When I Consider How My Light Is Spent


John Milton was a Christian and poet in the 1600’s.  By age 44, he went blind.  Milton wondered if he could continue serving God without eyesight.  Sometimes, he simply felt useless.

Milton’s anxiety and grief spill out in his 19th sonnet: “When I consider how my light is spent.”  The sonnet ends with the Lord’s wonderful ministry and comfort–

When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”
I have mentioned I’m in a season of rest.  At least, I think that’s what it is.  I know I’m not doing much in the way of study, projects, or anything else.  Sometimes, I just feel like I’m wasting my life.
On days when I feel like a broken, failed person, Milton’s words come back to me: “who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. […]  They also serve who only stand and wait.”  I love this image.  In any court there are those coming and going.  But there are also those who stand waiting for the king’s order.  Activity is only useful if the king requests it.  To busy oneself without the king’s command is not to serve Him but self.
So it is with the King of kings.  I am not my own.  I am His.  I wait for His Spirit to rouse me to action.  ‘Til then, I stand, I wait, I listen for His word.
This reminds me of another who sat listening to Jesus: Mary of Bethany.  When Mary’s busy sister scolded her for not busying herself to serve Jesus, the Lord replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).
In this season, I hope to know Jesus more: the one who is necessary, the one who is better than busy-ness.  My prayer is that I value Him more than serving Him 🙂     

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mallory says:

    One of my favorite Milton quotes, for the very reasons you mentioned. Thanks for articulating a very real concern for anyone who deeply loves Jesus.

  2. Tim Shey says:

    Being still and knowing that He is God is very difficult for most Christians to do.

    Here is a little more on John Milton:


    1. mrteague says:

      Yes, rest is a discipline the Lord must teach our souls. That may be why Sabbath laws are so often repeated in the Old Testament. We must know Christ, our Sabbath!

  3. Peggy says:

    Resting and waiting on the Lord! Sometimes that’s a most difficult assignment, but His timing and plans are perfect!

    1. mrteague says:

      Amen, thank you!

  4. I saw this via Tim Shey’s reblog of it today. I seek to encourage you during this blessed season of inactivity!

    Scripture repeatedly shows God’s future leaders being set apart for many years, kept relatively inactive. In unattractive environments lacking the recognition of men, they suffer trials and/or are disciplined through peculiar circumstances of daily life, yet are clearly favored in God’s eyes. They learn their weaknesses, they learn of God, they are humbled, and become utterly dependent on Him.

    Joseph was sold into slavery by jealous brothers when seventeen, yet God was clearly with him. Nevertheless, he was then imprisoned for years before God raised him to Pharaoh’s right hand at thirty.

    Moses left the riches of Egypt and tended sheep in the desert for forty years before God called him to deliver Israel, meek by age eighty.

    Joshua was set apart to the Lord “outside the camp” of the Israelites forty years before God appointed him to lead His people in conquering Canaan (Ex. 33:7, 11).

    Of course, Jesus lived an inconspicuous sinless life outside the religious community for thirty years before He was baptized, tempted, and began His ministry.

    God bless you!

    1. mrteague says:

      Deanna, I receive that word and thank you for it! God bless you as well 🙂

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