When we labor in obscurity, he is near (Psalm 139:5). When our work escapes the notice of every human eye, it does not escape his (Luke 12:7). He catches every whispered prayer, every Godward groan. He stands ready at every moment to mark the smallest tasks we perform in faith. The wise man tells us why: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). God delights not mainly in the greatness of the work, but in the faithfulness of the worker.
When the Holy Spirit cultivates his fruit in our lives, he often works in ways we would never pray for (Galatians 5:22–23). To grow the fruit of love in us, he may give us an enemy; to grow the fruit of peace, he may allow conflict to come near. And to grow the fruit of faithfulness, he may send us to forgotten places.
Forgotten places are those corners of the world where no one seems to be watching, where our efforts go unseen, unthanked. Perhaps we labor among diapers and dishes, cubicles and emails. Or maybe, more painfully, among unfruitful mission fields, rebellious children, or spouses whose love has cooled. All of us live in forgotten places sometimes; some live there all the time.
Drudgery as a Disciple
We should beware of underestimating the spiritual strain of such monotonous and seemingly unrewarded toil. The daily duties in forgotten places may be small, but pile them up over months, years, or decades, and you may start to sympathize with Oswald Chambers when he writes,
We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.
Chambers may overstate his case — but not by much. In truth, the forgotten places can feel like a wilderness, and many days come when we find ourselves searching for something to keep us going, some water from the rock to sustain us in this desert (Psalm 105:41).
We will find it, not in the forgotten places themselves, but in the God who sent us here, who is with us here, and who promises to reward us here.