Many times in life we are pulled in so many different directions, and as women we tend to be the caretakers. We take care of the children, the household responsibilities, we take care of the family member or friend who desires a helping hand, we loan ourselves to the neighbor or the new mom down the street, and most certainly to the church when every task arises. We are the caretakers of everyone but ourselves.
This reminds me of when I spoke several years ago about balance during a women’s conference, and one point I made that seemed to resonate with the women there was being able to give yourself the “gift of no”. Before saying yes, pray and ask God if this task/commitment/journey is one that He wants you to tackle. When I glanced around as I was speaking, it seemed like a light bulb went off for these women by the look on their faces, and several of them approached me afterwards and said that they now feel like they finally have permission to say no without guilt. Some mentioned that they always felt selfish when they didn’t feel like stretching themselves further than their comfort zone or just couldn’t for whatever reason. I encouraged them by letting them know that it wasn’t selfish; it was a kind of self-preservation; a different way of obedience. For many of them, that day, I made it okay.
It wasn’t a novel concept, but it was for those that seemed to run themselves into the ground caring for the needs of others while neglecting themselves. The voices that seemed to permeate within them said: You weren’t a good parent if you didn’t anticipate your child’s every need and act upon it immediately, you weren’t a good employee if you didn’t “fundraise” for the company “cause of the month” and work overtime every week, you weren’t a good ministry leader if you took time off to relax and refresh, and the list can go on and on. It’s the trick of the enemy, but the voice of God is clear when He asks us to rest and honor Him with our time and first fruits. How can we receive freedom from just saying no?
So, first let’s understand this…what is freedom? Freedom is being set free, no longer in confinement or bondage; liberation. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) says,
Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
There is liberty. We learn that if we align ourselves with the plans of God and stay in His will, that we will be led where to go, what to do, and how to do it. When we spend time in prayer and study His word, we will hear His voice giving us the direction that we need and we will be led in a way that causes us to receive His overflow and not constantly be depleted from stretching ourselves too thin.
Second, we must understand that the Spirit of God writes the word on our heart and we must become obedient to what He is saying to us so that we can walk in all that He has for us. 1 Samuel 15:22 shares with us that obedience is better than sacrifice. What He desires for us supersedes our wants and reasoning. He doesn’t give everything to us at once and doesn’t want us to go after it or tackle it all at once either. He doesn’t lay out His plan and purpose all at one time because that would certainly be too much for us to handle. He gives us exactly our portion and wants us to be obedient in that area in that season.
This encourages us to walk in faith with Him knowing that He has our best interest at heart. This causes us to be led by Him instead of trying to figure it all out on our own. The moment we get out of His will and go ahead of Him or feel that we’ve got it all under control, that’s when the confusion comes in and we feel like we’re struggling to keep our head above water. He’s there, willing and available. My encouragement today is to lean into Him, lean on Him and yield to Him.
I have at times, gone before God and of course had it all figured out. I appreciated the support, but I had enough in me to know what I should be doing. After it was all said and done, I was completely confused, overwhelmed and in search of relief. You would think I would learn my lesson, but every now and then I need a little reminder.
When commitments come and we don’t know if this is for us or not, we can test it against the word. Now, the bible won’t say, “don’t volunteer for the women’s potluck at church” or “say yes to be the carnival chairperson at your child’s school”, but the Holy Spirit will speak to you through scripture, impress it upon your heart and allow you to discern what’s a yes and what’s a no. And if it’s a no, then think of it as a gift, a gift God has given you and a gift you give yourself; and this gift doesn’t come with guilt or condemnation when it’s from God. However, be guarded in this too because the enemy may decide that this is a good time to test you in your resolve and in your faith, but stand firm on God’s word during this time.
Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) says, that “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Saying no is not a bad thing, sometimes we have to walk away from some things in order to have time to do the things God is actually calling us to. Maybe He wants us to wake up early to spend time in prayer and devotion with Him, maybe He wants us to mentor a young teen who is struggling with low self-esteem, maybe He wants us to spend more time with our spouse or our children, or maybe He is just calling us to be present with Him and silent before Him.
One thing I know for sure is that our time spent with God is never wasted and He’s there in the big things and the little things. It doesn’t have to be a major situation or life-altering decision in order for you to spend time with Him and get clarity and direction. It can be something as minor as asking how to create margin in the every day or taming your schedule in a way that honors Him. The freedom you feel from just saying no and being in His will, or having fellowship with Him daily and listening for His voice is priceless. Who wants that kind of freedom today?