The Power of No

Saying no

A friend e-mailed me this week and asked if I could help out by taking a meal to another friend. I said no. And I felt guilty.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to take a meal, and I did offer to chip in some money for a meal. But this week, my ability to cram one more thing into the day is nil. There’s no margin. There’s simply not enough hours in the day to squeeze one extra thing into it. So I said no to something I know is a blessing to others. I said no to something that I know God approves of. I said no because as much as I love my friend, I have to love my family more.

Taking that meal would have involved an hour shopping and cooking and another hour and a half to take the meal because they live so far away. As I offered money instead of time and energy, I knew it was the right thing to do. I’m basically a single parent this week as my husband has a conference at work that’s keeping him after hours. My parents who are usually willing to step in and help are traveling in Southeast Asia. And it’s the busiest sports week we’ve had in ages. I’ve already had to enlist the help of two other families just to get my girls to all the places they need to be this week.

Sometimes, we have to say no. We have to say no just to hold onto our sanity. We have to say no just to love our families well. We have to say no to keep our marriages together.

There are only so many hours in the day and days in the week. We can’t do everything — even though we often try. When we say yes to everything, we stretch ourselves so thin that we can’t be effective in anything that we do. If we put ministering to others above ministering to our families, then we risk the destruction of our families. We risk glossing over issues at home so we can focus on those outside our homes.

Ministry to others is great. We’re called to do it. Jesus said “Love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:39) and “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

But we can’t effectively minister to others if ministering at home is not our top priority. We need to have our own home in order before we fill our time with ministry outside of it.

When we’re stretched thin, when our families fall to the bottom of the priority list, we’re likely to miss out. We miss the problems our kids are dealing with. We miss that our spouses need attention. We miss that our families need our presence and our love.

Sometimes, in order to get those priorities back in order, we have to say no to something that my seem good, that may actually be good. But we simply can’t get so caught up in ministering to those outside our own homes that we miss the needs of our own family members. We sometimes have to say no.

And when we do say that little word, we don’t have to feel guilty. We can know that that word is being used to protect our families. Saying no, even to good things, is a talent we all need cultivate. We need to lay our schedules at the foot of God’s throne and let Him order our days. We need to be willing to say no to something good so that we can have the thing that God has decided is better.

So, if you’re feeling stretched thin today, if your family has been bumped down the priority list in favor of ministering to others, it’s time to re-order those priorities. Lay your calendar at God’s feet and let Him organize it for you — even if it means saying no to something good.

One comment

  1. Rosann says:

    Lori, thank you for writing this. I feel like I say no all too often, but the reality is I need to because my family needs to come first. But it doesn’t change how guilty I feel when I don’t sign up to take a meal to a family, or when I don’t go to every worship service offered at the church, or when I don’t help with every youth related activity that presents itself. There is always an opportunity to serve, but just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean God expects me to say yes every time. I’ve had a lot of inner battles over this issue the past year or so and I really appreciate your post on this topic. Thank you!!

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