When Your Life Feels "Too Small"

Susan Narjala   |   July 4, 2023 

Have you ever been encouraged to “dream big”? Have you been told that you “have what it takes” to create an impact? Have you been cheered on with the message that you can “be anything” you want to be?

Maybe there was some Christianese attached to those statements. Perhaps you were encouraged to dream “God-sized dreams.” Or you’ve heard from the pulpit that “you can do all things through Christ.”

There’s nothing wrong with the intent of those who have encouraged us with these verses or statements. In fact, I may have parroted those things too.

But here’s the thing: Have we also been told that God-sized dreams don’t need to be “impressive” by the world’s estimation? Have we also been cheered on that our daily work doesn’t have to be visible in order to be valuable? Have we heard the message that ‘ordinary’ work can be extraordinarily impactful?

The problem with the ‘dream big’ idea is that we are always waiting for the big breakthrough, the shining opportunity, the spot in the limelight—and we forget that right under our noses are good works God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that we live mediocre lives. But what if we take our ordinary lives, our fives loaves and two fish, and we offer that to God for His glory? When we do that the impact of our offering goes deeper and farther than we could ever imagine.

Let’s draw some principles about everyday ministry from the life of Ruth in the Old Testament.

You may know the story. Ruth’s husband had died and prior to that, her husband’s father had passed away too. Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, planned on leaving Moab, where they lived, to return to her hometown of Bethlehem. She urged her two bereaved daughters-in-law to return to their parents' homes in Moab so they could move on with their lives.

But Ruth decides to stick with her mom-in-law, Naomi, and accompany her to Bethlehem, even though there were logical reasons for her to go back to her hometown. She says to Naomi: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)

Ruth was being of assistance to one bereaved woman. It may not have looked like much. There was no trending #ruthrocks hashtag that would make her actions go viral. But even though it didn’t look like much to the world, it meant the world to Naomi.

Friend, maybe the work you do is not visible to the world. Maybe it is not appreciated by many. But know that ministry to the lonely often happens away from the limelight. 

Getting back to the narrative, once they had reached Bethlehem, Ruth goes to the fields of the landowner Boaz to glean from the barley left behind by the workers. It was far from a glamorous job. It involved back-breaking labour.

When Boaz inquired about the new lady Ruth who was picking up the gleanings, here’s what the foreman of the field had to say about her: "She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters. She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now…” (Ruth 2: 6-7)

There is no question that Ruth’s job was menial, repetitive and boring. It took humility to bend low in a foreign land and pick up leftovers. But Ruth’s work ethic was so strong that even the foreman took notice.

When your work feels thankless, when it feels menial, repetitive and boring, remember that ministry doesn’t have to look impressive for it to be impactful.

Ministry often looks like faithfully doing the job God has called you to do. Even if it’s below your pay grade. Even if it seems small. It’s cheerfully going about your assignment even if you can’t see what the point is. It’s working for the glory of God.

We are going to pivot now from Ruth to Boaz. Clearly, Boaz was a well-respected landowner who had several people working for him. But he wasn’t someone who flaunted his status. He didn’t go about saying, look I have x number of followers and y number of likes. We immediately notice that Boaz was a generous and kind employer and that he was understated in his generosity. He just quietly blessed the widowed foreigner as was his duty.

Boaz ministered in a way that was quiet and unassuming. He didn’t need to advertise it. In a culture of celebrity Christians and Instagram influencers, maybe your work feels insignificant. But Boaz shows us that ministry done in secret is as significant, if not more, than ministry done on stage.

When Ruth remained loyal to her mother-in-law, it was a small step of obedience. She wanted Naomi’s God to be her God. And we see how God took that obedience, that ministry to one lone hurting woman, and blessed it. Ruth eventually marries Boaz and becomes the grandmother of David—this widow from Moab was included in the lineage of our Saviour.

I read this quote and it resonated with me and maybe it will for you too: “As you enter ministry, you will be tempted to orient your desires toward doing large things in famous ways as fast and as efficiently as you can. But . . . almost anything in life that truly matters will require you to do small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time with him.”

No matter how off-the-grid, how unappreciated or how menial your work, remember your ordinary ministry can be extraordinarily meaningful.


Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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6 comments on “When Your Life Feels "Too Small"”

  1. “…almost anything in life that truly matters will require you to do small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time with him.” Waaah, but so true. Thanks, Susan - I needed to read that today.

  2. Thank you for this great reminder. Is that quote from the imperfect pastor? It happens to be my favourite book on pastoral ministry.

  3. Hi Lewis. Thank you. I'm not sure where the quote is from as I wrote this article a little while ago. But I just looked it up and it seems to be from the book Imperfect Pastor. - Susan

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