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In which God does not want to use me

“God wants to use you.”

I have had to yank that lie right out of the ground, burn it like chaff. I know we mean well, of course we do. We say things like: “oh,  I just want to be used by God!” We sing songs: “use me, Jesus!” and we mean so well. When we say “used by God” we mean that we want our lives to count for something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps it’s because we have bought into the evangelical hero complex, and now we think God wants big, God wants important, God wants power and famous celebrities and cable television, God has big, important work to do in the world, so it’s time to do our part. Or sometimes it’s a bit of false humility. Someone praises our work or effort, and we respond by kicking rocks and looking down: “oh, it’s not a big deal, anyone could have done it, I just want to be used by God.” For some of us, it was our well-meaning churches or our religious training which fed us this lie, and we’ve confused discipleship with being a properly obedient cog-in-the-machine, keeping the institution afloat and substantial. The Church needs power and influence, and we need to play our part (don’t ask too many questions, they only get you in trouble, now). You are the sheep – and every one knows sheep are dumb and smelly and stubborn.

The language we use matters because our words tip our hand. Our words reveal what we truly think and believe about God, don’t they? Perhaps it’s semantics, molehill-to-mountain-making (it wouldn’t be the first time I did that, as we all know), but the word “use” makes the hackles on the back of my neck brindle now, my blood get a bit hot: here I go:  I don’t believe God wants to use me. Not in the least.

 

God does not want to use you.

I wasn’t created to be used. We were not saved, set free, rescued, redeemed, to be used. We aren’t here to work and earn our way, we aren’t pew fodder, or a cog. We aren’t here to prove how worthwhile we are for the saving, there isn’t anything left to earn. God won’t use us up, all of our talents, our gifts, our mind, our love, our energy. Despite our tendency to view ministry as a profession, and the work of the Gospel as worthy of the sacrifice of marriages and attendance at school concerts, our value to God is not buried in our workhorse mentality. Would anyone “use” their beloved? Use their child? Use their friend? If we, being human, know these things, how much more our Father who is Love himself? When we use the word “used” I believe we are missing the wild and crazy upside-down kingdom of God itself, hidden in the very name of Jesus: Immanuel. God with us.

God saved you because he loves you and longs to restore you to relationship. You were rescued and redeemed to be with God. He delights in you. He yearns to walk with you, to be with you, to see you become fully human, fully alive, fully your own self.

God does not want to use you: God wants to be with you because he loves you.

There’s the hint in his name itself: Immanuel. His very name is God with us. Not God to us. Not God using us. Not God for us. Not God managing us. Not God working us. Not God manipulating or puppeteering us – he tipped his own hand right there in Isaiah with the word about the Word, he is God with us.

We aren’t being used by God. See the difference there? we are walking with God, holding his hand, in step wherever we go, whatever we do, “important” or not.

I’ve replaced the word “use” with the nouns and verbs of the New Testament: grow, disciple, walk in the way, beloved children, co-heirs, co-labourers. And don’t forget now: Jesus called us friends.

Friend of God. Child of God. Beloved of God.  

Taste and see: we are invited to the God with us life. In co-creation with the creator, you’re a namer, a maker, an altar builder, a lifter-up of the name and the Cross, and you are a pilgrim, a disciple, made in the image of God, you are the one who walks with God, no shame.

So those things we do in this life? Great. Wonderful. Good on us. Rah-rah.

But I’m learning to just go do them because I love to do them, and I love to do them with Immanuel. I’m learning to let them be the natural consequence of the sacred company I keep, but those things aren’t my identity, they are not The Thing or The Point of my life. They’re not my pathway to God, or my status updates to the Most High, my progress reports. Maybe no one will ever say God “used” me mightily, oh well, that’s just fine.

May our daily work and our voice and our words and our prayers matter in our homes and our churches and our neighbourhoods (right there is the whole world). But we are not “used” – not that. Instead when we love God, when we are free, when we are walking with, then we are a sign and a foretaste of how it was meant to be in the Garden, perhaps, God’s way of living overflowing organically: the disciple, the friend, the daughter, the son, the brother, the heir, the beloved.

 

 

faith, journey

92 Responses to In which God does not want to use me

  1. Kelly March 11, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    At first, I was like, “Wait, what?” But then I was like, “Yes. Maybe the means are the end. Maybe ‘calling’ isn’t about doing things for God, it’s about knowing God.”

  2. Marilee Akland March 11, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you for this. I love where you went with this…it was unexpected and life-giving. :)

  3. Chris Logan March 11, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Question: why then are we sent? I’m not trying to dispute what you say, at all, because I think it’s a needed part of the story – we are not tools in the inhuman sense. I just wonder how we ought to hold it in tension with the missional nature of God, that God being “incarnate” also means that we are to imitate that part of God’s character, which is often called “God using us” to facilitate His recreation and reconciliation of our world. … as you say, He came to be with “us”, not with “me” …

    • Chris Logan March 11, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      incidentally, it shouldn’t get you in trouble, it’s an eloquent, beautiful piece of writing :)

    • Katy March 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      But does being sent have to be something we “imitate” in the sense that we choose to do “this” or “that,” or could it be that it’s us just naturally living, doing, making choices, etc. while being in constant communion with God? That if we love and communion with God, and then do what we want…it will naturally be a life that reflects that missional, redemptive character of God anyway?

