You Are Free to Do Nothing
In many Christian circles, we are only as good as the last conference or retreat we attended, class we took, or book we read.
Our “goodness” and “Christ-likeness” are measured against our levels of involvement in church activities. We are often pressured to “do more,” “serve more,” and “give more.” We enter into the exhausting pursuit of “being a Christian.”
But pursuing Jesus is something altogether different. Pursuing Christ is actually a counter-intuitive, often uncomfortable, reversal of church life busyness.
At the Prism :: Overcome event two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to talk and pray with a beautiful woman about her heart to serve God. She began explaining to me how desperate she was to make His name known and how she feared she simply wasn’t “doing enough.”
Her heart and love and zeal for Jesus was so evident. She simply wanted to serve Him. But the lie she had begun believing was that she wasn’t doing all that she could do—and that perhaps, just maybe, Jesus was disappointed with her because of that fact.
So, I began to pray over her, and I knew what God wanted me to tell her, and the words caught in my throat because, to be honest, I didn’t fully believe them. I heard what the Spirit was telling me to communicate to her, but I began to process the words through the filter of my own disbelief.
That can’t be true, I thought. There’s no way You feel like that, God. How can that be?
But before I could fumble the words any longer in my mind, I began to speak and pray over her, allowing the words of God to pour out of me…
My daughter, I love your zeal and your desire to love and serve Me, but if you never did anything—if you sat in a room and only spoke to me for the rest of your days—I would still be proud of you, and I would still love you.
Just writing it I feel uncomfortable. I feel my flesh squirm and twist—the pieces of me that are still convinced that I owe God something and that I must prove myself to Him. I must do.
But, He did.
He did it all. Not so that we spend the rest of our lives on earth trying to repay Him, but so we spend the rest of our days telling others about how greatly He loves us.
And what of love? This immeasurable, undeniable, infinite love of Jesus. It is His love that compels us to do good works.
"...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." -Matthew 5:16
His great love is what brings us to our feet and allows us to go, and give, and minister. But it is the same love that pulls us gently back to the lap of Jesus, where we can sit and be still with no judgment and no shame, where we can rest and choose the “more excellent way….”
And so as I wrestle with believing that I could spend the whole of my days at Jesus’ feet, determined to do nothing but gaze upon Him, I also acknowledge that loving Him means doing good works so that others might know Him, too…
Not out of busyness, or religion, not out of guilt or condemnation, but simply because He is worthy. He loves us wherever we sit and that frees us to sit at His feet and invite others to do the same.
Do you ever struggle with feeling like you have to perform, or do, or serve in order to please God? How do you feel about being free to do nothing?
sheila paliga07.05.2015 at 22:56
Sometimes i feel trapped by nothingness. I want to strive and do more. I want a miracle to rescue me from my nothingness and the pain that put me there. You so beautifully reminded me, with these words, of the simplicity and awe to be found in the stillness and nothingness. The image of sitting with Christ and worshiping him puts all my desires and my reality into perspective.
Thank you for these words.
Nicole Cottrell08.05.2015 at 15:49
Oh friend, this fills me with such joy just knowing that Jesus spoke to you in this. Your daily service as a wife, mother, and lover of Christ delights the Lord. He is pleased with you Sheila. You glorify Jesus in all you do. May the nothingness be swept away and filled with the unending love, peace, and presence of God. Love you so much!
Brittany08.05.2015 at 02:25
I agree wholeheartedly. But there are also things we “should” do that will help our spirit and our faith grow in Him, for example, going to church. Or attending Bible studies. While these are places I want to go, I find myself in the last moments not wanting to go. That confuses me because to my knowledge those feelings are attempts by my flesh to want to ‘sit and do nothing’ when I should be going because it’s good for me and it provides me an opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet (this doesn’t happen with attending church as often as it does with after-work commitments, like Bible study).
Feeling free to do nothing – does this include these times?
I am a strong believer in motives and examining those motives. If our motives are pure and to worship Jesus then we are free to do nothing. But what if they’re not? Is that not part of disciplining the flesh?
Since being sick last year and struggling with mild chronic fatigue I have let go of a few post-work commitments, like my Bible study, and have taken up a personal Bible study instead. And actually this modality works best for me anyway, as being in smaller, intense groups wearies me quite quickly.
I think it’s really dependant on each situation and circumstance. God loves our desire to worship and serve Him. He will honour our commitments, whether they are attending Bible studies or attending a personal Bible study, so long as our motives are pure.
I agree that feeling free to do nothing is an option we should consider at times to avoid believing the lie that “we’re not doing enough” and to avoid burnout.
And in another thought that comes to mind – I’m still working out what it means for me to be a Christian. And obligations to attend xyz studies drive me mental. Because that shouldn’t be what defines my faith and my Christlike-ness, as you said in your article. But it’s such a defining feature of the church! To run these Bible studies and heaven forbid you aren’t in one! I don’t believe it’s bad or good either way, so long as your own motives are pure for not attending. And you are finding time to sit at Jesus’ feet .
Nicole Cottrell08.05.2015 at 16:06
I don’t think I would personally say that there are things we “should” do to help our spirit or grow our faith. There are actions and disciplines that certainly grow us in love for God and others, but I would never call them “shoulds.” Here’s why–as soon as we begin believing that those things, be it a bible study, or women’s group, or daily devotional are necessary for our spiritual maturity we fall into the trap of believing that our maturity comes as a result of those activities.
That is simply not true. We grow in Jesus because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We grow in love because He is love, not because we study our bibles. Now, I am not at all suggesting that scripture is unimportant. I love scripture, but Jesus is the Word. And if I were left to only study Him for all of my days, He would be pleased. I believe this wholeheartedly.
You said that you believe God will honor our commitments. However, I do not think God honors our commitments so much as He honors us and our hearts. If we are growing somewhere, serving somewhere out of a right spirit, God honors us, not what we do. He is motivated by relationship, not activity or duty. He is not transactional.
For me, the biggest shift in thinking is recognizing that Jesus doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need me to serve, or evangelize, or minister. But out of His love and intimacy, He asks that I do so that I may partner with Him. What a treasure!
But, all that to say I think we are saying much of the same thing–that our activities don’t define us, Jesus does and that it’s okay to be still at His feet. The pressure to get up, be busy, and “do” is always there, but then, so is He. May we both find more of His presence wherever we sit. Love to you friend! Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.