How do you get outside yourself when you're crowded inside, and you need to get outside yourself for a breath of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fresh air.
Regrets about your past. Worries about the future. Negative thoughts swirling around inside your head. Emotions bubbling up inside. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a job and concerns about what to do next. Family issues. Relationship issues. Times of spiritual darkness and aridity. Times of being stuck on the same sinful treadmill you've walked on for years. The list can go on and on.
You name the interior poison that gets locked up inside you, eating away at your physical health, your mental alertness, your emotional equilibrium, your overall wellness, and your relationship with the Lord.
It’s Time to Open Up Your Window
Here is one word to help you open up your mental and emotional window to release your self-absorption with all that's inside you---volunteer.
"Volunteer? I don't have time to volunteer! I’m too busy. I have too much going on," you say.
I hear you.
Volunteering is time well spent for the heart, mind, body, and soul. But almost half of Americans, when asked about volunteering, say they would like to, but just don't have the free time.
Others suggest volunteering opportunities don't match their interests and can be inflexible, not matching their schedules. They say they have "better things" to do, more productive things.
We are hard-wired by God to serve others. The more we give, the happier we feel, even when we are experiencing tough times ourselves. When you are happier and feel better about yourself through volunteering, you become more confident in your ability to accomplish things in other areas of your life.
Volunteering Is Good Medicine
Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. Helping others helps relieve depression and anxiety, improving your mood, reducing stress. Again, your focus is changed. You outward. You get outside yourself.
When you make time to volunteer, you make new friends. Your social network expands, and your social skills improve, especially if you tend to be a loner. You develop a support system.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the social contacts you make in volunteering can help change your focus from your loss to helping others. You will also establish meaningful connections to others that will relieve to some extent the effects of your loss.
Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose, especially when you are searching for meaningful activity and a reinforced personal identity. This is why volunteering is great source of purpose for middle agers who are looking for a new identity, retirees who are looking for something to do.
Serving others also gives you an opportunity to acquire new skills. As you expand your social network by volunteering, you may also meet people who can be beneficial, and enhance your resume.
Serving others also opens windows to new experiences, new interests, new passions in your life. It can broaden your perspective on many things as you gain knowledge about other ways of doing things, other ways of life and cultures.
In God's Words
"And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
In the Words of Others
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” William Shakespeare
“Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who have need of a man’s help– something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For, remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here, too.” Albert Schweitzer
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi
In Your Words
If you’ve volunteered in the past, describe the feeling you had during and after your experience helping people. Would you consider it a “win-win” experience? How does the promise of Isaiah 58:10 speak to how service will benefit you?
Have you turned down volunteer opportunities? What were your reasons? Consider how you could have volunteered and how the experience could have helped you given all its benefits described above.
Reflect on 1 Peter 4:10 and recall times when you felt the Lord leading you to make yourself vulnerable by volunteering to use your God-given gifts. What were your thoughts at the time?