Dr. Connie Befus
We want God to give us assignments. After all, we are here on earth to be of service to him. Of course, we know God does not need anything—least of all from us. Still, he has “prepared in advance good works for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10), so we seek and await his assignments. Often, they are in line with what we expect: train for a particular service, be active in an honorable profession, share the Good News, help people in need, disciple, be a good parent, child, spouse, sibling, go somewhere…
But then, God also gives us assignments we do not expect. Some of them include the following:
Many Americans assume that loneliness is the result of a personality dysfunction, a lack of effort, or a deficiency in social skills. Sometimes that is the case. But other times loneliness is not something we are doing wrong; it is just part of the current assignment. Jesus must have experienced loneliness—except of course, that he was so close to his father. That might, come to think of it, be part of what a loneliness assignment is about: getting closer to the Father.
Some people, especially efficiency-conscious Westerners, think wait is a four-letter word. But God’s people have often spent weeks, months, and years in a waiting assignment. Abraham and Sarah come to mind, waiting for the promised heir. The important thing is to be listening carefully to God and learning what our character should be so that when the moment for action comes, we are the kind of people who know how to make the most of it. It is a wise person who learns to wait well. I suppose God does a lot of waiting for us. We can learn from him.
Life is a balancing act: sometimes there is too much stress; sometimes there is not enough. It is hard to get the balance just right for very long at a time. When stress is high, we need God’s strength. When stress is low, and our current assignment seems mundane, not exciting, we need God’s patience. Let us not look for excitement or stress if what the King has assigned is humble, repetitive, commonplace service. What is boring can be done as worship if that is what the Lord of Lords wants from us.
We know slander and lies are out there in the world. When others experience this ugliness, we feel for them, but seldom with the outrage we experience when slander is directed at us. And when slander is from the “world”—meaning non-Christians—we try not to be shocked, realizing we are to expect injustice and persecution. When slander comes from inside our house of faith, it takes more prayer and more hard thinking to remember that responding in a godly way to slander, even from behind our own lines, is part, as the apostle Peter says, of our vocation (1 Peter 2:21).
We know this comes with life. We know God has experienced it. Our own peculiar pain or heartache, in its particularity, however, usually comes as a shock. We didn’t expect it. We didn’t know how much it would hurt. It is not supposed to be this way—whatever it is. It takes us a while to realize that when we stood up and sang “I Surrender All,” this, too, was part of the “all.” Learning to endure and trust and exhibit the character of Christ during this particular heartache is the current assignment.
Doing nothing is a surprising assignment for our American culture. We think we must be doing something, think we must be in control, taking some action. It should not come as a surprise that “doing nothing” often goes with some of the above assignments: waiting, boredom, being slandered, loneliness. Perhaps especially during those assignments we should be careful to do nothing until it is very clear what God wants us to do. George MacDonald wrote: “One of the hardest demands on the obedience of faith is to do nothing; it is often so much easier to do something foolishly.”*
Relaxing. Resting. Enjoying.
Sometimes God’s assignments are easy…full of joy. Perhaps much more often than we realize. Do we recognize those assignments? If God provides a cancelled appointment, a less structured day than expected, do we then fill that time with other work? Was that his intention? If he provides the gift of an encouraging phone call, a sudden visit with a friend, a day filled with joyous fun or quiet peace, do we recognize it as his gracious assignment? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” When I give someone a gift, I truly want them to enjoy it. I’m sure our heavenly Father is the same.
Obedience is all. And a “long obedience in the same direction”** is faithfulness, which is what God wants from us. We never know just what assignment he might have up his sleeve; he, at least, is never boring. The trick, of course, is to be attentive to his spirit and recognize each demand or gift in our life as the assignment it actually is. Having done that, we then lean on his strength for the task at hand, knowing he will not give us an assignment that has no purpose, and for which he will not provide all the resources necessary.
Even doing nothing.
*The Peasant Girl’s Dream, by George Macdonald, p. 154
** A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, by Eugene Peterson
Dr. Connie Befus
Congregational Care Coordinator
Dr. Befus began serving as Congregational Care Coordinator at FPC in May of 2017. Before moving to Lakeland, Connie, who is a psychologist, served as Director of Member Care for missions organizations. Connie and her husband, David, also served in various ministries in Latin America for more than 17 years. Connie earned her Master’s in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Miami, Florida. She grew up in Africa as the child of missionary parents and has lived in seven countries. David and Connie have a son and daughter, both married, and one grandchild. Connie enjoys occasionally consulting or providing workshops for mission agencies and loves to read, walk, or garden.