When It Feels Like Your Love and Service Fail

In the world of online business, there’s a heavy emphasis on evergreen content.

This is content that remains visible and easily accessible for an extended period of time– meaning months, even years into the future.

For example, I was recently struggling to remember an inspiring quote I had heard. After a quick Google search, I found the quote in a talk given by Henry B. Eyring in 1993. Thirty years after it had originally been shared, I was able to quickly find it again, and it was still useful and relevant.

Compare this to a post on Instagram. This kind of content is only visible for a few hours. If someone wanted to view a specific post thirty years down the road, there are very few options for finding it besides scrolling through thousands of posts– and that’s if Instagram is even still in business. If the account were to get hacked or disabled, or if Instagram closed its doors, the  post would be lost. 

The most successful online business owners understand the principle of evergreen content and focus on first sharing their information in a way that lasts for longer amounts of time and then simplifying this content to share on social media. If it’s hidden in the feed a few hours after posting, that’s ok because there are other ways to find it. 

One of the marvels of the Lord’s divine plan is that through His eternal perspective, all of our righteous tasks in this life are evergreen. 

The adversary would have us believe that there are expiration dates on the love we share, the testimonies we bear, and the service we give. This leads us to discouragement when the invitation to our ministering family goes unaccepted or the counsel given to our children goes unheeded.

“I failed,” we mistakenly believe. “It’s too late now. My time and efforts were wasted, and the opportunity to connect with my neighbor, my child, or my friend is gone.” 

In a world where these such special opportunities feel rare, this belief is devastating. When else will the stars align in such a way that places you on a neighbor’s doorstep in their time of need? When else can you testify of the Savior to the wayward child who is so resistant to discussions of Christ? When else will you be able to invite a friend to join your family at church?

So to be left standing on an unanswered doorstep, to be brushed off after sharing words you felt so prompted to speak, and to see the seats you reserved remain empty is heartbreaking and frustrating. It often leaves us feeling like we failed. Surely if we had understood the prompting correctly and acted as the Lord desired then we would have seen a mighty and immediate change of heart, right? 

Not always. In fact, I would dare say not often. 

But all is not lost. 

My friend, each of these acts is evergreen.

The Lord has orchestrated our lives in a wisdom and order that we rarely understand. The choreographed interactions of our lives with the lives of those around us far surpass the simple cause and effect we are accustomed to in mortality.

It is rarely as simple as:

I leave the bad movie, my friend notices, he asks about my beliefs.
I invite a friend to an activity, she accepts, she gets baptized. 

I hold family scripture study, my child feels the spirit, he serves a mission. 

The Lord is planning for the happiness and success of all of His children, but His focus is often days, months, and years in advance. He is planning for our happiness and success into the eternities.

If we don’t see the results we wanted and expected, we didn’t mess it up. The prompting wasn’t wrong, and those we were serving aren’t too far gone. 

The Lord is creating a path for all of us to return home. Sometimes the path of others takes turns that we deem long and winding and wrong. But it is the path the Lord designed for them, and it will always lead them home.

Due to the expert, eternal engineering of the Lord, the stones laid in this path are not always laid in an order that makes sense to us. This means that the words we speak today do not always help those we love take the next step right now. And it might not help them take the next step tomorrow or even before they reach the age when we think they really should take it. 

But that’s ok. 

The Lord offers us opportunities to serve in evergreen ways. This means that each act of service and each expression of love and counsel can be quickly and easily accessible far beyond the window in which it was given. These acts never expire. They never become irrelevant or out of date. And thanks to the gift of the Holy Ghost, these acts will never be forgotten.

Thirty years from now, someone will recall exactly where she was standing when you spoke the words you felt prompted to say. The Holy Ghost provides this as he brings all things to our remembrance, and that includes the love and service we so courageously and valiantly offered, no matter how long ago it was given. 

You are probably haunted by events that seem failed and unfinished. This may be the long thread of unanswered messages to your ministering sister, the testimony met with your teen’s rolled eyes and a, “Whatever, Mom,” the treat left on a doorstep with your phone number that your neighbor in need never called.

“I should have said this,” you may be thinking. Or worse you may think, “I never should have said anything at all.”

Have peace, dear friend. You did well. The prompting came, you heeded, and for that you will be blessed. 

I hope you are able to see the day when the Lord takes those you love to the stone in the path you so dutifully helped lay. Then you will see just how much your love and influence affected another’s life. Then you will see just how pleased the Lord is with your efforts. Then you can end the harsh judgment you give yourself for not doing it right, for not doing it well. 

For many of us, that time won’t come in this life. It will be when we gather with those we love in the Lord’s kingdom that we’ll be able to see the unique ways our love guided others home. And if that is the case for those experiences that keep you second guessing your faith and your ability to love, serve, teach, and testify, then I hope for a comforting confirmation from the Spirit that the Lord has seen your efforts and is smiling down upon you and gently reminding, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

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