The Sweet Rewards of a Quiet Ministry
Fall is a spectacular time for the senses. Our Creator’s glory splashes the world with vivid colors and woodsy smells. It’s also the time of year when I’m reminded that God is in charge of the seasons of our lives. As Christians, we know and trust that God ordains all things and is working out our sanctification as we move through these seasons. So whether you’re resting or wrestling in a season of quiet ministry as a woman yourself or you’re shepherding those in a quieter season of ministry, I hope to encourage you to delight in God’s timing. Jesus told us, “The Father who sees in secret will reward you.” There is much to gain in seasons of serving quietly.
As a woman, I’ve had to wrestle with God through some of the seasons where ministry opportunities took the backseat, where they were almost invisible. Days would go by when the only person who would see my labors was God himself. Those were challenging days. They were challenging for me because I longed to teach and train others in the truths of God’s Word. I wanted to be more active in the life and ministry of the church in a more visible and vibrant—at least to me—way.
Frustrations surfaced when I had women into the chaos of our home. Nap revolts, potty accidents, and distractions of every sort all seemed to come whenever I was trying to disciple another sister in the Lord. Wiping up messes or repeatedly correcting one of my children felt more like interruptions than opportunities. I wanted to be able to sit quietly over tea and discuss God’s Word. But God was doing other things with those years. What I would later come to learn was how vital those “interruptions” were for others. By struggling to stick to God’s good design, I was teaching and training in ways I still don’t think I fully appreciate.
SEASONS OF LIFE MEAN SEASONS OF MINISTRY
Women usually face more variations in seasons of life than men. That’s not some kind of one-upsmanship. It’s a statement about our biological makeup by our Creator God. Just the very nature of bearing, carrying, delivering, and nurturing children has enough stages in and of itself!
But whether you’re single and fighting to support yourself or widowed and trying to adjust to a newer life of singleness, God has ordained your days. Whether you’re homeschooling a crew or juggling your kids’ school schedule with your work schedule, God has prepared each day before one of them came to be. Many of my sisters in the faith are caring for both their children and their parents. Others are fighting debilitating illnesses that keep them from being a part of more visible work in the church.
The reality for all of these women is that God knows his plans for each of them. And remarkably, those plans have a purpose. They’re meant to grow us and sanctify us and make us holy. They’re a means of demonstrating the variety of service God gives to his church as a means to display his glory. We must encourage one another to trust that God is working out good in all things and in every season of our lives. Sometimes that may mean working on the nursery volunteers spreadsheet for hours—a vitally important job, yet one which others will never learn about. Sometimes that may look like being busy at home to teach gospel truths to your kids who respond by simply throwing their food on the floor and shaking their head at you. And in still other seasons, it might involve teaching God’s Word more formally to a group of ladies.
As there are seasons in a woman’s life, so there are seasons of ministry. As a young ministry wife and mother, I distinctly remember multiple conversations with my pastor. I longed to be able to do more and serve more, but life with multiple young children and a husband who worked ministry hours meant I was often ministering behind the scenes more than I would have liked. My pastor repeatedly reminded me, “You’re doing the most important work by caring for your husband and children and allowing others to see that work being done with love and gratitude and sometimes grit. These days will go faster than you think. Be sure to keep your heart set on what God would have for you to be doing today.”
His simple reminders were so powerful because he extolled my role as a wife and a mother—without qualification. He reminded me to prioritize things according to God’s design and not my desires. That man, my pastor, played a vital role in helping me delight in God’s design for humanity. It pushed me to see how I could flourish in that season and wait for God to possibly bring other kinds of service along at a later time. He encouraged me to see Paul’s words to Titus—that women should “teach what is good and so train the young women”—as something valuable I was already doing by caring well for my household. It was a powerful and yet quiet witness of how God used my obedience to his design to glorify him.
ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO QUIET SERVICE
The reality is that God calls every Christian, male or female, to serve in quiet ways. We’re all called to lay down our lives for others regardless of the visible nature of that service, or whether the praise comes.
Simply put, most service in the church is quiet, behind-the-scenes. Just consider the call to pray. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus says, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Quiet, solitary prayer is unseen by others, but such an incredible force for the kingdom of God.
The disciples struggled with this idea of public versus private service. They desired to be seen. They wanted a position of honor, the prestige of being seated on either side of Jesus. The disciples wanted the recognition and status that can accompany certain kinds of service. But Jesus, knowing the pride that fueled their hearts, responded, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43b–45).
Jesus calls us to give ourselves for others. We’re all—male and female alike—called to serve in quiet, unnoticed, and disregarded ways. This is one way we die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. He left us an example for us to follow!
ENCOURAGEMENT TO MY BROTHERS
Brothers, especially pastors, do not underestimate the power of encouraging the women in your congregation in their overlooked and underappreciated roles, especially the early years of motherhood. Many of us are prone to frustration in these quieter seasons. Remind us of our indispensability within the life of the church and the witness of the gospel to the world.
It sounds so basic, yet sadly it’s rarely done. We need encouragement; we need reminders of truth as the world screams “foul” at the way God has ordered us to live as males and females. When we encourage one another in our God-given roles, we remind each other of God’s good design.
The same is true today when I lead a study or teach the Bible to women. I’m immensely grateful to God for the gift of elders to the church. They bear a weight and responsibility I deeply respect. Sitting under their teaching is a joy.
So when they take the time to build up their sisters for both their behind-the-scenes and public service, they build up the church as a whole. My pastors’ encouragement to exercise more public gifts now fuels me to display God’s glory in this newer season of my life. Their investment into my spiritual growth and development has encouraged me to flourish as a Christian woman.
BEAUTIFUL IN TIME
Years have passed. Today, I find myself in a completely different season of life. There are opportunities to teach and lead out in women’s ministry in a more visible way. But that doesn’t preclude my call to serve and love in quiet, less visible ways. In fact, as I waited on God’s time then, I’ve seen how that’s served to validate opportunities now.
There are a lot of mommy blogs and podcasts out there. While they offer helpful, in-the-moment encouragement and advice, I can’t help but wonder if they’re teaching prematurely. Some of my favorite dishes are fine if cooked immediately. They do the job. But give them a few days marinating, and what would otherwise be a bit bland is transformed into something delicious, nuanced, and complex. Time has a way of drawing out various flavors.
It’s the same with the Christian life. We must be careful not to reach for what we want too soon. As the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1). We might all be better off spending more time marinating in God’s will for us in those underground years of service, allowing God’s Word to grow in us a heart of wisdom.
And you want to know what’s funny about seasonal change? We often long to go back and do it again. I praise God for where I am today, but I do also miss the little fingerprints everywhere. I miss stepping on Legos and remembering how that meant a small person was exercising his imagination in my kitchen. I miss The Jesus Storybook Bible and repeating the words, “Jesus was showing people that God would always love them—with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
Praise God for the faithfulness of my husband’s encouragement through those years. And praise God for faithful brothers and sisters in the faith who have encouraged me in all seasons of my life. We need to care, each for the other, as we display God’s glory through his design to the world for men and women in the local church. Whether behind the scenes or right up front, all of God’s people play a vital role in declaring his goodness and glory.
One season gives way to another. And God makes all things beautiful in his time!