Dr. Grant Scarborough
It was the only way to describe him. He was useless. He used to be a nurse and a doggone good one, but the gorilla had climbed on his back. He fought it off once – for eight years he fought it, but it climbed back up again. He was sober for eight years and then one day he had a little extra time. He thought, “It has been eight years, I can have a drink now.” Sitting on the beach with a six pack by his side, he never felt the gorilla, but 20 years later after losing his job, his family, his home – he knew it was back. When do you know that you have hit rock bottom? Is it when the sister shows up with him at the office? Is it when the wife is long gone because they do not know what to do with him? His physical health has deteriorated to the point where my medical eyes thought he would be dead in the next 2 months. He was mumbling incoherently. He had the smell of death. His sister dropped him off at a homeless shelter, and I don’t blame her. I would’ve dropped him off years ago.
Here at rock bottom, pick either definition of useless and it fits:
“not fulfilling or not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome”
“having no ability or skill in a specified activity or area”
His mind, his health, his family, and his career were all gone. Yeah, I do not think he was achieving his intended purpose. And yes, he had lost all ability and skill. He was a blob of mass filling space and time. He was useless.
Some cases are not as severe as this one – but you cannot tell that to the person experiencing it.
Then there’s my other friend. He hears voices, and he is paranoid that something is out to get him. Always in fear, he is incapable of completing any work. Imagine if you were hearing in your head to kill yourself or kill someone else. Maybe it is less subtle voices that say things like “you are worthless” or “someone is out to get you.” My friend was the less subtle type, but the voices were still incapacitating him. He was not fulfilling his intended purpose or reaching his desired outcome. His skill set was gone.
Or maybe you are more like another man – one who was imprisoned long ago. He was working as a slave, and he ran off. The law found him and he found a prison cell. There, he met another prisoner who was locked up for a more righteous cause, and his life was changed. He once was useless to his community. He was not just taking up space, he was dragging others with him into uselessness. That’s why I love this story – from 2000 years ago.
Onesimus met Apostle Paul in prison. He had run away as a slave and made bad choices which caused him to be imprisoned next to Paul. Now Paul writes in Philemon, “I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,” once a troublemaker – now Paul’s child, “whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart… no longer a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother.”
Oh what blessed uselessness.
God is in the business of making useless things useful. Oh, what blessed God! Paul is sending back Onesimus, once useless, now a beloved brother.
My friend with the gorilla found Jesus in the shelter – then spent time in rehab. He then went back to the shelter a useful man. I saw him yesterday. He has been clean almost a year. He is not going to die. I have never seen a physical turn around as dramatic as his. Yesterday, after reading about Onesimus, we talked about giving back. I asked him to consider being an addiction counselor. I reminded him that God still had a purpose for him! Christ replaced the gorilla and life replaced death. Jesus comes to set people free.
My paranoid schizophrenic showed up as well yesterday. I will not say he is healed – neither is my alcoholic – these are life long struggles that people take one day at a time. But, I knew he was better before walking in the room. Our new triage employee, grabbed me before I walked in. “He tried to give me his shoes,” he said. – “What?” “I told him I really liked his shoes and he took them off and gave them to me. I had to beg him to take them back.” I just laughed thinking of my paranoid friend walking around shoe-less. His mind is clearer today, thanks to medicines. He was the one responsible for this whole story – he said he felt so useless with all the thoughts in his head and thanks be to God he feels useful again. I too reminded him that God has a plan for his life and God can use him – even if it is giving your shoes away.
If I was really honest, I would toss myself in that group – and probably you as well because I do not want to go alone. So have fun wading in that alcoholic, schizophrenic pool I just tossed us in. The water is great!
I feel completely and utterly incapable of doing something useful for God. I know that sounds crazy from someone who started a clinic for the poor. But I fear, I get anxious, I want to quit, and I worry. Take this cup from me Lord. I am not as smart as I need to be, I am not as good a leader as I need to be, and I do not have all the skill sets needed to keep this clinic going. Man that is a lot of “I’s” in this paragraph.
Useless – not fulfilling or not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome
So useful must be achieving our intended purpose. As believers, our intended purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him. Our intended purpose is give all to Jesus – to lose yourself in Christ. To lose the “I.”
Oh blessed usefulness!
My friends went from clouded minds to clear minds overcoming alcohol and voices. I desire to become clear-minded by overcoming myself and finding usefulness in loving Christ. Then, and only then, can we be useful. It is no longer about making my name great; it is about making God’s name great. It is about putting all hope and all faith in the Almighty and realizing that Jesus is better than a clinic.
My friend went to Afghanistan to do mission work, and I asked his brother the obvious question: “Is he safe?” “Grant” my friend said, “ he views safety differently than we do. They may kill him, but he is safe. He is safe in the Lord.” And what a useful life he had. He lost the “I” for a better Jesus – even at the cost of death.
I desire to lose the “I,” lose the “my clinic” mentality, for something better — Jesus. Then, I reach my intended purpose of glorifying God. Then, I am useful even if the clinic fails, even if I fail. The reality is I will never fail if Christ is made glorious through me. I will never lose, because Christ will never lose. If this is true, I can take risks and I can take chances in the name of Jesus. God has made me useful.
Thank you God for making useless things useful. You did that 2000 years ago for Onesimus. You do it today for alcoholics and schizophrenics. Please do it for me, too.