Friday, September 13, 2013

Simplify Your Life

Recently I spoke at a Ladies Breakfast on the topic: Simplify your life . I expressed the thought that our lives would be less complex if we were better at saying “no”.

Here are a few reasons why we have trouble saying, “no”

1. We underestimate our schedule. Everything takes longer than we expect.
We have a saying in our house: Never sit in front of a computer and say this will only take a minute.

We live in a fallen world and everything takes longer than it should. Computer crash, cars break down, children are clumsy, and we don’t allow time for the unexpected. We assume everything is going to go perfectly according to plan. But it’s a wrong assumption, the world is not a perfect place and we need to have gaps in our schedule. Having more gaps will ensure that we are not constantly tired and feeling overwhelmed. We also need gaps in our schedule in case God bring someone to mind who needs an encouraging phone call or visit or maybe someone who needs our prayers.

2. Our self esteem is tied to what we do
In Isaiah 6 we find the familiar verse, "I’ll go. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8). The Lord sent Isaiah, but told him people would not listen (v.9).

Isaiah’s mission was doomed from the beginning. Usually we expect that if God tells us to do something it will end in success and yet right from the start God tells Isaiah his mission would be a failure.

If Isaiah had been looking for his self esteem in his achievements, he was going to be severely disappointed. It is a trap that we often fall into, believing that we are only worthwhile as people if we are involved in something that is successful. But sometimes God calls us to do things that will not be successful in the world's eyes and we need to know that our significance as people is found in God and not in our achievements.

3. We keep ourselves busy because we are afraid to say “yes” to those things God wants us to do
We may feel challenged to become more committed about having a regular devotional time or prayer time or attending a Bible Study Group or becoming involved in a ministry. It is easy to say, I’m too busy to do anything else for God.

But perhaps God is asking us to stop doing some things so we do have time. We need to learn to say “no” to the unimportant so we have time to say “yes” to the important.

4. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough so I feel guilty when I say, “no”
If we measure our spirituality by what we do, we will find we can never do enough. It leads to the feeling that we are not good enough and that God is displeased with us. However if we focus on Jesus and all he has done for us, it leads to feelings of gratitude and the knowledge that though we can never repay him, we don’t need to.

5. Our friends, instead of encouraging us not to over schedule, actually make saying “no” more difficult
In the book of Philemon we find Paul is writing to his friend about Onesimus. Onesimus had been Philemon's slave who had apparently stolen from Philemon and then ran away. But in the amazing providence of God, Onesimus went to Rome, met Paul and became a Christian. Paul was now sending Onesimus back to Philemon. And he writes:

I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary (v.13-14).

Paul didn't want to pressurize Philemon into helping him or doing him a favour. We do others a disservice when we presume upon their kindness or put them under some sort of obligation to assist even if it is for the cause of the gospel.

Hope these few thoughts help you to simplify your life.


  1. This is such a useful reminder. Thank you, Susan! The thing I like most about this post (apart from the helpful advice) is how you tied Scripture and Biblical examples into your message. I pray that God greatly uses your influence and blesses your work abundantly...

    1. I agree with Margaret that you did a great job of combining scripture and biblical examples into your message. Thanks so much! :)

  2. Thanks Susan. That was a needed post. This modern world makes simplicity a difficult word and difficult lifestyle. And yet - I know we will most probably achieve far more for the gospel and for Jesus if we do simplify our cluttered lives and do only what God calls us to. Wisdom is needed I think and also self discipline!

    Thanks for the reminder. :)

  3. Thanks, Susan, for these wise thoughts. I used to find it really difficult to say no to anything, but I think finding out what God wants us to do is key--and then keeping focussed on that. Not that we don't do other things, but we don't lose sight of the main thing in the midst of it all. Hope that makes sense!

  4. How true Susan. It's not a simple thing to simplify things!!!!

    I found if I went to the computer first thing then time got away from me. So now I head for the Bible and a daily reading and prayer. It makes such a difference to my day and my attitude toward things I need to do.

    I've found I never HAVE time...I need to MAKE time for the Lord, so like you say, priorities need sorting through.

    Thank you so much for encouraging us to remember this.

  5. "But sometimes God calls us to do things that will not be successful in the world's eyes." I like this point Susan. A good reminder that sometimes God wants to teach us something other than what we have in mind. :)

  6. Thanks Susan. I liked that example from Isaiah 6 about not all we are called to do being successful. It's a trap easy to fall into thinking that because God called us to do it, it will be successful. Amanda is right sometimes we have to learn something else along the way.

  7. I love being busy, but there is busy and then there is busy! I am mastering saying no, but it is a process. Thanks for the reminder of why it is so hard.

  8. Excellent post, Susan.
    And a great checklist to think through our motivations for being busy when, in fact, we need to say 'no'.

  9. Hi Susan,
    This post really spoke to my heart this morning. I'm sure I can say "Yes" to each of the points you've mentioned, at different times and sometimes most of the time :) Number 1 is a given in my household of so many different ages all the time. And like others who have commented, I'm very challenged by Number 2. Thanks for sharing this. It's definitely worth bookmarking.
    Paula V

  10. Thank you for sharing! Very practical for us thoroughly modern mothers trying to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

  11. Thanks Susan. These are definitely issues for life long learning. I find I have to come back to them over and over again, because it's so contrary to the way our world is pushing us to live. I believe this is one of the ways we can so easily be "conformed to the world", and we must be consciously working towards "being transformed by the renewing of our minds". Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Thanks everyone for your encouragement.