I am extremely proficient and accomplished at saying yes. In fact, I’ve nearly turned it into an art form. If you need me to make something for a bake sale, my answer is yes. If you ask me to be a room mom, I’m your girl. If you are looking for someone to lead a troop, cook a meal, or volunteer, my answer will most certainly be yes.
Unfortunately, my perfected craft has some downfalls. While I am so busy saying yes, I find that I inevitably have to say no to other things. To good things. To things that are infinitely more important. If my child asks me to play, my answer is usually, “I’m busy right now. Maybe in a bit.” If a friend wants to have lunch, my answer is, “It’s a busy week, let me check my calendar.” And if God tugs my heart and whispers a call in my ear, my regretful response is too often, “Not now.”
In Daniel 1, young Daniel and his three friends are taken from Jerusalem and carted off to Babylon. There, under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, they were offered the food and wine of the king. However, the extravagant diet they were offered did not conform to the requirement of Jewish law. And so, the four young men politely refused and, after a bit of negotiation and a heap of divine intervention, they were allowed a 10-day trial period during which they ate only vegetables. At the conclusion of this time, their physical condition was inspected and scrutinized and they were found “better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.”
So at the end of the day, Daniel and his friends not only survived on less, they thrived on less. They said no to things that were, by all logical definition, better than what they had and they flourished. They accepted less and gained more. I expect that if I apply that same principle to my own life, God will also allow me to thrive. I imagine that if I reduce my extraneous commitments, he will rein upon me the blessings of less. After all, if I reduce the noise in my life, the voices of request and the petitions for my time and attention, by extension, there will be more room and opportunity for His voice.
Psalms 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” What I find especially interesting is that the Hebrew word for “eating” in the verse is akal, which, translated more accurately, means “burn up, consume or devour”. I don’t know about you, but I find that many days I am not merely eating the bread of toil, I am devouring it. So much of my time is literally burned up with the stress and anxiety of a “to do” list. Far too often, I consume toil like it is my last meal.
But what if rather than being the poster child for the first half of that verse, I changed my strategies? What if I chose to follow Daniel’s example and strove for less, hoping to attain more? And what if in doing that I received the glorious promise in the second half of Psalms 127:2? What if, just for a change, I rejected the bread of toil and accepted the divine promise of rest?
I need less and more in my life all at the same time. I need less of what is unnecessary and so much more of what is essential. The shift is so hard. I want to be involved. I want to help. I want to be useful. But the truth of the matter is that being excessively involved, helpful, and useful in earthly arenas limits my ability to be available in heavenly ones.
In this season of my life, God is teaching me a painful lesson. He is teaching me the value of no. The amazing benefit of less. The heavenly truth that often times, less truly is more. And as I learn the lesson, I am looking so forward to not just surviving on less, but thriving.