Can You Say No?
By: Lindsey Mitzel
As I’ve been praying about what to write this week, the answer placed on my heart surprised me: How to Say No.
Several years ago, a situation came up in which a friend needed a lot of support. If I had taken a step back at the time, I might have realized that my friend needed more support than I was able to give, but at the time, I only saw their need and the lack of support. Amid exams, I found myself driving to their house late after a crazy day, only to stay out even later just letting them talk. I offer the last few sentences only for context. The important part was that something about it didn’t feel quite right to me, but I kept making myself available because I wanted to be a good friend. One day I happened to talk to someone a little older and a little wiser. She offered some advice that I’ve never forgotten. She told me that she had found herself in a similar situation, but one day when she was praying, Jesus brought her friend to mind, and showed her that if she went through with her plans to spend time with this person, they wouldn’t be able to spend the time in prayer that they needed because they were spending their time with her. The next time my friend asked me to come over I prayed about it, and I realized that God had already been nudging me that it wasn’t where I should spend my time. Maybe my friend was being called to pray more deeply, or maybe God wanted to introduce them to someone else they couldn’t have met if we were chatting away. Maybe God was calling me into deeper prayer, or even another opportunity that I couldn’t see if I was spending my time with my friend instead.
It may be easy (or easier) to say no to something that we don’t have much attraction to, but it can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming to turn down someone we really love or something that sounds amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to say no to a few good things in the past week, and I also know that some of you may be trying to decide between good things that weigh far more heavily on your potential future than my simple examples. As beautiful as it can be, it’s also scary to have so many options potentially available to us. At the same time, what I want to offer is how important I’ve found it to take everything to prayer—to ask Jesus what His will is for me in every opportunity, not just in the bigger decisions. Learning to talk to Jesus about all possibilities of my day, and allowing Him to lead me through them, has helped me to learn and identify His voice. So, when those bigger decisions arise, I do hear Him more clearly.
In the few situations that I ran into this past week where I needed to say no to something, this is the progression of what happened for me: I felt anxious while trying to decide between saying yes or in having to say no. I ran through a pros and cons list in my head, and I tried to weigh both sides. In the first situation, I felt stalled at a certain point. Making either decision, for or against, could potentially hurt people. I didn’t want to hurt anyone! Eventually I asked Jesus for His help. What did He want for me? What was He asking me to do, and what did I need to let go of?
I discovered a few things. 1. My anxiety was coming from all the situations I imagined possibly happening if I had to say no. 2. I felt guilty for possibly letting someone down or not being able to do or be enough. 3. I didn’t feel guilty when I prayed about each situation first. It wasn’t necessarily easier to say no when I prayed first, but when I reflected on it later, I realized that I did need to say no to something, so that I (or even someone else) could say yes to something else.
Here are a few more thoughts to ponder.
“Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire.” -St. Catherine of Siena
“The happiness of the person whose will is entirely submitted to God’s is constant, unchangeable and endless. No fear comes to disturb it for no accident can destroy it.” -St. Claude de la Colombiere
“You can do anything you want to, but you can’t do everything.” -My older brother
Remember that friend I mentioned earlier who was going through so much? My stepping back allowed me to focus more on prayer in my own life, and the fruit of God’s work in that friend’s life through that time is so evident now. You can rest assured that Jesus loves you more than you can possibly imagine, and that it’s not up to you to figure your life out. I know it’s a little counter-cultural, but we can just be and let Him accomplish all He desires for us. Sometimes that may mean doing more, and sometimes it may mean doing less. Remember His love for you and trust that with God, all things are possible.
Lindsey is a mostly stay at home mom to three girls and a nurse practitioner. She loves photography, decorating, painting, reading, and warm places in the middle of winter. She dreams about writing children’s books, gardening, and maybe owning a horse someday. She also cannot say enough good things about coffee.