      • Chris Logan March 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

        I think it’s a both-and. I think I agree with Sarah, in our culture, this could be a troublesome way to describe that, given the implications of consuming people (even though it’s an old phrase from another era/culture). But it still feels very individualistic, like the gospel ends with me, not us … a colleague of mine says it like this: “it’s not about you, but it includes you.” …

  4. Katy March 11, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    AMEN AMEN! Because I spent years being “used” by God to lead people to Christ, share the gospel overseas, etc., and for the most part…was NOT WITH HIM…and how empty those years feel… Oh how it breaks my heart that we can be used to do such “mighty” things and then come to hear those heart-wrenching words, “I never knew you.” OH that my LIFE would be just that…knowing and being known by Jesus. period.

    Thank you, Sarah.

  5. hopejem March 11, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Another of the gazillion reasons I love you, you read my mind and speak my Father’s heart. He created me for relationship.

  6. Mama Bean March 11, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Oh Sarah. You write my life, dear <3 It's like suddenly the internet is rewriting all the awful lies I've been scratching at itchitchitch and there's new skin there. A new skin for me, God willing, a new skin for his people. Thanks, as always!

  7. Stephanie Spencer March 11, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Oh, how often I have used those words and not thought about the implication! In my mind, the acts we do are for love, because of love, in the power of love. But used? That word does not communicate depth of relationship at all. And it puts this kind of false focus on our actions instead of our God. Thank you for this call to speak differently.

  8. James Prescott March 11, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Sarah, you have such wisdom. This post has been truly liberating and a complete eye-opener. I mean, when we talk about being ‘used’ by people, the people who use others are called abusers, cheats, adulterers. When a Father ‘uses’ their child the meaning on this world is truly horrific and unspeakable.

    So why would God ‘use’ us? Using implies manipulation or deceit. You are spot on – God wants us to simply walk alongside Him, and our lives to be an outpouring of our relationship with Him. Discipleship is a journey with Jesus, not being used.

    You convey a complex message with such creative, intelligent, and non-relgious language – it’s a great post, amazing writing. Thanks Sarah.

  9. Vicki Judd March 11, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Yes.

  10. dawn March 11, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Yes! So often our mindset is that we were saved merely to be Gods “worker bees”. “Onward Christian soldiers” and all that. We take the “harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” stuff to such an extreme that we forget that are first and formost his beloved children. We focus on productivity instead of transformation. I love the idea of letting all the good stuff we do be a natural consequence of keeping company with Jesus. Amen.

  11. Dixie Livingston March 11, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    ‘…natural consequence of the sacred company I keep’. That’s good stuff

  12. Jean S March 11, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    The most powerful thing that someone ever prayed for me was for me to stop knowing so much about God so that I could start experiencing Him. It’s a prayer that still rocks me – I’m not called to know the right answers, or to do all the right things, or even to be nice – I’m called to know God and follow him.

  13. Amy Gaines March 11, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    AMEN. AMEN. AMEN.Thank you for putting these words together and writing out this truth.

  14. Leanne Penny March 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    As I read this, my soul lightened a bit. Thank you.

  15. mizmelly March 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Girl, that silent time you had brewed up a storm! Thank you for this. Thank you.

  16. Alysa Bajenaru, RD March 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Wow, even after I started reading I was like “really? What’s wrong with the term ‘used’?” until I got to this part –

    ***Would anyone “use” their beloved? Use their child? Use their friend? If we, being human, know these things, how much more our Father who is Love himself? When we use the word “used” I believe we are missing the wild and crazy upside-down kingdom of God itself, hidden in the very name of Jesus: Immanuel. God with us.***

    What an eye-opener. Love love love this. Thank you Sarah for walking with God and continuing to set us free.

    • Jenna March 12, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      Ditto this comment.

  17. Jannean March 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Spot on… thanks for this post! I’ve never really evaluated this common idea in the light!

  18. anon. March 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Glad for this post. Always felt that God was going to “use” me in the worst sense of the word; he wanted my life to be miserable because that’s what it means to sacrifice your life. The distorted messages have left me angry, frustrated, and at times, bitter. Still trying to figure out what to do with all of it. Glad for this post; it’s much more freeing than thinking about it the other way.

