The Discipline of Uselessness

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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We tend to believe we are most effective when we are busy, and to an extent that is true. Tasks have to be performed, and goals have to be accomplished.

But perpetual activity can also fragment our lives­, rapidly shifting us from one thing to another, making it difficult to center on any thing or person. God certainly has a difficult time being heard when “all these other things” command our attention. The still small voice requires our being “useless” for a period of time, and the discipline of uselessness is a considerable challenge to anyone who measures her personal value against her daily checklist.

Feelings of uselessness are particularly acute when we fail or grow ill. Strength equals performance, and failure accomplishes, well, nothing. Our time spent lying ill in bed only convinces us that we are unproductive and, hence, useless.

In sharing Christ’s gospel, Paul traveled the world. On the go, day after day, he spread the message across borders and seas. For such an energetic man, repeated imprisonments must have been excruciating. But many of his letters were written from prison. And but for that time of forced inactivity, we might well have none of his great letters. God made creative use of Paul’s uselessness.

In the church in Corinth, many people criticized Paul for losing his touch, lacking charisma, changing his plans due to his “thorn in the flesh.” Yes, he had shortcomings, Paul admitted; but “power comes to full strength in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul even “boasted” of his weaknesses,­ declaring that the power of Christ would come and rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:9).

Our “thorns in the flesh” remind us that we cannot do everything ourselves, that Christ must help us accomplish our work. In His magnificent way, Christ works through our wounds, failures . . . and particularly through our uselessness. Our biggest tasks are to busy ourselves with faithfulness and to trust that God is working in us and through us, not just when we see ourselves as effective, but when our ineffectiveness, our weakness, our uselessness exposes His strength.

Questions for discussion:

• How has the power of Christ become manifest in your life during times of weakness or uselessness?

• What benefit is there to creating times of uselessness for prayer?