“No. is a Full Sentence”

I sat on the stereotypical couch. I was somewhat uneasy talking to a complete stranger but I knew that something had to change. Life in many ways had become unmanageable. I knew I was not unique, but burnout could not be an option.

As I shared the roles and responsibilities I had at work and within the church, my counsellor listened intently. After a while she had a concerned look on her face, and when it was her time to speak she said something that struck me.

“In over nine years that I’ve been counselling, I can honestly say I’m not sure I have counselled anyone who has more on their plate than you do. You are carrying a lot of stress and I am worried that you’re heading for burnout.”

For many of us in church leadership, or active in assembly work, there is a tendency to say yes to everything that comes our way. There are a number of reasons for this. Managing the tasks and responsibilities we have can be a challenge.

  1. We think no one else can do what we do. This is one of the most foolish thoughts we can have and yet it’s so prevalent in our thinking. Where would God be if we were not on his team? It’s very easy for us to think that we are indispensable. The simple truth is, it’s just not true. We can say no because God has a much bigger plan than just you and I. He will make sure that the task gets done and if it doesn’t then he doesn’t intend it to happen.
  2. We don’t want to let others down. I always thought the peer pressure would end when I left high school. Boy was I wrong. Pressure from others within the church can cause us to say yes to things we really should say no to. We feel like we will let others down, disappoint them and that they will look badly on us. We are afraid to offend or hurt feelings and so we say yes even when our hearts tell us that it’s the wrong decision.
  3. We enjoy the thrill of the challenge. Some people are adrenaline junkies. They live on the thrill of the moment. The more adventurous the activity, the more they are drawn to it. This can come into play within the church. There’s a sense of excitement about having so many things on the go. But this can only last so long. We are not meant to go at full speed 24/7. The Lord wants us to experience regular times of refreshing and recovery from the stress of life.
  4. We believe the more we do, the more the Lord loves us. I’m sure no one would say this out loud but many people have this belief deep down inside. If only I did more for the Lord, he would love me more. If only I did more, he would bless me more. This kind of thinking is not only dangerous for us, but it’s completely untrue. If anything, the busyness of life can take us away from putting effort into our relationship with the Lord. He cares far more about spending intimate time with us than he does watching us burn ourselves out.

Near the end of my first session with the counselor she said a very simple statement. “No is a full sentence. You need to learn how to say no to the things that the Lord doesn’t want you to be involved in.”

So as we consider our roles, responsibilities and schedules, let’s take time to think about where it will all end if we continue at the same pace. Here are some Bible verses to get us started thinking on this topic.

  • Mark 6:31-32 – if the Lord encouraged a break from activity, we should listen to him.
  • Philippians 2:14-15 – if we are grudgingly agreeing to activity, we need to stop and consider whether we should say yes or no.
  • Colossians 3:24 –  it’s easy for us to forget that we serve the Lord and not men. Everything we do should be done with the deep conviction that the Lord wants us to do it.

    1 Comment

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    That’s a thoughtful, transparent and helpful article Crawford. The concept of no as a full sentence is powerful. Perhaps it’s part of your reason number two, but I think sometimes we say yes because we feel we need to justify saying no. It’s sad to say that if we say yes to too many things we say no to God for time alone with Him and time for our family.


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