  19. Redefining Female March 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    “I’m learning to let them be the natural consequence of the sacred company I keep, but those things aren’t my identity, they are not The Thing or The Point of my life. They’re not my pathway to God, or my status updates to the Most High, my progress reports”

    Oh that I will get to the point where all that I do is not tied up in my identity…just an overflow.
    this is beautiful…thank you!

  20. Kreine March 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Initially, I was thinking, “Wait…what? I want God to use me!”

    Then, BOOM! I understood that God does not see me as a means to His end.

    “Taste and see: we are invited to the God with us life. In co-creation with the creator, you’re a namer, a maker, an altar builder, a lifter-up of the name and the Cross, and you are a pilgrim, a disciple, made in the image of God, you are the one who walks with God, no shame.”

    The God with us life…one who walks with God.

    May it ever be.

  21. Marvia Davidson March 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Respond

    WoW this. Is. Deep. My mind just did a total tilt-shift. Taking that word “used” outta my vocabulary. I love that you highlighted how God wants to love us, walk with us, disciple us, and be with us. To be used sounds so predatory so impersonal so disconnected so self serving in debased way. This is NOT our God. God is deeply and most intimately connected to His children. He allows us to “partner”, if you will, with Him – to build the kingdom by building the people. Maybe I should just think of making myself available to God. It is God who uses the mess of our lives to make beautiful things. Mind still in tilt. Good post. More pondering to do.

  22. Everly March 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Yes, I agree. However, when you love someone…especially someone who is perfect and whose will is perfect (ie only God), you want to be useful to them, you want to help them accomplish their goals. I know God doesn’t need our help, but He does ask us to do things that further the kingdom and that could easily be called “helping” or being “useful”, yes? It’s an honor to be “used” by God. Not used like a Kleenex is used, but included in His work. Correct me if I’m missing the point. : )

  23. Morgan Guyton March 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    Since I’m the pastor of a contemporary worship service, the question we always obsess over is: are we worshiping or performing? Usually we ask this question on a very shallow level. Was that last guitar solo gratuitous grand-standing or was it truly Spirit-led? Is the singer trying to showcase her talent or is she singing in a way that the congregation can sing along? But I’ve found that the question really goes a lot deeper than that. Often the very fact that we talk about trying to worship instead of perform is itself a performance, a pious way of talking in which we need for other people to know that we’re thinking about our worship correctly. Performing is when I need to prove that I am correct, useful, helpful, important, etc. Worshiping is when I am able to actually enjoy God in my life and not structure every minute of it to fulfill some kind of utilitarian “supposed-to.” Kids know how to worship. That’s why the kingdom belongs to them. I don’t know how to worship; I’m caught up in my miserable need to be used by God (get 1000 daily hits on my blog, write the book that saves evangelicalism, etc). It’s very apropos to read this; I was just journaling about it this morning.

  24. Virginia March 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    use: (verb) to put into action or service, to carry out a purpose. No, God is not “using” us in the negative sense of the word. But, he does utilize, employ us to carry on his mission and that is to make sure the “world” knows of his love for every human being and what he expects of those who say they “know” him. There should not be one individual on the face of this planet that doesn’t know they are loved by God and that is how God “uses” us to reach others.

  25. Turbenator March 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Really? How about this passage?
    Matthew 25:14-30. Nothing like having an opinion about scripture without actually reading what scripture, you know, actually says.
    14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.
    15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
    16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.
    17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.
    18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
    19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
    20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
    21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
    22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’
    23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
    24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,
    25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
    26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?
    27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
    28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.
    29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
    30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    • learningtolisten March 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

      Again, big difference between SERVING (out of a love relationship with Christ), and being USED.

  26. Linda Stoll March 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    again, amen, Sarah …

  27. Sister Liz Colver March 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Preach it, mama! Love it! Now in the likeness of theological language making our necks bristle, I’m SO interested in why you choose to use masculine pronouns for God so often? I’m sure you have a reason, and it’s intriguing me! I love how and what you write, & I know you’re famously busy, so whenever you feel like discussing/sharing, I’m all ears!!

  28. Eileen Knowles March 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Very thought-provoking. I get the same hackles on the back of my neck when someone uses the word “religious” I hate that word. I smiled when I read this because later this week I have a post running where I use the phrase being used by God. But it does go hand in hand with being willing to step out in faith and walk where He leads us….yes, He is with us.

  29. TransformingWords March 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Brilliant! I can’t think of another word to describe it.

    It does make me ask a question though…

    Paul refers to himself and Apollos as “fellow workers” in 1 Cor. 3:9, and I thought I’d seen this language elsewhere in Scripture, but I don’t have time to find it.

    In any case, we know Paul WORKED, and worked hard. As did the other disciples. Was this their identity? No. Did it flow out of their relationship with God, as you mentioned? Yes.

    So, how does such hard work flow from a walk with God and it not consume the person? Unless that person has a much closer walk with God than he does the work…

    In which case, do we feel “used up” by the work we do, do we find our identity in the “kingdom work” we do, because our relationship with God just isn’t close enough?

