“Am I doing any good?”

Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes Maes (1656). Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels

My mother-in-law sleeps a lot these days. Usually when I go to see her, she’s dozing in her wheelchair and I have to wake her up to visit. She used to encourage me to wake her up because she could sleep any time, but she didn’t get many visitors and didn’t want to miss a visit because she was sleeping. Nowadays she is more inclined to sleep. Once when I woke her up to visit, she actually told me, “Next time, don’t wake me up.” Usually, though, she does her best to be pleasant, but even then, after just a few minutes, she starts yawning and rubbing her eyes, her head starts drooping, and if she has a pillow propping her up in her wheelchair, she’s nuzzling against it to get comfy again.

Sometimes I am tempted to wonder if it is worth a 40 minute drive round trip to wake her up for 5-10 minutes of groggy conversation that she likely won’t even remember.

Sometimes I can do something that makes me feel more useful: get her a pillow, change her hearing aid battery, wipe her hands and face after lunch if the staff hasn’t had a chance yet, advocate with the staff for her concerning some need or oversight, bring her mail.

But really, visiting her shouldn’t be about making me “feel useful.” It’s about letting her know she’s loved and not forgotten and ministering to her in whatever way she needs.

I think of moms going over the same issue for what seems like the hundredth time with their kids, missionaries toiling away in a foreign country with few visible results, men working faithfully the same jobs to pay the same bills, teachers trying to impart knowledge and wisdom to those who don’t seem to want it. Sure, there are times to evaluate methods, ministries, job situations, etc. to see if there is a better way to accomplish the goal and to evaluate whether some change is needed. But sometimes the only answer is to keep going even though we don’t seem to be accomplishing anything. If we’re where God wants us to be doing what He wants us to do, we can rest in the fact that we’re being faithful no matter what the results seem to be. If we do everything we do as unto Him and for His glory, we are indeed accomplishing something good.

15 thoughts on ““Am I doing any good?”

  1. Yes, Barbara, you’re absolutely right. Faithfulness is measured by God, even if humanly speaking, situations seem hopeless. I personally faced one of those this week. It isn’t always easy to do and maybe not be appreciated and noticed, but God sees the effort. Also, your mother-in-law feels the love, even if she may not be able to express it.

  2. God sees what you are doing even when it seems like it’s to no purpose! I’m sure your mother-in-law knows in some way that you are there. You’re doing a great work in taking care of your husband’s mother!

  3. Even in your question, God has given you the answer. Bless your efforts, you’ll not regret being in His service to your elderly mil!

  4. Yes! You are doing so much good, Barbara. Love this. I used to question myself over this kind of stuff when I’d visit my mom, especially toward the end when she might not even have known who I was or if I was even there. It still matters. Just to have the presence of another human being around that is love incarnate is a gift immeasurable. Even if it is just 5-10 minutes.

    Not to mention what that time does to US when we visit. When my grandmother was sick and just couldn’t seem to die, I often thought perhaps it was for my dad’s sake that the Lord let her linger, so that my dad’s heart could be changed for things that were to come with my mom.

  5. Great post, Barbara. Sometimes, things we accomplish do not come through easily. Only heaven will reveal exactly what your quiet services have accomplish. Blessings to you and your family!

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