My husband comes home to find me face down on the sofa. The house looks like we’ve been robbed. The kids are hollering and trying to find a comfortable sitting position on my spine.
“How was your day?” I mumble into a cushion.
“Yeah, fine,” he says. “Couple of meetings. Finishing scripts for new Easter videos. Skyped someone in the States. Wrote my talks for the conference and sent off a manuscript. Sent off the funding applications and did a session on the Trinity with the interns. How about you? What were you up to?”
I rack my brain as tiny fingers push Play-Doh into my ears.
Um. I tried to stop our son from climbing into the washing machine/scaling the fridge/eating cat treats/taking off his diaper/pushing his fingers into sockets/pulling the cat’s tail/dropping plastic cutlery down the toilet. I pretended to be a garbage truck and a trash collector. Drafted half an email. Filled out forms for school. Texted a friend. Shopped. Ironed. Listened to a psalm. Cooked lunch (which my son threw on the floor). Made truck noises. Scraped unidentifiable foodstuff from the floor. Replied to a message from my daughter’s school saying she’d had a minor accident: a nosebleed caused by aggressive picking. Cooked dinner. Wheeled out recycling bins (making garbage-truck noises).
“Nothing,” I told him.
I didn’t march for world peace. Didn’t write a novel. Didn’t set up my own business. Didn’t sort out the filing cabinet. Didn’t return the library books. Didn’t break the internet (except for unplugging the router by mistake). Didn’t take the kids to Disneyland or overcome a major illness. Didn’t run a marathon (or even run). Didn’t see the northern lights.
“You can’t have done nothing,” he replies.
‘Nothing’ ≠ Nothing
If I look back on how I spent the moments of my full day, I realize they add up to something much greater.
I cared for a little person who can’t care for himself. Subdued a little piece of the earth (including some stubborn wrinkles). Created a home. Listened to words of life that fed my soul. Completed essential administrative tasks. Invested in my daughter’s education. Foraged (well, shopped) for my loved ones. Lavished my children with carefully chosen gifts in the form of after-school snacks. Encouraged a struggler. Walked all day with the living God. Enabled my husband to share the gospel. Executed an Oscar-worthy portrayal of a garbage truck.
At this stage in my life, I’m home-based, with small children. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s hard. But whatever my brain tells me, it’s not nothing.
Maybe you feel your life is achieving little. But maybe you are doing far more than you think.
How about you? Maybe you’re a student, studying hard but with no paycheck. Maybe you’re in a retirement home, dependent on others to provide for your needs. Maybe you’re struggling with sickness or grief. Maybe you spent most of the morning in bed.
Maybe you feel like your life is achieving little. But by God’s grace, maybe you are doing far more than you think.
Dorcas’s To-Do List
The Bible gives us an example of someone who, from one perspective, is known for doing nothing. And yet she is one of the New Testament’s heroes.
Dorcas, whose story appears in Acts 9, had days filled with what many would call “nothing.” She didn’t write a bestselling novel, plant a church, or perform before a stadium of people. We don’t know if she was married or single, attractive or plain. We only know one thing about her: she quietly served others. And her acts of kindness will never be forgotten.
The story of Dorcas (or Tabitha) takes up only a few sentences in the Bible. But those lines tell us a lot. We learn she was a follower of Jesus who was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36). One day she became sick and died. The community was devastated and sent for Peter, who prayed over her body and raised her to life. As a result “it became known throughout all Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42).
Dorcas may have been a widow herself—she certainly helped other widows. These women were at the bottom rung of society, weak and exceptionally vulnerable. Yet look at what her ordinary service achieved. She was so beloved that her church community couldn’t bear to be without her. She was a wonderful witness to Jesus in her life—and even more so in her death and resurrection.
It’s tempting to feel our ordinary lives and ordinary service are of little value, especially when we compare them to our culture’s standards of success. It’s easy to assume we are doing nothing. But that’s simply not true. A homebound friend, constrained by chronic illness, prays faithfully for others and thereby achieves great things for God’s kingdom. God uses the weak and the unseen and the overlooked.
Remember Dorcas! Even our most mundane tasks, performed in faith, are achieving a weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:16–18). Whatever you’ve been doing, it’s not nothing.