31 Days:: It’s Okay to Say No to Good Things
Day 3: It’s Okay to Say No to Good Things
A few years back, I finally keyed in on something God had been trying to teach me for years: it is okay to say no. Even to good things. Even to invitations to prayer meetings. Even to opportunities to raise money for victims of trafficking. Even to helping out in the classrooms at my kids’ school. Even to my daughter’s request to have a particularly hurting friend over for a playdate. Even to the long-distance phone call from my mom coming in when the baby is napping.
No, I am not supposed to say no to everything just because it’s inconvenient or challenging or unenjoyable. But I am allowed, and even encouraged, to say no to invitations that aren’t what God is calling me to on that particular day or in that particular moment or in that particular season of my life. As Lysa TerKeurst says in The Best Yes, I must leave white space in my heart and on my calendar for my calling, my “soul thing”, to happen. If I am saying no because I know that it will just be too much for my family’s schedule… Or if I am saying no because I know that it will negatively affect my emotional or psychological state— and thus I’ll be a total bear to my family… Or if I am saying no because I know God is calling me to something else… It’s okay. I’m allowed to say no— even if the “something else” is “just” me sitting on my couch and reading His Word and letting Him fill me up with truth again. Or “just” me and my kids snuggling up to watch a movie together. Or “just” having a family dinner together. In fact, I am even allowed to say no if I don’t know what else God has planned for me, but something in my gut won’t give me peace until I decline that invitation or withdraw from that obligation. (And for the record: usually, even if I don’t know why I had to say no at first, it becomes clear later on down the road and I sigh in relief as I thank God for once again knowing more than me and for looking out for me.)
One of the ways God lets me know what He wants for me is quite simply through His peace— or lack thereof. As Beth Moore puts it in Breaking Free,
“I can’t overemphasize the importance of peace as a real and practical benefit of our covenant relationship with God. His peace should not be an infrequent surprise but the ongoing rule of our lives… Have you experienced a time when you were surrendered to Christ in difficult times and you found His peace beyond understanding? Can you also say that you have had an absence of peace in much less difficult circumstances?”
That is called the Holy Spirit. That’s what living with discernment and keeping your heart in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit looks like.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” ~2Thessalonians 3:16
For me, God’s lack of peace manifests itself physically— my stomach does a little lurch, my brain feels a bit tweaked for half a moment when I’m tempted to give an answer that isn’t what God’s Spirit is leading me towards. If I ignore that little hiccup in my spirit and keep on, however, I usually begin to feel rather nauseous and my mind begins to feel like it’s racing with uncertainty and confusion. My gut says no, even if my mind might be saying “What’s the big deal?”
Sometimes my oh-so-helpful, logical brain jumps in on the party and tries to convince me of all the reasons that I “should” say yes or that “this is a good thing” and I start to hear the inner taunts that say “Well, if you were a good Christian, or at least less of an incompetent mess, you would say yes to this.”
But you know what? That isn’t God talking to me. That’s either myself or that’s my co-dependent relatives’ toxicity playing through my head or it’s the devil… or something. But it’s not Jesus, I know that. When a shame-tape starts playing in my head… or when a “should” starts forcing it’s grimy little paws in there… or when just plain confusion rattles me to the point of indecision— that’s not God. God is a God of peace, not a god of confusion.
I am discovering over this past handful of years that I need not do things out of obligation anymore. I don’t need to worry about whether the person I am declining has their feelings hurt— their response is on them. I can only be responsible for my own self. Certainly, I ought to use wisdom and discretion and above all LOVE when I am interacting with the world around me. However, in the end, I can only control my own actions and my own reactions. To put it bluntly, if I am truly following God’s lead, then how someone else responds to my unwillingness to join the rat race or take on more than God has urged me to take on is not my problem.
My responsibility is to follow God. Even if He is calling me to swim upstream. Even if it’s hard to find anyone else in the San Francisco Bay Area who is doing so. Even if I sometimes feel like I’m missing out because I’m not connected to media, news and social media 24/7. Even if some of the things I’m saying no to are actually really good things.
Because the thing is… no matter how “really good” something is, if it isn’t the “really good thing that God has called me to do”… it isn’t for me. I must do what God is calling me to. I must find MY “Best Yes.”
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What about you?
Do you struggle with people-pleasing and doing things out of obligation rather than because you genuinely feel called to them? How do you discern whether to say yes or no?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.