A dear friend of mine made 3 visits to the hospital in recent months. I speak of him with a sensitivity to his situation in sharing his question posed to me in a recent conversation: Why is God keeping me around?
My friend lives to share God’s Word with anyone who will listen. He lacks no energy or commitment or passion when opportunity comes along to tell someone about the love of God for souls. But now in lonely hour after lonely hour—while restricted in so many ways unimaginable when young—he must whittle away at the solitude and try to shape the quietness into something that he can call significant. He is retired. But retirement is not as glorious a prospect anymore. What was his calling seems—I say: it seems—now vacuum packed away on the top shelf of his most cherished memories in ministry and stored away for God to unwrap come judgment day.
I am glad that God is keeping him around. I look forward to visiting with him, and his loving spouse, reminiscing, sharing, and in general, letting the benefits of friendship work their magic on my soul.
This question works for me, too. I have my own need at times to make sense of my situation and I would guess my friend and I are not alone. There is no comparison between my concerns and my friend’s—an obvious fact, for reasons I need not list. However my conscience extends to me more liberty to talk about me rather than him.
Mine is a tale of 2 emotions: The joy of completing something important and worthlessness. My life has both in a round robin schedule of good and bad things happening. It was the best of feelings; it was the worst of feelings. Having an awareness of feeling significant or identifying a calling or enjoying a healthy self-respect and knowing real self-worth is not always apparent. Without Clarence’s help I need—now and again—to alter the perception of my wonderful life and rediscover what works to get that meaning in my life back in focus.
My friend’s question is a good one. I have a recurring need—myself—to ask God about this soul-searching, self-examination approach to figuring out my usefulness to Him. My friend’s question is an honest one prompted by multiple visits to the hospital and his current physical limitations. The energy needed to make a zillion visits or prepare umpteen sermons a week or carry the burden of the individual crises of a church full of need—well—is long gone. (Did I say, he once pastored? I talk too much!) Anyhow, he can’t outrun chariots any longer. [1 Kings 18:46] The next chariot he anticipates seeing will probably be for him [2 Kings 2:11] but there is still a life to live while he waits.
Feeling a sense of significance as a pastor is something I gave up back in ’93. The question is: Why is God keeping me here? What use am I… to Him? What IS my calling and what is left for me to do for Him?
Is it possible for a former preacher—or for that matter, anyone—to be called of God without a pulpit?
Yes! Of course!
Before you write me, understand that I am in no danger of drowning in this wallow. It makes sense to have an ongoing conversation with God about my significance… to Him. [Acts 17:28]. I would recommend it for anyone. And even if I were the pastor of a million people and busy preaching in a hundred countries and turning the globe to Christ, the question remains relevant because it isn’t a quest to avoid boredom but meaninglessness. And we can be busy doing the wrong thing!
When I left the pastorate, I needed to try something else that would shout: Stay, you belong here! And I needed that assurance to come from the peace of God. I needed to find a career home. I wanted to do something that gave me a sense of acceptance and worth that would translate into achievement and ultimately a calling from God. I wanted days filled with meaning. I went into programming with the understanding that God opened the door for me to work as a developer.
One thing’s for sure: I must not take up the pastime all over again of shooting flies. Back during my Bible college days, I worked at Longacres. We made chicken and turkey rolls—they still do. I think they are now Wampler-Longacre Inc. Anyways, the foreman needed someone to clean the main cooker which took almost any other worker alone about 8 hours to accomplish. I did it in 4. I told the foreman that I would volunteer if I could be replaced as soon as possible by a new hire. Long story short: he left me in that back room out of mind and forgotten with nothing to do day after working day—that is after 4 hours—but to hook up one of the cleaning hoses to the scalding hot water—and since we always had flies around—you guessed it—shoot flies.
I know God’s interest in my life is NOT shooting flies.
The ultimate and only question worth asking is the same my friend posed: Why is God Keeping Me Around? When God answers that—and don’t make the mistake of not recognizing God’s answer [Jeremiah 29:11]—all other questions become meaningless inquiries. If God gives me—us—purpose [Acts 26:16], we won’t care what circumstances say.
Our lives are the bottle of expensive perfume in Matthew 26:7-8 and we might be the disturbed disciple blurting out in disgust and disbelief, “For what purpose is all this waste?” The Amplified Bible adds the word ‘all’ to make this question explode with hyperbole and rage. You know the account.
We now know that they had it all wrong.
But, because of God’s grace, that is what I am. And his grace that he gave me was not wasted. [I Corinthians 15:10]