Can’t You See I’m TRYING?!!?

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Many people could look at Martha, complaining, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?”–and mutter, “All that fuss over one tough day; she didn’t know how easy she had it.” What do you do when you’ve tried your best until you’re on the edge of burnout, and then instead of help or encouragement, you get blame for not doing even more? Consider:

  • The low-income mother who’s working sixty hours a week to keep her children housed and fed, has tried in vain for months to find an affordable daycare arrangement with space available–and then hears from a neighbor threatening to “report you to Child Protective Services if you keep leaving those poor kids alone all day.”
  • The college graduate battling severe autism, who’s been turned down for one job after another because everything in his natural instincts fights his best efforts to develop “soft skills“–and is withdrawing even further because he knows he’ll have a public meltdown if one more person asks, “Why don’t you quit living off your family and get a job?”
  • The teenage introvert in a family of extroverts, who is the primary loser in an ongoing war between her natural passions and the “Why don’t you get out and socialize?” pressure from well-meaning but less-than-empathetic parents. Or the extrovert in a family of introverts, the artist in a family of athletes, the sportsman in a family of scholars–anyone who is made to feel something is wrong with him because he just can’t enjoy what “everyone else” loves.

The quintessential example is Job, who did more things right than any of his peers, yet in his hardest hour could find no sympathy, just “Why didn’t/don’t you do more?” criticism. Like Martha centuries later, he felt that even God was dismissing his struggles as unimportant.

Where Does My Help Come From?

Charles A. Tindley might have been familiar with similar situations a century ago, when he wrote in a hymn-prayer:

When I do the best I can,
And my friends misunderstand,
Thou who knowest all about me,
Stand by me.

(“Stand By Me,” 1905)

God is standing by us in our struggles, even if He has done little about them from our point of view. Sometimes He holds off the help we want so we can develop the strength we need. Often, though, we get so busy trying to solve things ourselves–or trying just to keep up with immediate demands so things won’t get worse–that we don’t leave time or energy to even ask for His help. Would you park outside a coffee shop, sit there in the car because you were “too exhausted” to walk in and place an order–and then get mad at the staff for “not wanting your business” because they haven’t brought you anything?

You may say, “Well, a barista doesn’t know what I need before I ask. God does.” Which is true, but not an excuse. God wants to be your Friend and Mentor, not just your Provider. He doesn’t appreciate being treated as Someone Who should “stand by” and deliver as needed without your even looking at Him; He wants to stand by you and have you aware of His presence. If you look to Him regularly, it matters less whether your situation improves quickly than that you feel His ongoing comfort and guidance. Since He has full knowledge of you and all your struggles, He’s your best source of empathy and help.

Slow Down and Pray: You’ll Make Faster Progress

It may seem as though your world will implode if you interrupt your work to talk to God for ten minutes. But those who actually try it on a daily basis agree it’s the best investment you could make. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NLT). Notice He didn’t say, “First find the right place to unload your heavy burden, then come to me.” We’re to come as we are, and let Him do the unloading for us.

It’s amazing how much less burdensome life becomes when we stop “trying so hard” and start doing things in the right order.


A World of Unexpected Blessings

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We shouldn’t find it odd that people struggle to appreciate blessings hidden in unwanted situations: often, we don’t even appreciate desirable things when they catch us off guard. Perhaps you know (or are) a person who thinks surprise parties are the worst idea ever conceived by humanity; grumbles when opportunity knocks without an appointment; and believes God made time because to-do lists needed something to be sorted into.

There’s nothing wrong with being an organized planner–provided you don’t make an idol of your plans. Determination to keep things on schedule can lead to all sorts of undesirable consequences:

  • When unwilling to accept plan-changing circumstances, people walk (or drive) into dangerous situations with their eyes wide open. How many fender-benders, cars stuck in windshield-deep water, and who-do-you-think-you’re-blocking fistfights are due to someone’s fear of missing an appointment?
  • Attitudes of “let’s get this out of the way so I can go back to what I was doing” frequently lead to our answering new requests with “no” when we should have said yes–or “yes” when we should have said no. Not to mention grumpy responses that do our human relationships little good.
  • Hurry and resentment rob us of rest, peace, and the ability to see anything beyond our obsessive thoughts of what “has to” be done.

At the root of it all, of course, is a craving to be like God: the idea that if we just plan hard enough and work hard enough, we’ll eventually gain full control of our worlds, and then we’ll have peace of mind. In this process of trying to do the impossible, we deafen ourselves to the real God, Who is trying to tell us that if we just trust Him to be in control, He’ll gladly give us peace of mind right now. Even in the midst of endless demands and chaotic news.

One way He does this is through unexpected blessings:

  • Freshly sprouted wildflowers and glorious sunrises, which we so often hustle by without a glance, are God’s gifts to assure us He fills even a fallen world with beauty.
  • A “chance” comment, which we tend to treat as background noise, may be God’s way of telling us exactly what we need to hear.
  • The requests that interrupt our schedules aren’t always toxic distractions–they may be God’s invitations to bless others for our good and His glory. (As Henri Nouwen put it, “I used to complain that my work was constantly being interrupted, until I realized that the interruptions were my work.”)

Of course, not everything that breaks into our routine deserves our attention. In many cases (as with people who can’t resist the beep of an email, the buzz of a phone, or the flash of a popup), a distraction is just a distraction, and we’d be better off closing the email window or hanging out a “Do Not Disturb” sign until our immediate work is done. But if we stuff every hour with “must-dos,” if we’re always hurrying in pursuit of the well-ordered, “controllable” life, we become so tired, so frustrated, so irritable that we can’t tell the difference between good and bad distractions. And that largely because the first thing to go from our overloaded schedules is attention to God (maybe from subconscious fears He’ll tell us to change our plans and forget about control?)–and without His guidance, all reliable discernment goes out the window. Planned daily time with God is what frees us to rejoice in the best of the unplanned.

Jesus has already promised that the greatest blessing of all–His return to earth that will finally issue in the stress-free eternity we crave–will come as a surprise. Why should we expect any different from everyday blessings?

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See for copyright details.
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