I used to wake up in the morning and try not to sigh.
The routine of the week was forecasted to look a lot like the routine of last week, which resembled the one before that. There were always jobs to do around the house–dishes, cleaning, laundry, food prep, bills, emails, keeping my son alive, etc.
Each task felt like one more rock to dig out of the ditch I was walking down. Some moments I would peek above the edge and see the flowers poking up out of the ground, the trees blossoming, and the clouds dancing patterns in the sky. (I’d remind myself that life was filled with an abundance of blessings if I looked for them, right?)
But most of the time I was digging out the rocks, face so close to the dirt that washing the dishes seemed like a cruel joke as they magically reappeared by the sink, caked with tomato sauce.
Looking for More Rocks
But the worst part was finishing my tasks and feeling like I needed to be looking for more rocks to dig out.
An event needed baked goods?
Someone needed a babysitter?
An elderly person wanted visits?
And what about people’s spiritual needs?
Who did I need to tell about Jesus?
How could I find them?
Should I be jumping on a plane to share the gospel somewhere?
I’d feel guilty if I ignored the ideas that ran through my head.
The crisis pregnancy center could probably use supplies.
We should probably have more people over for dinner.
Having my “free” moments taken up by those thoughts zapped my motivation for my other responsibilities. It felt like a never-ending cycle of “have to’s,” “should’s,” and “ought-to’s.”
A number of people gave me a hand outside of the ditch of discouragement, and two women offered me tools to stay out.
My mentor Natalie helped me to step back and take a look at my priorities. Just making a list forced me past all the “ought-to” thoughts that filled my mind. My list looked like this:
1. My relationship with God
3. Baby Isaiah
4. Family and friends
Once I figured out what was most important, I was able to see how all the other “good things” I thought of could be preventing me from serving the people God has put directly into my life.
A Ministry of Prayer
When I started asking God to show me how to spend my time, I realized I could trust Him to lead me in blessing others and being a part of His kingdom work.
One of the ways God showed me how to reach out to others was through prayer. Even if I couldn’t be a part of physically meeting a need, I could always lift that person before God, asking for Him to work and acknowledging His sovereign care over the situation. I started to even do that with the tragedies I heard about in the news, praying that God would use the situation to draw people to Himself and to show people their need for the gospel.
God also led me to send notes and emails to encourage those serving in our community or involved in overseas ministry. And when I did interact with people in person, I started asking God for the courage to speak truth and life while listening to them.
The Body of Christ
In my quest to please God (and people, if I’m honest), I’d forgotten about the beautiful Body of Christ. In Romans 12:4-5 it says:
It’s not up to me to try to do all the prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy. And that’s only the list from Romans 12!
When I admire the wonderful things God is doing through other people, I have two options:
1. Feel guilty that I’m not being used in that way
2. Praise the Father like crazy for using people like us to accomplish His plans and purposes.
The daily tasks will always need to be done, (even if I don’t feel “gifted” to wash dishes). I can still do all the little chores for God’s glory, but how cool is it that God has given each of us unique ways to serve Him? Let’s look for ways we can praise Him as we do our piece and see others do theirs in the mosaic of God’s redemption masterpiece.
Next week, I’ll share about the second tool that has helped me stay out of the ditch of discouragement. But until then, I’d love to hear about anything God has used to pull you out of the guilt-laden “ought-to” trap.