Uselessly spending our strength

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and, for nothing, uselessly spent my strength…
Isaiah 49: 4

 The first readings for most of Holy Week come from the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah. Today’s reading from Isaiah 49 often sustains me.

In ministry – as well as in many other parts of our lives – we often feel as if we are achieving nothing, “uselessly spending our strength.”

Part of this. I think, is due to our US emphasis on achievement, on proving ourselves by what we do.

Part is due to our desire to not have wasted our time.

But, I think, in some ways, that it’s a question of our spirituality: It’s all about us and how we feel about what we do.

No, it isn’t, God reminds us.

God works with us, with our failures and our half-baked efforts. And we never will know all that God does through our actions that do not show immediate results. I have experienced this many times. Once someone told me how much something I said helped him; yet I don’t remember saying what he said I did.

For me, that means that I must be faithful in the little things: in the way I treat the people I minister with, in how I use my time, in how I prepare my presentations for people. As Thomas Merton once wrote, “A saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and talks, the way he picks up things and holds them in his hands.”

But we still crave for results.

But God calls us for more than this. He calls us to be “light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49: 6).

That’s not something we can plan or measure.

But it calls for faithfulness in little things – done in love.


2 responses to “Uselessly spending our strength

  1. The translation is the one that is found in the new Catholic lectionary for Tuesday of Holy Week. It is close to the New American Bible translation: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, for nothing and for naught spent my strength…”

  2. I am looking for that exact quote (expanded). I have found it many places but never so beautifully. What bible translation did you use?

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