoping for their appreciation or gratefulness in return. I am longing to receive something back from them. When I receive back ungratefulness and disdain, I become so upset (and sometimes angry) and end up asking myself why I bothered doing or giving at all. That reveals to me that I am still looking for something I do not need to be looking for.
I sacrificially give and do because I love deeply and love to help and take care of others. I do not give because I sincerely expect to be served back or highly applauded for my sacrifices. But I cannot tell a lie and say that it does not hurt deeply to be faced with an attitude of disdain or a total lack of gratefulness over and over again. It is heartbreaking for me to give so much and to feel like those sacrifices are repeatedly unappreciated or stomped upon. Some days, I even tell myself to “Stop!” “Stop giving so much of yourself and doing so much for those who do not even appreciate the sacrifice it has meant for you.” And yet, I cannot stop. It is not in me to be that way. The love in my heart supersedes the hurt in my heart.
These days, as I often ponder all of these things, I see and understand more clearly the boundless depths of the love of God. This is the love of God. He receives some gratitude from His creation, but more often than not, there is no gratitude at all. He receives back a great abundance of complaint, ungratefulness, and disdain for what He gives or does not give and for what He does or does not do which does not sit well with our selfish desires. Regardless of the response He receives from us, He continues to love and give and do what He knows is best for us. He does not scrap His perfect plan that has been in fulfillment before any one of us existed on this earth. He may long for us to return His love and for us to express our appreciation or thanksgiving, but whether we express it or not, He will not step out of His character of boundless, unconditional love that gives His all and does what He knows is best.
Over the past year or two, I have begun having the awful and painful feelings that my sacrifices and all my giving are worthless when they are not welcomed or appreciated. What can they possibly matter when the ones receiving the benefits have no comprehension of the depths of love and care with which I have given of myself to them?
Last week, as I shared my heartaches with God, He encouraged me with the following truth: The value of selfless giving and doing for others cannot be determined by their gratefulness or ungratefulness. The act of pouring ourselves out for others reveals who we are in Christ and the work of Christ taking place through us. Therefore, regardless of how these acts are received, they are of immeasurable value and worth. They make a difference even when you see no difference at all.
And so, I am doing my best to daily hang on to the truth that pouring ourselves out for the benefit of others is NEVER worthless. The act may totally ignored, it may not be appreciated or understood, and might even be cursed or spit upon, but it is never worthless. As I write these words, I see a picture in my mind of Jesus Christ carrying His cross and willingly laying upon it to die for the grateful and the ungrateful. I see God faithfully fulfilling His plan and NEVER giving up on it or on us regardless of all the mistakes we make. I see the unfailing and unceasing love of God in Christ that pours over the whole world. And I see that it is His moving and working in me that sacrificially gives and does for others, and it is my body of human flesh and of self-preservation which resists such selfless sacrifice.
“…He is operating in you to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight.”
“…for His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them.”