Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When You Wonder If Your Work Even Matters…

by Lucinda Secrest 

Katherine was a human computer.

A black woman in the mid-century America NASA space program. Among other responsibilities, she calculated the trajectories for both the Mercury and Apollo missions.

But no one knew about her work.

Until the recent book and movie “Hidden Figures” revealed the true story of the “West Computers” – women who were at the heart of NASA’s advancements. Yes, even Katherine G. Johnson.

“They worked through equations that described every function of the plane, running the numbers often with no sense of the greater mission of the project. They contributed to the ever-changing design of a menagerie of wartime flying machines, making them faster, safer, and more aerodynamic. Unlike the male engineers, few of these women were acknowledged in academic publications or for their work on various projects.”

We all want our work to matter.

Moses prayed, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”(Psalm 90.17)

I pray a similar prayer. “Make the small and large things You have called me to do help bring light and hope to the world.”

In the Old Testament Hebrew, the word for confirm or establish means “firmly fixed, stable, secure.”  We all want to believe that all we have invested in during this life—the words we have written—will be appreciated and make a difference.

But there are no guarantees.

How do we ever know the results of “the work of our hands?” For author Philip Yancey, writing is a very isolated occupation. “We write in desperate hope that the sometimes-tedious tasks of researching, composing, and polishing words will eventually become a virtual chain that links us to others.”           

Still, he is amazed at some responses to his books. “A woman in Lebanon told me how much my book “Disappointment with God” meant to her. She read it a few pages a night in the midst of the civil war there, in a bomb shelter by the light of a kerosene lamp. Another woman in Beirut wrote that my book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” helped her have a better attitude toward the P.L.O. guerrillas who had commandeered her apartment.

I read such letters and think to myself, I really had in mind a chronic illness not a civil war, and neighbors who play loud music, not guerrillas who move in uninvited. Again and again God has surprised me by using words written with mixed motives by my impure self to bear fruit in ways I never could have imagined.”

When I am tempted to wonder if my writing, speaking and teaching will ever make a difference, invariably I will get a note from someone sharing the impact of my words. They read my book or heard my presentation. It was used in their life. This spurs me on tremendously!

Did you feel like quitting today? Because you have absolutely no idea if your words will ever reach and touch anyone?

Friend, the same God who calls you is the God who will use you. In His way and in His time. Will you trust Him and keep writing and speaking?

Author Robert Benson points out, “The real reason we cannot quit is because of the friends, known and unknown to us, who have somehow come to expect that the bits and pieces of our personal lives do indeed reveal the places where the One Who made us has made an appearance will shed light on the ways such appearances are taking place in their own.”

Do your work – as unto the Lord.

"The same God who calls you is the God who will use you—in His way & in His time." @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

When You Wonder If Your Work Even Matters... @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is the author of 12 books, contributing author to 25 books, and has published in more than 50 magazines. Her books and studies include: Dwelling Places and Live These Words. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she also studied at the Wheaton Graduate School of Communication. A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and blogs monthly for The Write Conversation. Cindy has served on faculty at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Florida Christian Writers Conference, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and co-directs "reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing." Lucinda is a storyteller who delights in weaving grace and mercy into ordinary life situations. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. She blogs weekly at www.EncouragingWords.net


  1. Thank you for this word of encouragement today, Lucinda! I'm writing out Psalm 90:17 today and taping it to my writing desk. Blessings...

    1. Cathy, so glad this was an encouragement to you. Psalm 90 is amazing!

  2. Such an encouraging post! Thank you, Lucinda!

    1. Mary Ann, keep on writing. I think I met you 100 years ago at the Greater Philly conference and look, we are still going strong!

  3. Lucinda, great post! I am especially drawn to this line you shared from Philip Yancey: “We write in desperate hope that the sometimes-tedious tasks of researching, composing, and polishing words will eventually become a virtual chain that links us to others.” I'm a very relational person, and as a writer, I like the "virtual chain that links us to others" concept. I am in the process of defining for myself what it means for me to be a writer. I had some pretty naive notions when I started this journey. I'm discovering how unimportant those were and how fulfilling the unexpected parts have been...such as virtually linking to others. :-) Thank your for sharing this post!

    1. Karen, thanks for your words. Yes, we have to believe that our words link us to others, even if we never hear from them. God is in charge of the fruit of our labor. Keep writing!

  4. Ooohhhh how I needed this today!! Thank-you. I shall keep this an reread it periodically.

    1. Glad this was timely for you, Debbie. Keep doing what God is calling you to do. Ripples...

  5. Replies
    1. Marilyn, you are so welcome. Glad you enjoy the Write Conversation. Keep writing!