Several years ago, the common refrain from my daughter used to be: “I’m soooooo boooorrrred!” She doesn’t do it anymore, because her mother and I decided that the best way to cure her boredom would be…more homework! However, that comment is becoming all too common these days—and by non-teenage-age folks as well.
I find it interesting that people—at least in this country—find it difficult to be satisfied or contented with themselves, the world, the stuff they have—basically everything! It seems that nothing is ever enough for them. I recently read a post from an anonymous individual with the screen name “han,” who wrote: “OK, I have loads of silly little problems, but when I look at my life, I’m probably one of the luckiest people in this world. So why am I never fulfilled? I always want something more. I’m just so spoiled. But I have an idea of the perfect life and I won’t accept anything less. I try new things and have fun and all, but what’s the point? Sometimes it all feels so pointless. I feel so depressed, but the worst part is knowing I have absolutely no right to be depressed. I just don’t see the point in life. It’s not hurtful . . . it’s just never-ending boredom.”
Do you hear the sheer frustration, dissatisfaction, depression, and ultimate meaninglessness? I’m sure you have friends who feel the same way. Hey, maybe you feel that way too!
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes—and, by the way, the wisest man who ever lived—wrote these deep words:
All of life is far more boring than words could ever say. Our eyes and our ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear. Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun. Someone might say, ‘Here is something new!’ But it happened before, long before we were born. No one who lived in the past is remembered anymore, and everyone yet to be born will be forgotten too. (Ecclesiastes 1:8-11, CEV)
The Simple Solution
So what do you do about it? Is there a solution—something of substance that can fill the collective hole in our souls? And if there is, how do we get it? The answer is “yes,” and you won’t be surprised when I tell you. It’s . . . you guessed it: serving others the way Jesus did–and taught us to.
Admittedly, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.
Jesus plainly told us that the two greatest commandments are: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV).
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Carl L. Pickhardt, agrees as well. He suggests that the simplest cure for boredom is to: “invest . . . in meaningful offline, non-spectator, and resourcefulness-building activities like helping, volunteering . . . or working . . . for a good social cause.”
The Apostle Paul, as he does so well, breaks Jesus’ prescription for boredom down even further, making it directly relevant to our everyday lives. In Philippians 2, he tells us the cure for the common life problem of being bored.
Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8, CEV)
Did you notice how, at the beginning of the passage, Paul is careful to clearly show a deepening and intimate relationship with Jesus (vs. 1), and how the natural outgrowth of that relationship is a widening circle of love and concern for others (vs. 2-4)? Did you notice that when we spend time with Jesus, we will begin to think like Him, respond like Him, and love like Him (vs. 5)? Did you notice the connection between humility (being humble) and service to others?
You and I can never serve anybody if we don’t first humble ourselves, and we can’t truly have the power—given to us by the Holy Spirit—and the right attitude to humble ourselves if we don’t first spend time with Jesus. So it really all begins–and ends–with Jesus. Paul clearly shows us in verses 5-8 what Jesus did as He humbled Himself to serve us—for more than 30 years! I believe that Paul showed us what Jesus did for us for two reasons:
- So we wouldn’t complain about humbling ourselves, and would get some perspective.
- So we would have an example of how we should and could do it.
Serve to Live and Live to Serve!
Our service to others is the truest and surest way that we prove we have a real relationship with Christ. The love that we have for Jesus will naturally overflow in ministering to others—as Jesus did—and serving them. Jesus said in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (TNIV).
Mother Teresa, world-renowned Catholic nun who spent almost her entire life serving the poorest of the poor in the worst conditions in India, said these wise words about service:
You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear: Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.
Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.
I absolutely agree with what Mother Teresa had to say, and you know what? So did the apostle Paul. A deep, intimate, and growing relationship with Jesus should affect us in a positive and profound way, and that effect should generate within us a desire to serve others—not just other Christians, but the world at large.
Joni got in trouble “with the law” (as we say down here in Georgia—pronounced “Gee-ooorrrrgia”); she couldn’t pay her fine, but the Judge was lenient and gave her several hours of community service. She was given a choice between several different options, and, admittedly, she chose the one which she perceived offered her the least amount of personal effort and interactions with actual…people (hey, at least she was honest). She chose to work for several hours once a week at the local animal shelter. At first she absolutely despised it! The smells, the sounds…the smells.
But as she completed her mandatory hours, something interesting happened: she actually came to enjoy the work, the animals—and yes, even the people. She would later admit, “I actually looked forward to Sunday rolling around so that I could see the animals and love on them and interact with the people looking to adopt them.”
Needless to say, she is no longer required to volunteer there, but she still does, simply because she wants to. She stated, “It gives me a warm feeling in my heart just knowing that something I’m doing for these animals translates directly into service for another human being who God loves and died for…I actually can’t think of a more effective way to share the love of Jesus and let others know that I’m a Christian…my actions definitely speak louder than my words.”
The Rubber Meets the Road
So how about you? In light of what you’ve read, I’ve got some questions for you to consider–questions that will hopefully end with some concrete action steps to get you to begin and/or possibly increase your service to others:
- Whom can you serve right now? Your family, your friends, your community… your enemies?
- How can you serve? What gifts and talents do you have?
- Where should you serve? Your family, your church, your school, a local charity/community center?
- What should you do? Volunteer at a local community shelter/center; mentor somebody; answer phones; serve food somewhere; fix up someone’s home; or clean up someone’s yard?
Don’t be Stupid!
At the conclusion of Jesus’ famous speech about “upside-down” living we know as “The Sermon on the Mount,” he challenged his hearers (you included):
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:26, 27, NIV)
So don’t just read this information and say, “Well, that’s good stuff to know. I guess it’s cool for somebody else to do.” No! Do something! My hope and prayer is that after you read these words, you’ll decide to serve others in the same way that God, through Jesus, served you.
With the state of the world these days, none of us has either an excuse–or time—to say “I’m bored!” Instead…well, Paul—again—puts it in the way that only he can:
Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17, CEV)