A Note from Chris Adams: Have you ever struggled with whether to say yes or no to an “opportunity” to serve? Do you say “yes” too often? OR do you say “no” too often? Consider today’s post written by guest writer, Susan Lawrence, a ministry consultant and blogger who loves to encourage women as they serve. Learn to appropriately respond to requests and lead other women to do the same!
The tide is finally turning, and now we’re facing another crushing wave.
We’ve been teaching women how important saying “no” is. We can’t say “yes” to everything, even when it all seems so very good. Our choices are often not between good and bad—we have that struggle covered fairly well—but between good and best. The right “no” is important, because it makes way for the right “yes.” Our obedience isn’t just about us. If we say “yes” to the wrong thing, not only are we disobedient, but we get in the way of someone else’s opportunity to be obedient.
I cannot count the amount of times I have taught the importance of choosing well between yes and no. Often, it felt as if I was forcing my way through a crowded hallway with everybody moving toward their appointed classrooms at designated times, and I was encouraging them to ask themselves to pay attention and be intentional, to not just go with the flow because it was a longstanding routine or tradition. That filling a need just because “no one else would” wasn’t a good enough reason. That staying committed to a ministry team or hosting an event “because it’s what we’ve always done” weren’t good enough reasons either. That it’s okay to say “no” to the wrong things in the wrong timing to make way for God’s best for that season.
That crowd has gotten the message, turned around, and is now running through the hallways, released for recess!
Women are getting increasingly better at saying no, leaving many ministry leaders standing in empty hallways, pondering how to get people back inside. We’ve given women the freedom to say no without teaching the responsibility that comes along with freedom—the responsibility to search out God’s prompting toward the obedient yes. Have we empowered women without equipping them?
We can’t stay on the playground. Recess is a break, not our entire schedule. We go outside, take a deep breath, run around to build our strength, swing to feel the refreshing breeze, then step back inside to serve, study, and connect with renewed focus.
We’ve taught the benefits of saying no; now let’s teach and model the benefits of saying yes.
What does a good “no” and good “yes” look like in real life?
- A good no is less about avoidance and more about affirmation. While it might seem negative, the good “no” moves you forward with intentionality and purpose. Turning away from something always invites you to focus on something else.
- A good yes isn’t about guilt and obligation, but it’s also not always about comfort. Sometimes we’re excited to say yes to something in line with our passions. Other times, saying yes is daunting and unsettling, but we can step out in faith with God’s strength instead of our own.
- A good no is not about whether or not you are too good or not good enough for something. It’s about what God can and will do through you, not what you prefer to embrace or reject.
- A good yes isn’t about filling in your spiritual gifts inventory and agreeing exclusively and chronically to anything having to do with your top assessed strength. God will prepare you to complete His desires for you, whether they complete your checklist or not. Obedience is less about the task than about your willingness to trust Him.
The best way to know the best yes and best no is to continually get to know God. You don’t have to understand everything in order to follow Him well. As you give up your own preferences and routines and let Him lead, choosing between yes and no becomes more natural, even though it still doesn’t always make sense. You grow contentment and assurance of choosing well despite not having any idea what’s going to happen next.
Saying no is simply the first step to clear your path. Then, you can have true freedom as you say yes in faithful obedience.
Susan Lawrence is a Ministry Consultant who is passionate about helping women lead and serve in healthy ways. She recently released Mombarded: A Devotional Journey: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life. Connect with her at PurePurpose.org.