From Pessimism to Optimism 3: Serving others

Mar 23, 2011Find joy today

When I’m belly-button gazing, I can’t see the beauty of the world. I can’t find joy. I can’t see anyone or anything else worth my attention. I hate to admit this, but when I get in a self=defeated funk, I become a me-monster, always thinking about myself and my day’s lot. Staying there fuels my pessimism.

But something magical happens when I lift my gaze, first to Jesus, then to the people He made, particularly those with needs. The less I stare at my own perceived needs and lacks, the more I become empathetic to the needs and lacks of others.

On one ministry excursion, I had a hard time. Some folks on the trip deliberately ignored and excluded me. Some were catty. I began to wonder why I’d participated in this ministry opportunity. I cried out to God, asked Him to please help me see things from His perspective. He reminded me that my job wasn’t to shore up my reputation or try to get people to think rightly about me. It wasn’t about being included or liked. It was about service even when others thought poorly of me.

So I chose instead, by God’s sheer grace, to serve. I looked beyond the people who excluded me, gave my wounds to Jesus, and found others to serve quietly. One of the most profound conversations of my life came on the heels of this decision. A man who seemed to be overlooked wanted to talk. So we talked. Mainly I listened to his story–a profound story of loss and faith and deprivation and joy. What a privilege. Had I been hanging out with the cool people, wallowing in my accepted status, I wouldn’t have ventured to make the connection.

My deep sadness over being excluded vanished in the light of serving my new friend who changed the way I viewed faith and Jesus.

That’s the power of serving someone other than yourself. My optimism meter zinged to the heights in the aftermath of the conversation. I stopped woe-is-me-ing and instead felt a deep sense of privilege and joy.


What about you? How has serving others helped rescue you from pessimism?