“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.” —Kurt Vonnegut
I framed this quote for my kitchen wall years ago, during a season when it felt like much of my day was spent doing inconsequential, little tasks. I needed this reminder whether I was continually washing a child’s dirty hands and face, picking up toys that were only going to get taken out again, or doing laundry with no end to the pile. Those days with littles are in the rear view mirror for me now, but my life is still full of little things: listening to an older loved one repeat stories I’d heard before, trying to respond with patience when someone is going slowly in front of me, and picking up the phone to listen to an aching heart instead of letting it go to voicemail. Then and now, I’ve always felt the temptation to rush forward toward “tasks that matter,” things that I can measure, accomplishments that make me feel productive. And God’s still small voice tells me to slow down, pay attention, and savor.
“But,” I remind the Lord, “You Yourself have a big and bold mission! Revelation 7:9 tells us that You are in the process of gathering together a multitude of people—a group so great that no man can number it, from every tribe, nation, people and tongue. And then You’ve invited us into that mission, to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few’ (Luke 10:2). So don’t I need to get going and do something that has far-reaching impact?!”
It is true that we worship and serve a big God who has a big vision for His people. Yet, despite the grandeur of His overarching plan for mankind, God has a remarkable love for the small. In fact, in God’s economy, it’s often the smallest of things that have the most significance in His eyes. In Matthew 6:4 we see that God notices us during small moments. It says that our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward us. Jesus lauded the generosity of the widow’s mite—a tiny financial donation by worldly standards (Mark 12:41–44). And Jesus modeled and encouraged taking time to be with children (Matthew 19:13–15).
Yet I must admit, I often have trouble sharing God’s love for the small. When things start to feel small, I am prone to complain. I can wonder if my efforts are worth it. I feel hemmed in. Discontentment grows in my heart.
If you relate, perhaps you’ll be encouraged by the word of the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah 4. He spoke to his people who were captivated by a big vision, and it was a God-given vision to rebuild the temple. God didn’t tell them not to dream and not to work toward that goal, but He said this:
Do not despise the day of small things.
Zechariah was speaking to people who were returning from exile and were rebuilding the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. But these were people who could remember Solomon’s temple, and what they were building seemed so sad and small by comparison. They had dreams of former glory, but their dreams were dying in the day of small things.
They were weeping, but God was not. He had big plans for His people, but He valued the small steps that would bring that vision about. The fact that the progress was slow wasn’t a sign of His displeasure. God was with them, God had rescued them, and God’s plans were going to prosper, but there were going to be many “days of small things” along the way.
The Israelites wanted to see the glory of the temple restored, but the true temple was to be the incarnate body of Jesus. That miracle wasn’t to come for over 400 years. Our big God was patient enough to endure centuries of small days. His kingdom (which will one day cover the earth) did not begin big. It began with a baby in Mary’s womb and spread to twelve uneducated men. And then the world began to change, one heart at a time. Slow, but real, transformation.
The application for us is clear. While we might long for opportunities to serve that are worthy of a social media post, a platform, or at least a little attention, God longs for us to be content with faithful obedience in the small things. And if we will do these small things right away and with the right attitude, we’ll find that all these acts of obedience cumulate and ultimately change who we are. This allows us to leave a faith-filled legacy in our wake.
We can dream big and pray big and work for the big, and at the same time, remain faithful and content while devoting ourselves to what is small and hidden. Each little act of love matters. The day of big things is coming, but until then, we are not to neglect the day of small things.
Zechariah’s words again ring true: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Our human efforts alone can never produce the day of big things, but if we invite God to work through our small offerings, His purposes will prevail. Big things will come. In the meantime, He asks us to be faithful, one small step at a time.
With you on the journey,