By AUSTIN FORTENBERRY
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9
This verse is one I return to frequently. Whether because I often grow “weary of doing good,” cherish the promise that doing good will not go unrewarded, or need the reminder that God’s timing is perfect, this verse challenges and encourages me almost daily.
When I was named a Christian Leader of the Future by (then) Metro Christian Living magazine nearly a decade ago, I really didn’t know how difficult faithfulness could be; to me, the world was conveniently black and white, and faithfulness a simple matter of choosing “right.” As time has passed, I have learned that faithfulness to God is much more complex than my 18-year-old self might have liked.
The fact is, doing good can be hard. We may strive to obey the Lord in difficult situations, but the result will not always match our effort: The difficult relationship, for which we have taken all steps toward reconciliation, remains broken; the friend making detrimental choices, despite our countless hours of conversation and prayer, still makes those choices; the job that has become a source of significant anxiety, even after prayer, persists unchanged. We may feel that our efforts have been ignored or even rejected, not only by those around us but by God himself.
Yet it is into these situations that Galatians 6:9 speaks. God, in His omniscience, knows that our feeble human hearts will struggle and grow tired of doing right. But spiritual growth is not a matter of instant gratification.
As He does throughout scripture, God uses the language of agriculture to symbolize spiritual growth and faithfulness. Even I, a (very) novice gardener, know that working with plants, while rewarding, can be quite frustrating. Plants’ initial growth may be quickly offset by disease, bugs or weather conditions outside my control. When this happens, I know with proper care and time, the plant can flourish again, but I’m still frustrated.
As with gardening, faithfulness will, at times, be beautiful and easy. The steps are clear, the pathway free of obstacles, our feet ready to run. Maybe that is where you, whether a newly named Christian Leader of the Future or a decades-long Christian, find yourself. If so, thank the Lord! Yet like the flower, that growth will at some point appear offset by difficulty. The path will become, at best, cloudy and at worst, invisible. You may wonder what you’ve done wrong, or worse, what God has done wrong.
Yet God does not leave us to wonder what faithfulness looks like in times of confusion. Throughout scripture, God reveals what He finds good, commendable and lovely. Micah 6:8 rings true: “He has shown you, O man, what is good.” No matter our situation, what’s good, right and pleasing to the Lord never changes.
In challenging moments, the Lord calls us to remain faithful to Him, and He promises our trust will not be fruitless. No matter the pain or difficulty — a harvest is coming. Not in our time, but His.
For the newly named Christian Leaders of the Future, the steps to faithfulness might appear crystal clear: You’ve chosen your college and (perhaps!) your major, and the next four years seem like they will be smooth sailing. The catch? They won’t be.
Somewhere along the way, the steps to faithfulness that once seemed clear will blur. In those moments, God calls us to continue to trust Him and do good. He promises that through faithfulness in these difficulties (call it “pruning,” if you like the gardening analogy), we’ll find great joy and great reward — the greatest reward being more of Himself.
No matter who you are or where life takes you, remember you have a heavenly calling. At times, you will falter in your pursuit of that calling, but praise God that we are not left in the weariness or in the faltering. We have a God who meets us in our weariness and says, “Therefore, strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead” (Hebrews 12:12).
Doing good will never go unrewarded, for it is in faithfulness in the difficult places and spaces that we find ourselves most nearly encountering God. He promises us His blessing, and He promises us Himself — and that is enough to sustain through a lifetime of faithful journeying.
Austin Fortenberry is a high-school English teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. He is a member of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison. His favorite things include running, reading, and exploring the world with his dog, Sawyer.