Serving Out of Poverty of Health

When you have debilitating chronic pain or illness, perhaps no questions cause more confusion than the ones that arise when you are pulled out of a thriving life of work that benefits the world, only to spend your hours, days, and weeks languishing in bed.

It just doesn’t make sense. Why, God? Why would you take away my thriving career when it took me years to get to this point? Why would you take away my ability to serve and help and contribute?

How easy it is for shame and feelings of failure to arise when those of us with limiting health conditions look around and see others giving so much, while our acts of giving are so small. Our gifts pale in comparison to others who aren’t shackled to a body that refuses to move as it should. We begin to wonder if we should leave the serving to the more able-bodied, those individuals who are actually able to make a difference.

Jesus speaks encouraging words to us when our acts of service feel insignificant and unneeded. In the gospel of Luke, we find the story of the widow’s mite.

“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).

Jesus looked at the widow’s small offering and saw anything but insignificance. He was greatly pleased with her sacrifice, despite the small quantity she had to give. Contrary to the ways of this world, Jesus sees service as an act of sacrifice, not a competition to see who can give the most. Just as the widow gave out of a poverty of financial ruin, in the same way, those who live with debilitating chronic pain give out of a poverty of health.

It is likely that no one sees the depths of your courage when you drag yourself out of bed, standing until your bones ache and your muscles burn just to make dinner for your family. No one cheers you on when you painfully drive your children to school each day, just like every parent is expected to do. No one notices that going to work five days a week is a herculean task for you; it is simply expected that you will care for your family.

God notices when you serve in these ways, and he is pleased. He knows that you are giving out of a poverty of health, and he is honored and glorified by your sacrifice. Though your everyday acts of service may seem normal and regular to those around you, God sees that you are giving all that you own.

When unloading the dishwasher is the Mt. Everest you climb every day. When you play with your kids even though it hurts. When your daily commute is the daily cross you bear. When the only chore you can manage is refilling the toilet paper roll. When all you have to contribute is a kind word, a listening ear, or a smile…

These everyday and ordinary acts of service, when performed under the extraordinary circumstances of chronic pain, are seen by God as extravagant acts of sacrifice. I am convinced that God looks down on these sacrifices in the same way that he looked at the widow’s mite. So many give out of an abundance of health, using up only a small portion of their strength each day, but those in chronic pain give out of a poverty of health, giving away everything we have and all the strength we have to live on.

When we give out of what we have, no matter how small, it is greatly pleasing to the Lord. Jesus looks on these sacrifices and says, “you have done more than all of those who give out of abundance.”


This excerpt was taken from the booklet But God, Wouldn’t I Be More Useful to You If I Were Healthy? In this first booklet in the Chronic Pain and the Christian Life series, explore what it looks like to live a life of work, service, and rest, even when the pain doesn’t go away.Esther book

 But God, Wouldn’t I Be More Useful to You If I Were Healthy? is written by Esther Smith, a counselor at Life Counseling Center and can be found on by clicking HERE.