Cindy, a lovely and talented woman had a hard time saying “no” to others. She wanted to help, wanted to please and wanted everyone to like her all of the time. This put her in a terrible bind. She often felt others were taking advantage of her kindness or placing unrealistic expectations on their friendship. But, in order to not disappoint them or cause conflict, Cindy would do whatever she could to smooth things out and make the other person happy. Cindy felt exhausted and was teetering on the brink of depression and burn out. I know she is not alone.
Cindy tried to say “no” sometimes, but if anyone voiced the slightest disappointment with her refusal, she would feel terribly guilty and anxious. At times, her husband and children would complain because she was so busy helping others they never had her full attention. Cindy would brood about how she should be able to do more, if only she were a better Christian.
But is that true? Do good Christians do it all and please everyone all of the time?
When I’m feeling that kind of tug, I’m often drawn to the story of Jesus in Mark 1:29-39. Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house, and the text says that people brought the sick to Jesus and that the whole town gathered at the door. Can you imagine the pressure Jesus felt with everyone pressing in on him to “do something?” He healed many people that evening and then went to bed. He did not heal everyone, and I’m sure those who he didn’t get to were deeply disappointed.
While it was still dark, Jesus awoke and went off by himself to pray. Peter eventually came looking for him. “Jesus, everyone back home is waiting for you. What are you doing here?” Jesus’ response gives me hope that good Christians do not do it all. Jesus answered Peter saying, “I’m not going back to your house. Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
Jesus knew he could not do everything everyone wanted all him to do and still do what God wanted him to do. During that quiet time of prayer, Jesus asked the Father to help him discern the better from the best. Just like we do, Jesus had to make some hard choices—to please God or to please others. He chose pleasing God.
If you’re feeling frazzled and stretched in a million directions, perhaps you’ve substituted a good thing (the approval of people) for the best thing (the approval of God). Take some time to be quiet with your Heavenly Father and ask Him to give you the courage to be a God pleasing–not a people-pleasing–person.