  30. James March 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    I see the point you are trying to make and I can appreciate it… but goodness, you made it sound “evil” if someone wants to be used by God. I think it’s a godly desire to want to be used by God… it’s not a nasty thing! Yes, God is all powerful and doesn’t “need” us… but it’s an amazing privilege and good desire to want to be used by God. In fact, I think Christians should ask for God to use them. To be used by God means to lift HIM up… Nothing to do about fame or televangelist… and it’s not a guilt trip to put on people… or nasty thing for a God to use someone. It’s a godly desire to be used by God. And the statement, “God does not want to use you.” is a lie. God DOES want to use you: Therefore whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.” = Being used by God.

    I just think your article needed to be balanced out.

    • BrennaDA March 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      I was one of those who was really ministered to by Sarah’s words. I didn’t feel as if she was telling us that we are “evil” for wanting to be used by God. What this did was challenge me to look at it a different way.

      My pastor tells me how the first prayer each morning that escapes her lips is, “God, show me today what you are doing and let me be a part of it.”

      Sarah’s words didn’t come across to me as negative or burdensome. No, quite the opposite.

      I come away even more challenged – but I want to work with God, partner with God, let God direct me. It’s about Kingdom living and giving space for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives as we work in the lives of others.

      For me, I didn’t read this thinking, “well, now I don’t have to volunteer at church, or give, or serve.” It didn’t change my desire to do any of those things. What it did was change my heart’s perspective. I don’t HAVE to do these things, I GET to do these things. I don’t have to just work work work. I can allow God to breathe through me and as I invite Him to be part of my life, He invites me to be part of His Kingdom.

  31. jesse pals March 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    This is right true. Spoken in dimly lit bars, tennis courts and coffee shops by people who have never liked the thought of being used…by anyone. Love it. Thanks Sarah.

  32. Richella Parham March 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Oh, yes! Yes, yes, YES! Well said, Sarah, and please keep saying it!

    I work with Renovaré, a ministry founded by Richard J. Foster. We talk a lot about Christian spiritual formation. We work together to live life in the kingdom of God. You know what we call the life we seek to live and about which we teach? The “with-God life.” It’s the best way we’ve found to describe it. Life that is truly life!

  33. Adele Chapman March 11, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    The main thing I love here is the idea that ‘the language we use matters.’ Oh yes, so much! I read another post this morning about how ‘shame can be a good thing’ and while on reading it I agreed with the idea of ‘conviction’, the use of the word ‘shame’ is just so problematic. Likewise here I love that you make it clear that God wants to redeem and restore us and to work through us, but ‘use’ us? No. Thank you, Sarah, God is certainly working through your writing! xo

  34. Wendy Douglas March 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    One of the things I love about your writing is that it always gives me something to think about. I have to admit that I am one of those people who asks Him to use me.

  35. Debbie March 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Hi Sarah…what a thought provoking and challenging post. Its worth thinking about and measuring against scripture. I agree with you and…I don’t. Sort of. :) I believe, first, foremost, above all God desires, passionately relationship with us and to be with us (as you have so wonderfully said). Its all about Him and our love relationship with Him. In that “being with us” He seeks to transform and restore us, to nurture us so we live — in intimacy with Him– the life He created us to live. (This is His work in us and that requires — by His strength and work — our surrender to Him) And regardless of our circumstances that is always a wonderous thing — ’cause its all about Him and relationship with and surrender to Him. There’s joy and wonder and awe in that. And then God desires to include us in revealing Himself to the world as we let Him live through us, and as He includes us in His work and His desire is that we bear much fruit (John 15:8). But that fruit comes from His work in and through us and by remaining in Him and letting Him be fully present in us (John 15:5 (well, not sure we’ll ever get that “fully present” thing right — God is able when I’m clueless)…but, whatever God desires to do in and through us always, always, always comes from His work and our cooperation with Him and it is always first and foremost about intimacy with Him. God’s “use” of us is about relationship and fruit and His word — not about humans coming along with their agenda, their plans, their wisdom manipulating us with statements about “God using us” or about us building our own egos (boy have I been guilty of that) by saying (even to self) “Boy, look how God is using me” (do you know what I mean?).

    Sorry for rambling…I think I am more “with you” on this than not. We get focused on us and works and….we need to be absolutely focuse on our God who is wonderous and able and delightful and loving. Out of that he “involves” us in His very sacred and sweet work.

  36. Heather March 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    I love love love this post, Sarah. Thanks so much for writing it. Perhaps my favorite line; May our daily work and our voice and our words and our prayers matter in our homes and our churches and our neighbourhoods (right there is the whole world).

  37. Michelle March 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Sarah, just loved this part:

    “God does not want to use you: God wants to be with you because he loves you.”

    Random other thought…one of my college English professors wrote a book called “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies” by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre. It all about how the words we use in church, politics, etc shape our understanding. I think you’d like it!

