(becoming) a prayerful volunteer: the necessity of “no”

With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  –Psalm 18:29

If, as we’ve been discussing, the needs around us are overwhelming and God wants us to use everything we have to serve Him and others, how do we avoid burnout?  How do I not get caught in the Martha trapFor some of you reading this, the willingness to serve God isn’t a problem.  Oftentimes many of us run into a different, though no less dangerous, obstacle to becoming the women God wants us to be: over-committing.

My instinct is to jump at opportunities, to come up with grand plans, basically to embody any number of clichéd warnings: Don’t put the cart before the horse, look before you leap, etc.  I would be a frazzled wreck (or worse), if I hadn’t had someone to remind me of God’s truths and promises in this area.

My husband has been my voice of reason in such instances.  What do you mean it’s not a good idea to volunteer to host 26 Brazilian teenagers for 10 days in our 2 bedroom house?  Why shouldn’t I volunteer to coordinate all Angel Tree gifts for our city when I’m a completely overwhelmed graduate student who won’t even be in town for the two weeks leading up to Christmas?  Why should I rethink committing to do a blog post every day during the Christmas season when we’re traveling and trying to see 879 family members?

My husband hasn’t told me not to do these things; he’s simply reminded me to check with God before I do.  I’ve been amazed by how many times I think I’m doing something for God when I haven’t even checked to see if it’s what He wants me to do. 

While it’s important to remember that with God we can move mountains, we can advance against a troop, we can scale a wall – we have to recognize that first part: with His helpGod doesn’t promise to bless plans He doesn’t make.  He doesn’t promise help for projects He didn’t approve.  In order to claim these promises of help that are all throughout the Bible, we have to be in God’s Will.

This, then, is how we avoid the Martha trap: we take our projects, our plans to God before we start on them.  This can be hard, especially when people want an answer right now and it seems like a good cause and you’re afraid you’ll look lazy or uninvolved or unhelpful or uncaring, etc., if you hesitate — or, worse yet, say no.  When you get concerned about this, think instead of looking unhelpful to God.  (“‘How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’” John 5:44)  Be concerned about not caring about what He wants.  He knows if the opportunity before you is the best use of your time.  Trust Him with that decision.  If the person asking for your help is also trying to follow God’s will, he/she should understand your need to pray about the commitment before you make it.  But, ultimately, what matters is putting God first – His desires for us, His jobs for us, His opinion of us.

While it seems easier to insult God by not consulting with Him than it does to disappoint someone standing in front of us, we have to consider the damage we’re doing to our relationship with God.  Willfully refusing to do what God has asked us to (“in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:6) puts us in a dangerous place.  Seeking God’s will, though, puts us right where God wants us – by His side.  A much better place to be – no matter what anyone else might think of us.

I’d encourage you to consult God before each decision – “in all your ways” – even ones that don’t seem “important.”  I think a lot of what we take for granted, because it’s our schedule or routine, can become dangerous stumbling blocks in our walks with God.  What aspects of your regular routine and schedule do you take for granted as things you’re going to do?  Going to work?  Running errands?  Getting the kids dressed?  What if all of these moments were seen as opportunities for God to get and keep us on His right path?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have defaults.  Should you go to work each day unless God tells you differently?  Yes, of course.  But when was the last time you asked Him?

Consider: Are there troops you’ve tried to advance against or walls you’ve tried to climb without God’s help?  What did you learn from those experiences?  Has God ever asked you to say “no” to something you thought you should say “yes” to?  How did that affect your relationship with God?  With the person you said “no” to?  Has God ever asked you to say “yes” to an opportunity that seemed overwhelming?  How did God help you over that wall?  (Please feel free to share below.)

I pray that as you seek His will more and more, He shows Himself strong enough to lift you over all the troops He sends you against.


Want to read more?

Try last Monday’s post: (becoming) a good steward: the superwoman complex

Here’s the start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward: “mine, mine, mine?”

Are you a worrier?  Then you might enjoy this post: (becoming) less of a worrier

Interested in discussions about how to be a godly wife?  Check out the Wife Series: (becoming) a more godly wife: why won’t he . . . . . . ?

Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ?  Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted

Still basking in the glow of the Christmas season?  Click here for the start of the Christmas Posts: (becoming) peaceful

Want information about this blog?  Check out the About page or the first post.


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