Struggling to Say No
Do You Struggle to Say No? We’ve all heard the term “a finger in every pie”; meaning too many commitments – commitment to so many things that you can’t really give your best to each of them properly. Do you ever feel that way? And then, just as you feel you’re at breaking point, someone you love asks you to do something. Common sense and your weary body and mind scream “say no, please say no!” But before you realise it, the smiling words “yes, no problem” have escaped your lips, and you find you’ve added yet another thing to your ever growing ‘to do’ list. You walk away from your (totally oblivious) friend, feeling a little more overburdened, a bit more stressed, and perhaps even slightly resentful towards the friend for asking the favour of you. I mean really, can she not see how much you’re already doing?
Saying yes when we really should say no is something many of us struggle with if we’re honest; even if it’s only occasionally. I do!
Jesus was emphatic on this; in Matthew 5:37 He said “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” Jesus was teaching here about the swearing of oaths, and He says that where there’s honesty and integrity in your speech, swearing an oath is not only completely unnecessary but actually “from the evil one”; a simple, truthful, yes or no answer is enough.
In the story of Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42
Martha, externally at least, was being the perfect hostess. It says in verse 38 that she welcomed Jesus into her home. Maybe she thought she’d show Jesus how much she loved Him by waiting on him. So she ran around, preparing and serving food, cleaning up in the kitchen, while everyone else, including her sister, sat around just chatting with Jesus and enjoying the His company.
Eventually something had to give – what was truly in Martha’s heart couldn’t help but leak out. She was filled with resentment. What may initially have been good intention – an act of love, now just made Martha stressed, angry and looking for someone to blame. Isn’t that what we do?
Martha’s loving act of hospitality had somewhere along the line gone from love to obligation, to resentment and this seeped out of Martha; to the point where she accused Jesus to his face of not caring.
And actually, Jesus hadn’t even asked her to wait on him!
Choosing the Best “Yes”
Some people are just ‘joiners’ – they’ll join every group and sign up for every ministry in church – volunteer to help every worthy cause. Does it ever occur to us to ask God what He thinks? After all, it’s He who “establishes our steps” isn’t it? ….Oh hang on a moment, what does the rest of that much quoted verse say? – it’s when I “delight in God’s way” that He’ll do this; not when I’m off doing my own thing, like Martha.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; Psalm 37:23
Jesus never ran on empty. Ever.
Jesus knew what it meant to delight in His Father’s way and He set an example for us in this. He sought His Father before He did or said anything and He regularly took time out just to be alone with His Father and be spiritually replenished. Jesus never ran on empty. Ever.
Jesus saw right into Martha’s heart. Yet he didn’t tell her off. He didn’t beat her with a big stick. He just said “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:41-42
Mary chose “yes”; It was the best yes. It was yes to Jesus’ presence, friendship, instruction and refreshing.
Jesus says the same thing today, to every person who strives to “do better”, every one of us with that “I must” mentally. His invitation is still:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
By this Jesus wasn’t saying that we have to say no to every request made of us, drop all our normal everyday obligations and spend our entire lives closeted away sitting at His feet. Who would do the school run? The washing and ironing? And someone has to physically do all the various projects in our workplaces and churches.
But let’s be people who respond with a yes to Jesus’ invitation, and like Mary, choose “the good portion”; then our yeses will flow out of time spent at Jesus’ feet, rather than an exaggerated sense of obligation.
* (“Stressed” photo courtesy of Stuart Stark)
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