  38. Sarah E March 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    This hit home for me, as a working mother and wife living a life of laundry and dishes and supper prep and wiping noses and writing briefs and dropping off and picking up and very rarely doing much of anything that anyone would call “being used by God”. These are words of freedom for me – freeing me from feeling like ‘less’ because I live a simple life. Thanks again Sarah, for reaching into my life and making me take a fresh perspective on things.

  39. Amber Wolf March 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    That’s it.

  40. Nacole Simmons March 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    I’m sort of a new reader, and I LOVE this. Oh my, it says so many things I have always felt but didn’t quite know how to say. What a way with words you have, and thanks so much for stopping by my place with the Women’s day link-up. I hope it was okay I linked up two–I wasn’t sure which one, so just linked both.

  41. Ro elliott March 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Amen…what other relationship would we say…yes use me….More importantly I think it puts God in the wrong light…He longs for relationship…and out of that loving relationship He walks with us as His child…daughter…friend…what grows out of this natural is finding ourselves walking in His presence and His will. Thanks for this …

  42. Jessica Fick March 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Really helpful post! I think we can often fall back on this term as well to feel important or self-righteous. If we are “used” by God then we are someone important, special, connected. By as you wonderfully point out- as parents we love our kids because they are a beloved son or daughter.

  43. Joy March 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I think the word “use”, like many words in Scripture, has come to have a negative connotation in today’s western culture. “Submit” has an equally negative connotation. But it is in God’s Word, and it must be dealt with. Our own personal chafing against any words like this have to be put aside as we come humbly into His presence in His Word, and seek His truth by the enabling of His Spirit. I notice that your post seems insightful, but grounding in God’s word is a missing piece. Some Scripture to consider: Romans 9:21, “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” 2 Tim 2:21, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” Hebrews 6:7, “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God…” Many others to consider in addition to these, in which God Himself clearly communicates that “being used” is one part of His purpose in creating us for Himself. Nothing negative in this at all. Offense is only taken when we do not truly understand what God means by using us, and the offense is only done to our pride.

  44. Turbenator March 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    I have a passage you should read:

    “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” 2 Ti 2:20 E.S.V.

    Next time you have an opinion about a spiritual concept or idea, make sure it squares with what scripture says.

    • learningtolisten March 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      There is a significant difference between being “useful” and being “used”. The key to the article, in my opinion, is not whether we can be “useful” to God, but rather the motivation behind what we do.

  45. Melanie March 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    2 Corinthians 2:14
    But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

  46. Miles O'Neal March 11, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    People, please read (really *read*) and listen (really *listen*). Some of you have completely missed the point, because you have focused so hard on doctrine that you don’t see Sarah, or her heart, or her story. The Gospel, the Good news is all about relationship. We are to be a family, a community, bound by relationship– not whether we all use the same word the same way. It’s so easy to filter everything others say through our experience and beliefs… in which case we totally miss both the point and the relationship.

    Sarah, this blog falls deeply into the “I wish I had written that” category.

    • Jim Fisher March 13, 2013 at 6:18 am #

      Ditto, especially that last sentence. And, oh! How I have tried. Sure, Mary responded to her call by asking God to make her His doule – a servant, a female slave to God. And she became a literal vessel for God delivering a baby who grew to one day deliver her. I get that. I also get that I am a vessel, a literal vessel of the Holy Spirit. And as I look around this coffee shop and silently pray, “Where are you at work here, Lord? How can I help?” at times sounds so much different than “Use me Lord! Make me your slave!” … and other times sounds a lot alike. I am holding the mystery of that loosely and resisting the temptation to figure it out.

      And as I rise silently to embrace and listen to a friend who is having a really bad day, it doesn’t really matter which prayer I prayed … only that I responded in faith with my eyes and heart open to the still small voice who lives within me.

      Thank you Miles. Thank you, again, Sarah. So honored to be on this journey with you.

      • Trace James March 13, 2013 at 7:09 am #

        If I may add a thought: As culture is always changing, so is language. The term “use” was once quite clearly defined as a positive in contrast to “abuse.” As our language has shifted, the word “use” has become more and more identified with the breaking of boundaries as in, “he was a a drug-user,” etc. That is too bad but it is quite unavoidable. God’s use of me can never be inappropriate or a breaking of boundaries, not if I am more who I was meant to be when I am “put to good use” by God. One of the streams of thought through these comments is the idea that one might be “used” without being in relationship with God. In my tradition, we talk about the Life in Grace as having three legs like a good stool. The legs are Piety, Study and Action.

        By piety we mean none of the behavioral trappings which are usually associated with the word; rather, we mean “relationship with God,” pure and simple. As Sarah Groves has put it, “When did we last talk and what has happened since?” Just being and just being loved and loving.

