Thomas Merton wrote a letter to a friend of his who was very much involved in the antiwar movement of the 1960s. This man was discouraged and questioning whether or not his efforts were doing any good. To this Merton wrote: “…do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no results at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the righteousness, the truth of the work itself.”
I could not help when reading this to think of pastors. We all from time to time wonder whether or not we’re making any difference. We look for the results and often can’t find any. Merton reminds us that focusing on results usually leads to frustration. But focusing on the value of the work motivates us.
Are you currently frustrated with the seemingly absence of results? Do you find yourself wondering if you’re making a difference, is it worth it? As long as our focus is on results instead of on the value of the work that we do we will always be frustrated. Robert Schuller (Crystal Cathedral) once said, “Some goals are so noble that even to fail at them is glorious.”
Your work as a pastor is valuable, it is noble. And I’m not suggesting that you are failing at it but only that focusing on results frustrates. Focusing on the value of the work motivates. Hang in there. Keep at it. You are making a difference.
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