A few years ago, I attended a presentation by a man who had made a mission out of visiting those who had been incarcerated and helping them turn their lives around.
Some pastors in the audience asked the man how he could keep going back and putting such effort into the inmates, when a high percentage of them in the past had gone back to their old ways as soon as they were released from jail.
Without even a look of discouragement, the man said he left the judgment of his success and failure up to God.
That way, he said, he could befriend new inmates with fresh enthusiasm, even having just lost the fight with someone in whom he had invested many hours of care and concern. His words were a lesson I kept.
They brought understanding when I was introduced to a poem that was on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta.
Titled "Anyway," the poem is a version of the "Paradoxical Commandments" written by Kent M. Keith and published in 1968, and speaks of loving others, being truthful and building good things in spite of how the world may only tear down what you work so hard to create for yourself and others.
Recently, I recalled these words when comforting a discouraged friend who didn't feel successful after having devoted much time to a particular cause.
I soon saw a miracle unfold.
After my friend tuned out what people were saying and allowed God alone to judge, this friend started being more inspired in how to accomplish the goal.
I realized I had seen someone let go of the world's judgments and let God do the guiding toward better ways to serve Him.
The result was more efficient effort.
I found several Bible Scriptures on this subject. For example:
* Micah 6:8 in the English Standard Version: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly."
* James 1:27, also in the English Standard Version: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained."
* Deuteronomy 6:5-9 in the New International Version: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
"Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
"Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, is described as an absolute failure when judged by people's definition of success. For 40 years, he served as God's spokesman to those who refused to listen or respond.
He was rejected by his neighbors, his family, the priests and prophets, friends, his audiences and the kings.
This prophet lived a poor and deprived life. He was thrown into prison and into a cistern.
But the Scriptures state how, in God's eyes, he was a success as he obediently and courageously proclaimed God's word.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.