        By study, we mean more than just book-learning. A better word we be, “discovery!” Am I continuing to learn about God and his Word and his world? Am I growing in understanding and wonder?

        By action, we mean many of the things the passages quoted in these responses mean by being useful and being used. It is certainly true that God left a small group of apostles on the earth to teach spread the glad tidings of his love. If the disciples had stayed in the upper room and worshiped, that is grown in piety; if they had spent their lives pouring over the scrolls of Torah, the new Way which Jesus came to begin would have died with them.

        It is easy to get out of balance. In my life I became a student of God and his world. I was not all that sure God liked me very much and I was much too unsure to ever be used by God, that is, to take action for God. I needed what amounted to a new salvation event to get unstuck and to begin to come close to the fire of God’s love for me and then to begin to discover how he wanted my life to be fulfilled in apostolic action.

        In any case, the next time the books are translated the scholars may need to move away from the term “use” because it no-longer conveys what it once meant. And that is why we need to re-translate; to stay in touch with God’s message of love to us and his whole creation.

  47. Miles O'Neal March 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    For those proof-texting, don’t forget that we are to be “co-laborers with Christ”. Not spatulas.

  48. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont March 12, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    How did I forget this?! I knew this once. That God sees me wake up every morning and waits for me, like Phineas to Ferb, to say, “I know what we’re gonna do today!” I was just saying I felt used up. Well, if I do, then its not because of God! He can’t wait to see what his creation does next. Oh, sure, he already knows, but that doesn’t change his joy in each moment of our lives.

    Sarah, I’m blown away by the negativity you’re facing. Keep your head up! God is smiling at you, today. Praise Jesus. God with us!

  49. D.L. Mayfield March 12, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    this is exactly where i am at. how quickly our desire to be used by God turns into us toiling away, desperate for a word of affirmation or a sign that it is all working. we turn into the older brother of the prodigal son, resentful and exhausted, when all along the Father was available to us, was offering us every single good thing. i love this word, friend.

  50. Tanya Marlow March 12, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    You’re doing it a lot, lately – this prophecy thing.

    I shared with someone how our nanny had become a Christian on our landing and how we’d both been in tears at the graciousness of God’s timing in bringing us together and restoring her to relationship with him, and how amazing it felt to be part of God’s work, even literally from my sick bed. And that was the response, “oh, i do think it’s nice that God’s still using you.”

    It left me cold. It took the joy out of it, I couldn’t exactly explain why. After all, I had prayed many a time, ‘here am I, send me’. I had felt discarded in so many ways after being ill, so I could see that that person was just trying to encourage me. But the term ‘used’ made me feel like a project, not like a co-labourer. There are better, more biblical terms we can employ than ‘used’ which has the sense of a second-hand skirt or dirty tissue.

    Thank you for writing this.

  51. Rubi Ruiz March 12, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Beautiful…I’ve been asking God to “use” me for years, not realizing that all He wants is to love me and walk beside me as we labor together for His Kingdom. Wow…it makes sense now that I always felt dissatisfied and unfulfilled when I prayed to be “used.” It’s as if I was never doing “enough.” Thank you for lightening my load and drawing me into a deeper relationship with the One.

  52. Courtney Rowland March 12, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Needed these words about identity today. It’s so darn easy to fall back into the trap of defining ourselves by what we do, how God is “using” us. I never thought of all the implications of that word before. Now it makes me feel icky. Why would we reduce our relationship with Christ to merely being “used” like a puppet or a hand tool? It doesn’t do justice to the depth, the unity, the friendship, the adoption we have with God because of Christ.

  53. LindseyMeyers.wordpress.com March 12, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Oh my, I love this. The shift is subtle but powerful. I have been recently contemplating this concept of no longer wanting to feel this pressure and guilt of doing things “for Jesus” knowing that it is a man-made pressure. But also not wanting the alternative to be a li where I am consumedonly with my and my family’s well-being, knowing that this world is so much greater. And I think a portion of the answer is found in this concept of going about my life and entering into my passions and loves IN Christ. There is inevitably a great deal of world and life-changing power in that. Thank you Sarah!

  54. Sarah Askins March 12, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    This lightens my burden; these beautiful words, this is soul care.

  55. Marni Gallerneault March 12, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Thank-you for this blessed message.

  56. Laura March 12, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    I read this and felt like a literal chain slid off me, that I didn’t even know I was carrying. Of course. Of COURSE it is like this. How marvelous! It is enough to be with God. We are enough.

  57. Heather Kopp March 12, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Wow! Amen! Perfectly said.

  58. Kristi Scott March 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Yes. I recently quit several ministry positions after some family and personal issues came up. The Lord was already telling me to stop serving after I wrote about the Christian service problem in January. I didn’t listen until I realized how little time I have to just BE. It wasn’t until Jesus told me to let go that I saw how much of my faith was based on being “used” by God. Now I long for my faith to be based solely on Him. You’re in my head, Sarah. Great post!

