When You Don’t Feel Like You’re Making a Difference
Are you pouring your heart into teaching and feel like it's just not working? Maybe you aren't seeing the results you want, or you wonder if you're making a difference after all. Join us as we discuss how to handle these disappointments and work with God to fulfill the calling He has given us.
what do you do when you don’t feel like you’re making a difference?
At Teach 4 the Heart, we emphasize that we are here to help you make a difference. But here’s the rub- what do you do when you don’t feel like you’re making a difference? What do you do when you’re not seeing the success that you want? How do we handle that?
There are many times in my life when I’ve felt I wasn’t making a difference. I felt this way as a teacher and now I feel this way at times when doing Teach 4 the Heart. Sometimes things don’t go the way I want and what I’m trying isn’t working. God has been teaching me a lot about how to handle this and I want to share with you.
1. remember that growth takes time
Growth takes time, both in ourselves and in our students. This means that we can’t always see the progress that we want in real time. Maybe you feel discouraged about your own abilities and progress in your teaching skills. Or you are working with students day in and day out, putting time, energy, effort, and prayers into all that you do with them, but aren't seeing the return.
Remember, growth takes time. You may not always see that progress, especially in the day-to-day. Sometimes you don’t notice it for months or even the whole year! On occasion, the seeds that you’re planting and the work that you’re doing doesn’t really take off until the student is with another teacher in a future year. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t making a difference!
Take, for example, an exponential growth curve. It can start very small, with progress you hardly notice, but then meets an inflection point and the curve takes off. Sometimes you’re making these incremental changes that feel like they’re doing nothing, but the tiny progress is heading to that inflection point.
Just because you don’t see progress doesn’t mean it isn’t happening; we just don’t always see it. Growth takes time. You don’t always know what’s happening underneath, so be patient and persevere.
2. Realize that God calls us to faithfulness, but the results are His
This idea goes against what society often tells us. Society says that you are strong and you can accomplish anything, but this isn’t exactly what we see in the Bible. Instead, we see God calling us to be faithful and we read that the results are in His hands. It’s not about grinding and forcing things to happen; it’s about showing up every day and working heartily unto the Lord in the task He has called us to. We are called to speak truth, to love, and to be faithful. We are not called to change hearts, minds, or lives; only God can do that.
This is true when working with people, but also in day-to-day work. When you plan a lesson and it doesn’t go the way you want, it’s not a time to get completely discouraged. All you can do is your best. Wisdom says you can still learn from what happened, examine your practices, and seek to improve, but the results are not always in your control.
The danger of always trying to grow and improve is that sometimes we try to force success on ourselves. I love what Tony Horton says in P90X, “Do your best and forget the rest.” It's so true! There’s only so much we can do and the outcome is ultimately up to God.
God doesn't call us to results, He calls us to faithfulness. In the end, we have to trust that if it doesn't turn out how we expected, He is in control, He has a reason, and He is still working.
3. Examine our hearts for idols and surrender them to God
In modern times, most of us are not tempted to bow down and worship statues. But idolatry in our heart definitely still happens. In ancient days, people looked toward an idol to grant them their heart’s desires; they went to idols for fertility, crops, etc. They put their trust, hope, and identity in these other gods.
We still do this nowadays, looking at things besides God to give us our hopes, dreams, desires, and identity. Perhaps you make being successful or a cause your idol. Teaching, particularly being successful at teaching, can sometimes be what you find your identity in. However, on the days you're not feeling like a good teacher, you will think, “Now what am I?” It’s an identity crisis.
Being a teacher, being successful, having a mission, etc. are good things. But if we are finding our identity in them, if they’re our deepest desire, we have made them idols. Our identity and our hope must be in Christ alone. Out of the deep fulfillment in Christ, our teaching should flow. Sometimes when we are so discouraged, it's a sign that we have elevated our desire to make a difference too high on our priority list.
When I stepped away from teaching to have my first baby, I had to work through this because I had made teaching too important in my life. We have to cast down the idol and say, “God, you are enough. If I’m never a successful teacher again, I still have my identity because it’s in You. If I never see the results I want, I can still have hope, fulfillment, and joy in God. If I’m looking at You first, I don’t need these other things to have contentment.”
If you’re really struggling with this, check out the book Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. These idols have ways of creeping into our hearts. When God is on the throne, we can approach our work with the right framework. Even if the results don’t come, it doesn’t matter as much, because we are working for God.
4. pray for God to work as we will seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and enabling
Prayer is something that’s so vital, but it doesn’t always feel like the biggest priority. Sometimes when things aren’t going right, the tendency is to buckle down and fix it ourselves. What we actually need is prayer. We need to work hard, yes, but we need to pray harder.
God is the one who controls the results and we need His enabling, His joy, and His strength. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us. He knows what we need! We can pray for God to lead us and trust He will at the right time. We can ask the Holy Spirit to work in our students’ lives as well.
5. Work each day in cooperation with the Spirit
We must work with our whole hearts for the Lord and not for men. This means coming to God daily and praying, “God, I am yours. Work in me and through me. May I follow your spirit’s leading.” Then, work each day for the Lord. No matter what happens, whether your principal loves or hates your lesson, whether your students are mean or appreciative, work this day for the Lord and know that the results are in His hands.
We warmly invite you to watch our free on-demand training: How to Teach Effectively without the Stress, which will help you examine and eliminate common stressors and give you a path forward to be an even more effective and impactful teacher.
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