I have a secret to tell you, dear reader.
I can’t do everything.
In fact, sometimes (ok, often), when I pare down my “to do” list, I can’t even do those things well.
I have another secret to tell you.
You can’t do everything either.
Yes, I understand. We sometimes feel the weight of expectation – what we expect of ourselves, what others expect of us (or perhaps even what we think they expect of us), and of course, God’s expectations of us.
But, dear reader, not even Jesus could “do everything” when he was on the earth. He was the perfect example – diligent, disciplined, hard working, a good steward of his time and energies. He healed the blind, the lame, the leprous, those with demons. He fed thousands, several times, with enough for leftover basketfuls. He taught many, many people. He held little children, tenderly blessing them. And yet, we know there were places he did not go to, sick left unhealed, children left unblessed. Even Jesus was bound by his humanity. Yet, He still declared “It is finished” on the cross. He did what he needed to do, even if he didn’t fulfill everyone’s expectations of him (think of what the Pharisees and even the apostles “expected” of him!)
So, knowing that he could not “do everything” (and what’s more, he did not try), what can we learn about how we should spend our time? What did Christ do with his?
Beloved, He simply (and powerfully) did the will of God.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. ~ John 6:38
But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. ~ John 14:31
And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him. ~ John 8:29
What’s more, Jesus did the will of God confidently and purposefully and certainly not looking like I often do – harried and stressed, rushing about.
But how do we, like Jesus, learn God’s will for us? We are not the Savior of the world; we are not divine. What does the Bible say of the will of God for us? Here are a few thoughts:
God’s will may not always be obvious – it must be discerned
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2
This implies that we can get better at knowing His will. But it also tells us that there are some things about us that will need to be changed (“do not be conformed … be transformed”).
Learn to give thanks, despite the circumstances
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
There is no exception clause here – no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can always give thanks to God. If nothing else, we know that though the storm drives against us, we cannot be separated from His love. On a more practical note, giving thanks (especially on a regular basis) helps in the transformation process. We learn to look for things to give thanks for (as opposed to things to complain about) and it helps us to find God’s hand, even throughout our hardest days.
Or in other words – be controlled by the Spirit and not by your body.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. ~ 1 Peter 2:15
In some ways, “do good” is very vague, and yet, deep down, we know what “good” looks like. Its very “vague”ness allows us room for creativity.
Sometimes, doing good is being patient and caring for our spouses and children, even when we haven’t slept well or feel emotional or have had a tough day. Sometimes, it is being patient with the customer service representative on the phone (after all, yelling at her won’t actually solve the problem or make you feel better). Sometimes, it is giving financially to someone you know is struggling or going over and cleaning someone’s house. Sometimes, it is encouraging a coworker going through a tough time or telling someone that you are praying for them. Sometimes, it is listening to a friend bear his soul. Sometimes, it is sitting next to someone who weeps on the mourner’s bench. Doing good comes in many forms, all of which serve His purpose.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God….Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~ Ephesians 5:1-2, 15-17
Perhaps, doing God’s will has less to do with what oh-so-wonderful things I can accomplish and more with conforming me to the image of His son. Perhaps, His will is for me to lose myself in His glorious image and imitate Him in everything I do. Perhaps, I need to let go of my own expectations to make room for His expectations. And in giving up my own will, I will gain more than I could possibly imagine.