My hospital bed was my prison, my ill body the warden. For an entire summer I encountered concerned health-care workers, endured multiple surgeries, and was forced to rely on others to accomplish even the smallest task.
My sister-in-law braided my hair since my arms wouldn’t reach above my shoulders. A friend spent a day cleaning my house. Another drove me to and from appointments.
Gone was my independence, gone was my dignity, gone was my confidence. Although only a season, my days felt like unending strings linked by weakness. It was all I could do not to melt into self-pity.
During this time, I wrestled deeply with God, questioning His purposes. I mourned the loss of my health and battled bitterness and despair. I wasn’t losing my faith, but I did doubt God’s plan for me. C.S. Lewis said it better than I can, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”1
In an attempt to hide my struggle I wore a mask of cheerful disposition, but I wrestled nonetheless. As the body of Christ ministered to me with acts of kindness, it reminded me anew of God’s grace-filled love for me. Over time, my frame of mind changed.
From this experience I’ve learned an important truth when it comes to the value of being a servant. No matter how insignificant an act of service may seem, it’s not.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you,” (Matthew 7:12) is a mantra I’ve heard for years but through my illness this Golden Rule has become alive in my life. From this verse I’ve learned three principles for doing unto others and choosing to serve.
First, serving is simple.
When I was in the hospital people served me in all kinds of simple yet amazing ways. Mothers with young children delivered meals for my family, a cancer patient in the hospital with me visited me at my bedside, a friend brought a stack of books for me to read.
Each person used their unique talents, gifts, and abilities to serve me in their own individual way, living out God’s call on their life and allowing Christ to work through them.
Whenever I’ve driven someone to an appointment or helped clean up I haven’t thought much of it so I don’t expect these servants to understand how much their efforts meant to me. In fact, I still marvel at their active care. God used these acts of service to encourage my heart in a difficult time.
Second, serving is powerful.
It was at this time I witnessed the body of Christ living out Colossians 3:23-24: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ."
The kindness I received was a gift from God and my heart became thankful. And their actions impacted more people than me—the nurses marvelled at the selfless kindness of my many visitors.
Third, serving may not be comfortable.
Seeing how impactful acts of kindness were in my life, I resolved to do the same for others. I’ve learned sometimes serving others feels awkward. Most vivid in my mind is the time I went to visit a church acquaintance in the hospital. Other than the odd greeting we’d never had an actual conversation before I took a bouquet of flowers to her bedside. When I arrived she’d just come out of surgery and at first our conversation was stilted.
But guess what? I walked away from that visit feeling encouraged, challenged, and blessed.
Serving isn’t always easy or fun but it will be good as we follow Christ and serve Him by serving others. I am called to serve. The results are up to God.
1 C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (Orlando: Harcourt Books, 1966), 477.