I Can’t Do it All

I confess I often feel like a failure.

I don’t pray for my neighbors or my community very often at all. I barely keep up with prayers for my own family and friends.

When I think about my neighborhood, my community, I make assumptions based on what I see others doing.

I know women who love to cook and enjoy the adventure of inviting friends and strangers into their homes for a meal. I’ve read blog posts and books with stories of shared community, of welcoming orphans and widows and refugees. And I feel guilty that I have not done the same.

Telling myself I should try harder to do the things they do because they appear more Christlike than me usually just leads to personal discouragement.

Why? Because I often forget God called me to follow Him—not to follow others.

And while He may in fact want me to be challenged by someone else’s strengths, His real desire is for me to be who He made me to be and to listen to Him above anyone else.

He wants me to trust His timing in my life.

When my children were little and I was much more homebound I knew our neighbors, shared stories as our kids played, and borrowed eggs and sugar from one another when we were out.

When my children were in school, I went to school with them, not literally, but I was present often. I worked with the PTA, volunteered on projects, taught Bible studies with our kids and their friends. Being present meant I knew their teachers, the staff, and the other students at school. I was doing community.

But in this present empty-nest season, without my kids to pull me into the neighborhood and beyond, it’s much easier to be isolated.

Thankfully, God has also called me to a husband who is “Roadrunner,” the affectionate nickname given him by his mother. Traveling has been part of my life since the moment I uttered, “I do.” God did not call me to marry a farmer who must remain tied to his land for its flourishing and his family’s survival. Neither did He call me to marry a pastor who is more tied to a local community for his parishioner’s growth.

God’s plan for me is beautifully individual. It’s been a long road learning to rest in that uniqueness.

One of the most startling statements to me of all that Jesus said while on earth is His often-repeated declaration, “I do nothing on My own initiative.” He listened to His Father’s directives and obeyed.

As a result Jesus didn’t heal every disease. He didn’t feed every starving child. I’m learning I can’t do it all and God doesn’t want me to. Listening to His specific leading for me is His will.

Gratefully when asked by His disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus did not give a long list of rules. Neither did He tell His followers to be like the religious leaders who He referred to as hypocrites … ouch … who prayed publicly, aloud, in order to be seen and admired by many. These public pray-ers used lots of important sounding words intended to make the ordinary folks feel inferior.

Instead, Jesus replied with a very simple prayer that we can both repeat and use as a model for praying in our own words.

“Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.”

This has become my prayer for my neighborhood and community. I don’t know the needs to mention by name, but He knows. And as I pray, He wants me to listen for His whisper to:

  • call my neighbor.
  • pray for the person checking me out at the grocery story.
  • engage in conversation with my seat mate on the airplane.
  • encourage the woman who cleans our hotel room.

Being led by His Spirit is the key to healing in all relationships starting in our homes and then outward to the world. It is how His kingdom will be tasted on earth.

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8 thoughts on “I Can’t Do it All”

  1. I’m captured by the words of this post- because I am in that sandwich season where I’m sandwiched in between helping my suddenly single adult children raise my grandchildren daily – & – helping my suddenly widowed Father with his home hemodialysis daily. My precious Mama went Home to be with Jesus in January- a direct effect from covid and I’m still grieving my great loss, she was my best girlfriend on this earth. i am in a season of overwhelm. I have breathed in and out the beautiful promise of Philippians 4:13 since January – but if I’m honest I’m not sure I have faithfully believed THE PROMISE. Please pray for me as I try to spin all the plates – manage all the miracles and believe for the beauty of this season instead of secretly hoping that this too shall pass. I’m glad God has trusted me with a houseful of people to love, I pray I can love and serve them well – with the Grace of God.

  2. This reminds me of what Jesus said to Peter in John 21. Jesus told Peter to “Follow Me”. When Peter turned around and saw John, Peter asked “What about John?” Jesus’ reply was “What is that to you? YOU follow Me!” Ah, so often I fall into the trap of the poison of comparison. I see others serving the Lord in so many ways, and wish I could serve like them. I need to follow Him as HE leads me. I have to remember my calling may not look like others’, but He has created me uniquely. May my eyes be always on Him and may I follow His calling for me.

  3. Les & LINDA Schrader

    Thank you, Barbara. This helped me so much with an issue I’ve faced so often over my life, but especially now. I’ve heard the Lord whisper some of the thoughts you’ve articulated & to see it spoken through your words has confirmed in my heart those whispers. Thank you for your obedience in being real & sharing His heart thoughts with all of us who need the understanding confirmation for what we have often already heard from the Lord.

  4. This made me smile because for years I had Barbara on a pedestal- great marriage, writer, speaker and artist. And an organized craft room!
    I too feel the pull of every cause presented on blogs or in church on “mission Sunday.” Our pastor said something profound a few weeks ago in response to the whole “What would Jesus do?” movement. He said “how would Jesus live MY life if he were me?”
    That shift freed me to love him and others in the sphere and season I am in now.
    Ps. Still kinda think you are amazing Barbara!

    1. amazing response Ann.
      I will definately be thinking about that one. Freedom came from that thought. How would Jesus do my life? Well and without Guilt. Maybe I’ll keep you all updated.
      Thank You.

  5. The below really spoke to me today. I feel so guilty almost every day that I can’t seem to be like all the others. I do and do and do, get only a few hours sleep, and still feel like I’ve accomplished nothing for God. I don’t understand how some can work full time, home school full time, parent full time, take care of house and car, bills, laundry, disciple kids, and witness to others, while still having hours and hours to draw and color curlicue scripture pages in their Bibles while drinking tea on polished tables.
    “His real desire is for me to be who He made me to be and to listen to Him above anyone else.”

  6. Julie Reynolds

    Thank you for this Barbara, your words are the echo of my heart. Sometimes I feel as if I fail him daily in these areas also. Thank you for this encouragement, I will now be praying “with” you and Jesus. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
    Listening for His whispers,

  7. Thank you so much for the reassurance! You articulated, so beautifully, how and why I am constantly falling into the same pit fall. God shun light on my path and it’s as if he extended his arm to me. I will take hold of Him and will get up and move forward on my unique path.

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