Stop Trying to Do It All

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“I guess I can’t do everything.”

David looked across the table, raised his eyebrows, and smiled as if to ask, “Are you just realizing that, Abbey?”  Or maybe since he’s grown accustomed to my desire to do it all, perhaps his body language conveyed a different question: “Why did you ever think you were the only person in the world who could do it all?”

Since I started a new job about a month ago, I’ve been hustling nonstop to do everything I consider important – spend time with David, clean the house, keep the fridge stocked, race off to committee meetings, hang out with youth, and more.  The past four weeks flew by at an alarming rate, and now that the dust has settled, I’m left wondering what in the world happened.  I know a lot was accomplished, but I don’t remember doing it with much intentionality or focus.

When I stepped away from the whirlwind last Friday night, I finally admitted what I’ve always known in theory but never wanted to believe in reality: I can’t do everything.

To be honest, I’ve lived most of my life with a “make it happen” mentality – that if you have the will to get something done, you’ll find a way to accomplish it at any cost.  That line of thinking has served me well in moderation, like when I needed to complete major projects in college, but like many good things, it can be destructive in excess.

The realization that I can’t do it all shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that God modeled and commanded a pattern of rest.  Until recently, though, I hadn’t considered how liberating obedience to that particular directive could be.

In his book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Tim Keller wrote, “Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one.  Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath.  Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom.  It means you are not a slave – not to your culture’s expectations, your family’s hopes, your medical school’s demands, not even to your own insecurities.”

The need for rest doesn’t stop with observing the Sabbath; in fact, it’s a daily necessity.  Several years ago John Piper shared some insightful commentary on the significance of sleep: “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God…God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps.  Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign.  Man is not sovereign.  Man is not sovereign.”

Our failure to rest says less about the length of our to-do lists than it does about our faulty belief systems.  Regardless of how many of hours we work, commitments we make, or projects we take on, we will never negate the reality that we are finite creatures working with limited resources in a broken world.

By enjoying God-ordained rest, on the other hand, we testify that the world keeps spinning without us, that we’re not ultimately in control, and that we have limitations.  And when we see ourselves accurately, we’re poised to behold God more clearly.  After all, it’s when we “cease striving” that we really notice God for who He is (Psalm 46:10).

Borrowing from Keller once more, practicing Sabbath “is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running.”  Although we aren’t the ones who uphold the universe, we can rest deeply and often because we know and trust the One who does.

4 Comments on “Stop Trying to Do It All”

  1. Yes,this is so true! Wonderful blog! I am going to have to borrow from that today! “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God….Man is not sovereign!”

  2. One thing I’ve learned after 40+ years of working, is that I need to quit saying, “but If I don’t do it, it won’t get done (or done correctly)”. In the last few years, I’ve finally realized how freeing and stress relieving it is to teach someone else how to do parts of my job and let them go! It actually gives me more time to do the things I do best and to do them well. And, in most cases, those I’ve taught end up doing as well or better at the task than I ever did!

    1. That’s a great point…and something I need to learn myself! It’s hard for me to let others do things instead of trying to do it all on my own. Thanks for sharing!

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