How to know when to say no

Crystal Cox

Although I am a rather introverted person, I enjoy time spent with friends over dinner or beside the pool. What I do not like, even dread, is the preparation for those events.

What starts out as, “Let’s have a few friends over,” turns into a couple days of stress and busyness and wondering what in the world we were thinking. The to-do list gets longer and longer. In between school pickups and practice carpools, I’m running to the store and madly cleaning the house.

And, because I have been known to start deep cleaning projects that would better be done when people aren’t arriving in 30 minutes, my husband, kids, and I are often cleaning until moments before people come in.

Do my friends really care if the baseboards are wiped off or if the fans are clean? No.

Would my friends have as much fun if things were in a little more of the normal, lived in state? Yes.

By the time people arrive, I have to adjust my attitude because I have gone crazy to impress.

Stressing About Impressing Is Not New

If we’re being honest, most of us don’t just feel this stress from time to time when special parties or events are happening. On the contrary, most of us feel this busyness and stress most of the time.

We are working, taking care of a household, planning parties, and running our kids from activity to activity. We are going to the salon, getting our nails done, and working out. We are making updates to the house, making sure the yard looks just right, serving on  committees, and going to meetings. We blame the pace of the present world and our responsibilities. But is it possible, that like my preparations for parties, some of our daily busyness is truly rooted in trying to impress people?

Many of the things keeping us busy are good things, but we don’t want to get so busy that we miss God’s purpose or presence. 

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visits two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet enjoying His company, “but Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

Martha gets frustrated that her sister isn’t helping and even asks Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Martha has lost her focus. She is worried about household tasks more than enjoying the presence of God. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Having the house look nice when people come over is a good thing. Many of the things keeping us busy are good things, but we don’t want to get so busy that we miss God’s purpose or presence. We don’t want to impress others at the expense of our intimacy with God. When faced with a task, ask yourself these questions and pray God will show you if you are getting caught in a trap of trying to impress.

How To Know When You Need To Say No

1. What is your motivation?

If you love making crafts and cute snacks for your toddler’s birthday party, go for it. If you are doing it to keep up with the neighbor’s party last month, order a pizza, buy some dollar store party favors, and let the party begin.

God has wired each of us differently. We get the most joy and He gets the most glory when we stop trying to keep up with each other and allow ourselves to be who God has made us to be.

2. Do you enjoy doing this?

It is true God will ask you to step out of your comfort zone and maybe even do something you don’t want to from time to time, but if you are continually hating your job or agonizing over a volunteer role, consider God may be leading you in another direction.

3. Why are you saying “yes”?

Saying yes because you love something, feel called to it, or want to serve someone is great. Saying yes just because it’s what you’re supposed to do or because you don’t want to look bad is the wrong motivation.

4. Is this bringing you closer to Jesus?

Is your relationship with Jesus growing more intimate or more distant because of the thing keeping you busy? Matthew 6:33 says to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” If something is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus, it’s time to make changes in your schedule.

Ask God to guide you as you answer these questions. God has a great purpose for each of us. Don’t allow being busy to cause you to miss it!

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