We had just moved cross-country with a kindergartener and an infant, and I was overextended. I could feel it in my body, tense and tight. I could feel it in my mind, stressed and flighty. For the past three years, I had been running my own business to help support our family while my husband was in seminary. Now, we had moved because he had taken a pastoral position, and while I had taken on the new role of being a pastor’s wife, I hadn’t slowed down with anything in my own work. In fact, I had picked up a few more responsibilities.
Why? Well, when you’ve worked at a dream for a while and the door starts to crack open, it’s a good idea to say yes to everything that’s behind the door, right? Because you’re never sure how long that door will stay open or if anyone will let you in ever again, so you should go for it, right?
Why? Well, for those of us who are pursuing a dream — whether it’s creative in nature, as mine is, or business-based, or something else entirely — it can be tempting to say yes to anything and everything that might help us move toward the passions we carry in our hearts. But are we saying yes to opportunities out of faith or out of fear?
When I’m not walking in God’s peace, I find that fear often takes its place as a big motivator for me. Sadly, I’ve said yes to some writing opportunities because I was afraid the chance wouldn’t come around again. I was afraid of missing out. I’ve overextended myself because I thought the opportunity “out there” was more important than the opportunities I already had right in front of me.
I say yes out of fear. I say yes because I’m afraid of being left behind.
But operating out of fear is not God’s best for me. Isaiah 26:3 declares: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
When I say yes to doing another thing, yes to another responsibility, yes to another meeting, yes to another assignment out of the fear of missing out or being misunderstood, my mind isn’t set on the Lord but on people. I want them to think I’m capable and able and strong. But when my mind is “stayed” on God — staying put on Him — I can walk in peace, regardless of what I can or can’t say yes to and regardless of how others perceive me.
I am never going to experience the precious peace of God when I am more worried about missing out or messing up with people than I am about pleasing Him and walking in step with Him. And I don’t want fear to dictate my life when I could have the lovingkindness of the Lord be my guide instead.
But I had to learn that the hard way. I found myself in a new state, in a new circumstance, and with a clear inability to do everything I’d promised everyone I could do. I had said yes to things because the door of opportunity had cracked open, but I hurried through without asking the Lord if it was an opportunity I should take, if it was one I could accomplish while walking in peace.
When I found myself rushed with my husband, annoyed with my kids, and stretched too thin at my church, I had to backtrack. I reached out to editors and leaders, letting them know I’d overextended myself, and apologized for leaving them in the lurch by having to back out of assignments.
When I cannot say yes to an opportunity out of peace, it probably isn’t what I should be doing, no matter how wonderful it seems. I don’t want to pack my life so full of opportunities “out there” — wonderful as they may be — at the expense of the beautiful gifts I have in front of my face: my family. My friends. Our church. My community. My own health and heart and spirit. Above all else, the Lord. These are the priceless opportunities I have to invest in and pour my life into every single day. And I can walk in peace when I’m saying yes to Him and to them every day of the week.
Michele Morin says
Thank you, Ann, for these cautionary words–so often we hear loud assertions that “YES” (in all caps!) is the only right answer to opportunity when it presents itself, and your experience argues for wisdom and for margin.
Thank you for finding courage to implement a few well-placed nos in your life.
Sarah K. says
As an owner of a small business providing creative services and having been the main source of income for my family for going on 2.5 years, I SO needed to read this. I’m at a crossroads with my business and looking at making some significant changes. I’m battling fear every day, and many of my yes/no decisions come down to finances in my mind. If I say yes to a project, it will bring in $____ that will go toward ____. If I say no, I’m missing out on that income and potentially other projects in the future that I may need to help pay our bills. It’s easy to justify just jumping in and saying yes.
The truth is, cost goes both ways. Saying yes to a project may mean more income, but what will it cost me in terms of my relationships, health and stress levels? Something is always sacrificed.
And yet, work still has to be done and life marches on. We must walk the line every day and manage that tension… because, this is life! 🙂 It is only by His Spirit that we have the wisdom to live, love and work faithfully, seeking and trusting Him in every decision and situation. Thank you so much for the timely reminder.
It’s hard to admit this but I have done this! It’s hard to to say No when by all intents and purposes saying yes looks good on the outside, but deep down, you just know it wasn’t the right motive for saying yes. Silver lining though…you/we learn pretty quickly that you/we have to fully rely on God for the answer and not our own wisdom (Prov 3:5-6).
Beth Williams says
I’m ding Lysa Terkeurst’s Bible study “The Best Yes”. She talks about making wise decisions. Making the most of the two most powerful words yes/no. One thing that stood out for me was “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the live we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. This is about honoring God with the time we have.” She talks about blocking out time for the “Best Yes”. We must make wise decisions. Everyone needs margin or spiritual white space in their lives. Time to rest in His presence by simply sitting with Him & enjoying a sabbath rest. Women tend to make decisions out of FOMO (fear of missing out). That is not using Godly wisdom. We should ask ourselves three important questions before decision making: 1) Have you been reading & praying through God’s word lately? 2) Have you been apply God’s word in your life lately? 3) Have you sought godly counsel & insights from wise people who know specifics about your situation? Do nothing out of fear, but seek wise Godly counsel before saying yes to everything. Great post.
Peggy Bodde says
We recently moved, and I’ve done exactly what you’ve described — running through those open doors only to find myself swallowed up. Your post resonated with me. Thank you for pointing us back to Jesus!