Stuck on “tent duty” in the kingdom of God

Has God ever turned a “worthless” job or event in your life into something amazing?

In an article at Student Leadership Journal, Alex Kirk describes a phenomenon he calls “tent duty,” based on a story in the book of Exodus: when God puts you in a seemingly boring or pointless situation, only to later reveal that He had a definite purpose in mind for placing you there. God might redeem that “wasted” time in a spectacular, obvious way or He might never make it clear why He put you there; but regardless, Christians should learn to appreciate the experience of being on dull, boring “tent duty” from time to time.

Kirk cites an amazing example of tent duty in action in the life of his grandfather, a missionary to Brazil. One summer, disillusioned by his failure to get into a missionary program, he took a seemingly pointless job at a cigarette-making plant and chalked up the entire summer as a complete waste. But years later, in Brazil, God suddenly revealed the purpose behind that wasted summer in the cigarette factory:

Several years into their ministry, a government came into power that was skeptical of foreign missionaries. It cracked down on their operations, restricting them from access to the paper needed to produce Bibles in Portuguese. My grandfather’s experience at the cigarette plant provided this invaluable insight: cigarette paper was the same weight as the paper they were running through their press. The printing presses that the government had tried to shut down were cranked back up and they produced hundreds of Bibles on cigarette paper. As the Bibles were distributed throughout the country, a seemingly wasted summer was wasted no more.

We’ve all found ourselves on “tent duty” at some point. Maybe for you, it was a boring stint behind a keyboard in a cubicle farm, far from your dreams of an exciting career. Or maybe you settled into a low-paying, unglamorous job after your post-graduation hopes fell through. Something that made you think “Surely God could be using me more effectively somewhere else.”

Looking back at that experience, do you see any hints of God’s plan? Did you learn or experience something that redeemed that “wasted” time? Or do you struggle to see a purpose behind it? If you’ve ever been stuck on tent duty, share your experiences below!

3 Responses to “Stuck on “tent duty” in the kingdom of God”

  • Julia Berger says:

    I’ve been studying psychology for years, and I could not see a point in it until I got to your website. I was now trying to start to study theology instead. However, God has already told me He wants me to become a psychologist. Psychologists are not allowed to profess their faith on duty. However, I’m a witness. There must be a point in entering such an acknowledged profession. I am sure now God will lead me on- with or without an additional degree in theology.

  • kathy says:

    I think of Joseph and Moses often. They both felt they had an important future. But one ends up in captivity and the other in exile. They must have despaired and gone through depression and dissapointment during these times. Their hearts hungered for the will of God but were probably brought to points of questioning what they had believed about their purposes in life. Now we see that their “tent duty” was part of God’s perfect plan. But when I myself suffer in captivity and exile, and my heart burns and cries out to be serving my LORD, it is absolute agony. Because the desire to serve Him won’t go away. And people just don’t seem to understand what I’m going through. They try to console and convince me that I’m serving God right where I am and to be satisfied with that.I’ve tried to kill the hunger, the passion, the vision and the dream within me. But it won’t die. And it’s tormenting to be in these shoes. It causes me to doubt what is within me. Am I crazy? Am I making up this desire from a sinful state? Or is this longing really from God and will He make it come to pass? All it involves is proclaiming His name, proclaiming His love, proclaiming His kingdom, proclaiming His word, proclaiming His absolute beauty and setting the captives free and motivating the Church onward unto the fullness of Christ. My heart does not stop crying out for day and night whether sleeping or awake. And yet I feel I’m in a cell and in the desert. And frankly I cannot face the thought that these desires will not come to pass. Because it will seem worse then death to me. If this desire that has been with me is not from God I wish He would just take it away from me. Because it is absolute torment.

  • Basil Smith says:

    I certainly feel for you Kathy, I’m not unfamiliar with your trauma. Some time ago my similar frustration was relieved when I found my heart bursting forth in an unfamiliar language which I feel is the language of the Spirit within. It helps me. Another way to not feel helpless is to pray for revival, because the real cause of our trauma is the deadness and unreality of the church in general. That too can help.
    Best wishes