  59. Sandy Jones Fox March 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Perhaps it is just semantics, but yes, I want to be used by God. I want to be part of His Redemptive story in the world and do the works He has prepared before hand for me. (Ephesians 2:10). I want to be about His business for me, as Jesus said he was in Luke 2. I don’t consider that my “use” gets me any merit. It’s just a grateful response to His love for me.
    God doesn’t “use” me in manipulative and negative ways. His “use” for me is based on His love for me and our relationship. I hope that I am open for want He wants me to do.

  60. Rachael Rennard March 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    I love this post because (as all of your posts) it makes me think. I had never really thought of the term “used” in a negative light. It really jumped out at me when you said “Would anyone use their beloved? Their friend? Their child”. Certainly not. For me, I had always associated the term “used” with being “used as an instrument” or “used as a vessel.” Now I have something to pray about and think about. Thanks!!

  61. Bridget March 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    A natural consequence of the sacred company … I love that. Vine and branches. So much rest there.

  62. 1WayPublishing March 13, 2013 at 3:11 am #

    Well written and provocative…in a good way. However, I can’t help thinking that the first two thirds of your post present a false dichotomy. Does it have to be doing versus being? Can’t it be being-leads-to-doing? Of course God doesn’t want to use (as in enslave) us, however he does want to make use of everything He has deposited in us. And this all flows best when in springs from Authentic relationship.

    I think you hit this balance head on when you said:

    “But I’m learning to just go do them because I love to do them, and I love to do them with Immanuel. I’m learning to let them be the natural consequence of the sacred company I keep, but those things aren’t my identity, they are not The Thing or The Point of my life.”

    This also highlights the importance of proper work/life balance, which is a point very well made. I am glad I stumbled upon this blog.

  63. Kamille Scellick March 13, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Here I am stealing a moment away at my computer to finally leave you a note. I read this, and tears began to form. Day later I read the comments and cringed at some people not hearing what you’re really talking about. I get it, may seem like semantics to some. I want you to know that I really think these words are Jesus, the Spirit breathing new life into me.

    So, I don’t know if adding Evelynn was a hard transition for you. I don’t know how postpartum in general is for you. But this time around, I am head over heals in love with this little girl of mine. Like, just “wow!” And still, there’s a lot of shame, past guilt around my first, Veronica and I feel like God is there testing me time and again. Like I cannot come to him like I could and simply ask. I’ve been racking my brain and heart about all of this. Where did this notion of God being more judge or critical or (fill in the blank) come from? Then, I see my own heart toward my girls and see that critical, judging.

    I started reading some Brene Brown and finding truth in the seeing myself worth loving. But, your words here hit a deeper truth as well. Maybe, just maybe Jesus simply loves me as is. It’s not all complicated and stuff and past words prophetically spoken over me already I’ve long forgotten. Sarah—I really believe God gave you these words even if just for me. I don’t get moved like this by too much in the online space. Thank you for being faithful.

  64. Stephanie March 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Language is powerful. The specific words that we choose to talk about our friends, our marriages, our careers, and our relationship with God…those word choices MATTER.

    Thanks for starting thought-provoking conversations like this one, Sarah Bessey. You are one-of-a-kind and we all love you for it.

  65. mid life mama March 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    once again,Well said ! :) i’m so relieved to find Rational things being said about Christian faith ! true things –

  66. Jon March 15, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Lovely, lovely blog. Thank you. I am a pastor, and I posted an excerpt from this blog as an encouragement to our community here in So Cal.

  67. Dave March 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    I agree with her main point. Its just written in a way that’s misleading. I assume its written partially that way on purpose to get people talking and more traffic to her site. Its ok to write articles but the comments section is not a place to have a real conversation. And for issues like this, real conversation is what is needed. I just seems that all too often people at church spend most of their conversation time talking about what was on TV last night instead of things that matter.

