By Brian Jennings
How do I move beyond feeling like my life doesn’t count for much?
Even when we’ve moved to a season of deeper purpose and fulfillment, others around us are asking this question. We need answers for ourselves but also for our friends, siblings, children, and neighbors.
Andy Andrews (author of the Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters) tells a story I won’t forget: The Department of Agriculture recruited scientist Norman Borlaug to run an operation in Mexico to discover how to hybridize corn and wheat in arid climates. Twenty years later, corn production in Mexico doubled and wheat production increased fivefold. Norman won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize and is now credited for saving the lives of two billion people globally. That number grows every day.
But someone else was really responsible for saving those two billion people.
A man with a love of science, botany, and agriculture became the Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice President for FDR—Henry Wallace. The Mexico operation was his brainchild, and he had the resources to make it happen. He also had the wisdom to recruit Norman. So really Henry saved those two billion people.
But someone else was really responsible.
When Henry was only 6 years old, his father, a college professor, asked a brilliant student to take his son on walks. The professor wanted his son to learn about nature and science from this student. The student agreed, and he encouraged Henry in his love for science. So it wasn’t really Henry who was responsible for saving two billion people. It was the college student who invested in a little boy. That college student was George Washington Carver.
But someone else was really responsible.
George’s friend Etta Budd encouraged George to study, not just paint pictures of, the flowers that fascinated him. Etta even helped him enroll at Iowa State University. When she visited and saw George was forced to eat in the kitchen, Etta took him to the cafeteria and ate with him until the other students accepted him. George flourished and was hired as a professor after graduating. His life changed the world, but it also influenced Henry.
This story could go on. The point is: your life counts. God desires to weave your life into his beautiful story. When you begin to wonder about the importance of your life, be assured of three things:
You’ll never see the full impact of your life.
Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho. Her sad story seemed destined for nothingness. To her city, she was viewed as only valuable for one thing. However God had a different story in mind. He gave Rahab the opportunity to show kindness and obedience. She made the most of it (Joshua 6, Hebrews 11:31), and now we read her name in the genealogy of Jesus. Incredible! Nobody on that list could’ve ever imagined the role they’d play in God’s salvation plan. You and I have a hard time imagining God’s plans for us too. We need to accept our role in God’s story, being thankful for the chapters yet to unfold. Be faithful now, regardless of your situation.
Your life counts.
Your life counts because you are valued by God. Achievements and failures don’t alter your value in his eyes. God assured the Israelites: “I have summoned you by name; you are mine . . . You are precious and honored in my sight . . . I love you” (Isaiah 43:1-4). You are also precious to God. He knows your name, your struggles, your dreams. I hope you’ll take some deep breaths today and rest in that truth.
Your days are numbered.
Don’t get stuck in a life of uncertain, noncommittal contemplation. Life reflection ought to propel us to live with passion and purpose. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We can never regain lost time, so don’t waste your time; don’t waste your life. God has prepared good works for you (Ephesians 2:10), so live each day looking for them.
God made you and has a plan for you. We all matter, and we need you. Your life counts, but it’s not just about you. Live a life committed to honoring God. You’ll face challenges and struggles, but they’ll never overwhelm the purpose and joy his Spirit will give.
Brian and his wife, Beth, and their four children live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he preaches at Highland Park Christian Church and writes (brianjenningsblog.com).