Brave Enough to Say No

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

We live in a culture that wants to transgress all limitations, not accept them—to cheat time and space. To “be like God”. To watch every new film, listen to every podcast, read every new book (and don’t forget the classics!), hear every record, go to every concert, drive every road trip, travel to every country (another stamp for the passport, please), eat at every new restaurant, party at every new bar opening, befriend every new face, fix every problem in society, rise to the top of every field, win every award, make every list of who’s who

John Mark Comer

If I just schedule better—
If I just work faster—
If I’m just more productive—

Victoria Grant Schurter

Ah, yes. If I just do better at life…

Certainly I can, without any issue, do ALL the things. 


The future of education in your inbox.

Get productivity tips, commentary, and Unbound updates sent to you!

Maybe you can, with clear conscience, have a good laugh over my insanity. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking something similar, saying something similar, doing something similar…

We live in a culture that is heavy on the FOMO and light on the VDYN (values-driven yes and no). Unfortunately, that same culture that drives us to do, to experience, and to meet our every longing also often robs us of the genuine best by handing us easy access to the good

Sometimes it is incredibly courageous to say yes to something new, something different, something hard, or something “the same”. But other times, the bravest thing we can do is say no to good things so we can say yes to the best things. 

There are a lot of reasons we don’t like saying no. One reason that’s really personal to me is that sometimes we just don’t feel like we should have to say no. 

Please reinsert the “I can do everything if I just…” statement here. 

Part of that may be both cultural and human. Speaking to western culture, we don’t like denying ourselves. Speaking to human nature, we don’t like denying ourselves, either. We like being able to say yes to anything and everything we wish for. 

But I wonder, again from personal experience, if part of this also stems from the fact that—again speaking to human nature—we’re awfully good at trying to play God. If we can just control every part of our lives, if we manage our schedules, if we sleep less, if we take on more, we can do it all. We can be it all.

What we’re saying, whether we admit it or not, is that we can, essentially, be God. When we say that, we also conveniently tuck into our back pocket the truth that every mortal who’s ever tried to play God ended up destroying themselves. 

What a beautiful thing that amidst the restless, ceaseless roving of humanity, God whispers, Be still and know that I am God. 

Be still. 

Not doing. 

Not moving. 

Not saying yes to more things than we have waking (or sleeping) hours in the day for. 

Just being. Being still. Knowing that we aren’t God and that is a good, good, good thing. 

Maybe it’s worth reexamining our hearts and reminding ourselves that we destroy ourselves when we try to be God. But when we choose to be still and let Him be God instead, when we surrender our schedules and our choices and the to-do’s on our loooooong lists, there is peace. 


And that is worth saying yes to. 

Another reason that’s personal to me is that sometimes we just don’t want to let people down. I want to deliver that project you need before you need it. I want to invest in all the relationships. I want to do that trip with you. I want to make you happy…

And so we keep saying yes, to the point of overwhelm, overwork, and overload, because we really do want to help or serve or please others. But what often results is a soul stretched beyond its limits. A life that is no longer able to serve with love because it’s so doggone tired. A heart that’s taken responsibility for more things than God entrusted to it and is slowly breaking in the process. 

There’s a continuum here, of course. Sometimes we serve beyond our “limits” because that is what God is asking of us in a season, and we do that in His strength, not ours. That’s brave and beautiful. But sometimes we are trying to say yes to things God is not asking of us, and we end up sucking the time and energy that requires from the things God is asking of us.  

Is it better to please men or to please God?—I have to ask myself. By my actions, I sometimes prove that I think the former. Oh, for grace to serve as God leads, not as I determine for myself.

Finally, sometimes the things we’re saying no to are good things. That’s rough. No one wants to decline a good thing. For example—and I’m not exaggerating here—personally, I want to be able to create music monthly and write a book a year and serve through full-time work and attend two Bible studies and church and talk to my (big) family every day and invest in long-term friendships and build new local community and do counseling and journal regularly and work out daily and hold down another job to pay for travel to visit family. 

Which of those is a bad thing?  

But what God is slowly teaching me is that there’s good, and there’s best. Because we’re not God, and we’re not infinite, we have to say no to some things in order to be able to say yes to others. When we can’t say no, we steal from ourselves the option to say yes.


So I have to ask Him—what actually matters most? What are the values He’s calling me to live my life by? Am I making decisions by what I feel in a moment, or by those values? What sacrifices do I need to make in order to be able to hold on to what really matters? 

I can’t have it all. But then, I already do. 

And maybe that’s the crux of the matter. If I trust God enough to believe that even if He asks me to say no to something, He is enough. 

Do I?

Sometimes it is courageous to say yes. But other times, the most courageous thing we can do is say no so that we can say yes

To be still and know that we aren’t God, but God is. 

To pour out our love and lives in doing the things He asks of us, but not trying to please people. 

To be willing to yield the good for the best He wants to give us. 

This week, may we be brave enough to say no.