Our lives can easily be filled up with a multiplicity of demands. We are continually bombarded with calls for more—more action, more time, more effort. Whether these calls come from home, work, school, or church, these asks on our lives seem endless. Sometimes the multiplicity of demands are rooted in things we feel passionate about. We continually choose to give our selves to that which is demanded in the moment. And because our interests and passions are often varied and complex, so too are the calls upon us.
Sometimes we create busyness, believing that jammed schedules and pressing demands are tally marks equalling our own importance. To be busy is to blessed, we believe. We tell ourselves and others, “It’s better to be busy!” or “Idle hands are the devil’s play things!” Thus, we never refuse an offer or an ask. Yet what inevitably happens is that we begin to resent those demands upon us. The tasks that used to be interesting are now only taxing. That which promised excitement now seem dry and lifeless. Living in such a frenzied manner leaves us feeling overwhelmed and drained of energy.
When we live in this manner our faith lives begin to suffer. We lose the vibrant connection with God we once had. Running to and fro leaves us seeing God as nothing more than a boss demanding results rather than a Saviour inviting us into abundant life. The activities of our lives become that which drain our faith rather than that which fuels it. We live from a place of duty not devotion.
This is not the life that God calls us to.
We must learn how to say no to the those things that take us out of devotional living. The inability to say no keeps us from the life rooted in Christ’s presence. We remain in state of perpetual distraction, pulled in a thousand different directions. Our heart, mind, soul, and strength are continually directed to the demands we have to face in this and the next moment, and we never give ourselves the space to experience the deep well of God’s love. The richness of an internal life with God is rarely found through harried demands. Our faith simply cannot survive the constant oscillation between this demand and that task.
The life God calls us to live is not a life of frenzied deadlines and last-minute projects. God does not wish us to feel so overwhelmed at the things of life that we feel cut off from the Spirit. Thus, we put down the demands of life for the sole purpose of dwelling more securely in the presence of our Lord. There is freedom found in saying no, for it speaks to our desire to follow Christ’s leading in our lives. The reply of no to a new demand or project no longer carries any guilt or shame: we are simply echoing the voice of God whispering to us, “this is not the way.”
It can be scary to say no. It can be scary to turn down offers, or refuse demands. After all, the culture around says that to do so is to forfeit our place in the rat-race of importance. It is to risk being passed over for glamorous opportunities, prosperous promotions, or social influence. But at what cost? When we say no to something, out of the deep desire to remain rooted in God’s surrounding presence, we release ourselves from the burden of having to be in control. We sit in a spirit of patience and submission. We live our lives from a place of dynamic trust, freely putting down the anxious fretting over things for which we have no mastery. Our faith moves into an uncluttered simplicity, and in this way we are graced to experience the inner leadings of Christ’s presence.
God calls us to say no just as much as God calls us to say yes. God may call us to put down or limit certain tasks we enjoy, or demands we are interested in, in order to cultivate a deeper rootedness in His kingdom. We say no, not because something is bad, or even because we do not wish to do that which is asked of us—we say no out of desire to remain centred in holy focus. The act of saying no to a demand is an act of saying yes to God’s will in our lives. This is the root of a life of faith, and the basis of our freedom to say no. We are able to say no with just as much confidence as we say yes, because we recognize that our no is yet another way in which we turn to God.
What is it that God may be asking you to say no to? What is the task, or duty, or demand you have been holding on to that God may be asking you to put down?