  68. Doubted Thomas July 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    I was willing to bet my hat that you filtered the comments, and deleted any that didn’t agree with you. I appreciate you leaving the opinions of those who disagreed with you. For at least 16 years now, I’ve been begging God to show me what to do. To give me a purpose; to serve Him. To glorify His name with my talents.
    I’ve heard my voice echo back for so long now I was beginning to give up. Honestly, that nagging sensation won’t stop telling me to. I pray every night, that God at least ….anything…. And don’t give me that ‘thou shalt not test the Lord’ crap. If He loves me SO much, why do I hear nothing but silence, and instead of dreams guiding me, I’m plagued with demonic nightmares that would send Wes Craven running?
    Does it sound like I’m ‘with God’ to you? I’d cut off my hand in a heartbeat if he asked me to, and playing the piano has been the only way I’ve found solace. Vanity. I hate being the negative one here, and I truly apologize for it, but I googled as a last ditch effort before giving up…and came here.
    To be honest, it makes sense, and that’s the problem. I simply do not understand why He’s left me to drift into oblivion. In my teens, I was astrally projected to somewhere….high up on a mountain made of lightning. It wasn’t a dream. An angel woke me from sleep, and whispered a foreign language in my ear. I immediately shot out of my body and was led by her/his hand up this mountain.
    At the top, was a table, with two picture frames. Both of a Zeus-looking old man (Yes, I understand the irony), but one was golden, the other greyish blue.I can’t remember the rest.
    Since, I’ve had at least 5 mind-blowing lucid visions, in which it was inferred to me that I had a duty to carry out for God. Beyond anything any form of media has created…. yes, yes, before I boast, thorn in my side, etc. I know….
    Yet, here I am, alone in silence, broken, and trying desperately to convince myself I’m still here for a reason. Sure, it sounds selfish, but what organism can survive without purpose? I won’t create a child, and I doubt seriously I’ll marry. My art and music seems dark as hell (literally), and my face is paralyzed, so I cannot smile.
    Tell me I’m in a relationship with God right now. Heh, no, I know better. But it’d be nice if He would even slap me on the back of the head, just once. A tap on the shoulder. I’m so alone and cold, broken and lost. I was bapitzed 3 years ago, and broke my back the next week. I didn’t get upset with God for a SECOND about it. I trusted that it was part of His plan for me.
    I’m sorry, this is selfish of me to post here as if you guys are an audience to listen to my woes. I’m just so alone and terrified. The moment I wake up, I dread getting my crumbling body up, to have absolutely no purpose. I go to sleep, and pray for around an hour, until dream images start muddling into my prayer, at which point I apologize and close the prayer. Every night, just asking…for anything…
    I don’t know why I’m still typing. You know, the parable talent some have mentioned here is a good point. I’ll be damned (literally) if I just sit around doing nothing, saying ‘I’m with God.’
    He didn’t grant me life to sit on my ass. Used? Honestly, it would be a blessing compared to the silence and emptiness.
    Oh, no, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand it’s my fault, not His. I’m not stupid. God’s perfect. So…maybe a hint as to why I’m a lifeless satellite drifting without aim would be nice. I think subconciously I’m hoping He reads this-how cute is that? He is within my everything, and I resort to a comment board.
    I’ll stop babbling and muddying up your forum, but I’m at the end of my rope. In conclusion, I did see the wisdom in your message, but I believe you’re 1/2way there. Cause you can only serve one master (Rom 6-16), and I have NO IDEA HOW TO. I pray constantly.
    Luckily, the demons stopped harrassing me-I think it’s because they know they don’t phase me.
    Because they know if God asked, I would become an exorcist. Without hesitation. Based on my dreams and visions, I could almost SWEAR that was what He wanted me to do for Him. Yet, the Catholic church has proven their interests are in money, power and control (deal with it. I said it, and you know it’s true.). Protestant churches politely usher you out if you ask about exorcisms. That leaves a world of demons running rampant, although men (and women) do their work for them as it is.
    …sigh. What the hell am I even talking about anymore? I see glimpses sometimes….of the road ahead…
    But then I remember how much of a fool I am, and how much I delude myself into thinking I’m anything.
    I do not have ONE friend. My family can’t stand me, because I’ve mentioned God once or twice, casually. In their eyes I threw bibles at them, but I really said so very little.
    Right, right, ‘but Jesus is my friend’. Well, if you guys see Him, could you ask Him to give me a call? As far as I can tell, He’s as disgusted with me as everyone else is, and I already failed. Damaged goods, cursed, and doomed to live an empty, meaningless half-life filled with the definition of void.
    DO I SOUND SAVED TO YOU?
    I want nothing on Earth. NOTHING. Not one @$#%@#ing thing, other than to be with God, through Jesus.
    But I’m starting to think He’s screening my calls.
    Not that you need it, you have my permission to delete this negative pile of crap post. And no, I don’t feel better.

  69. nobody July 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Just another pretentious, false-comfort piece of crap. You delete comments that don’t agree with you. You leave the ones that make your ‘message’ sound profound.
    Delete my comments all you want, you know Who is watching. I knew you were in it for the money the second I saw your picture.

  70. nobody July 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    YOU ARE what is wrong with Faith in this day and age. ‘Keep the comments that make me look good, delete the ones that might expose what little I care for the people posting..’
    Good thing I turned to God to pray, instead of looking for wisdom in such a pretentious hole. I feel sick just returning.
    Better delete that one too, huh. Cause it might make those pretty blue eyes a little more realistic, by showing what’s behind them. Dollar signs.

  71. nobody July 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    OH YOU SAVED ME! there, you can keep that one posted.

  72. nobody July 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    And didn’t Paul tell you to keep your mouth shut? This is why. Because when the crap hits the fan, women crumble.

  73. Steve Roberts February 27, 2014 at 3:54 am #

    Wonderful indeed!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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