Don’t tell me “don’t”

I wish that a diet didn’t make me think of all the things I’m not supposed to eat. I wish I were better at refocusing my focus. But, here’s the thing. Tell me something I’m not supposed to do and that’s often the very thing I can’t seem to get out of my mind. My thoughts weren’t so consumed with ice cream sandwiches until I determined to try to eat healthier again.

But, it’s not just my choice of foods. It seems to be the same with a lot of the things I’m told not to do. Especially when it comes to the way I feel, both physically and emotionally. What’s worse is when it’s something God tells me. And you know… there are quite a few “don’ts” in the Bible. Here’s the one that got me this week.

  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Sometimes I just get tired. Tired of always trying to do the right thing. Tired of just doing, period. I admit it. At the risk of sounding callous, uncaring and unconcerned about the well-being of others, sometimes I just want to stop doing altogether. Please tell me I’m not the only one who deals with this from time to time.

Here’s the thing. I need to know what to do, in place of that thing I’m not supposed to do.

15 Week Molly and mums bA few years ago I was blessed to be able to work with one of the most wonderful groups of people I’ve ever worked with. I had the opportunity to work with developmentally disabled adults. They taught me more during those years than I could ever have taught them. One thing I learned during the time I spent at that job came from a session that was a part of my annual training. The presenter taught me something that has been of tremendous value to me. Don’t say don’t.

inside greenhouse 05 02 08 b

15 Week James and Norman mums 10 11 10 bIt wasn’t that we employees who worked with these special needs adults were supposed to let incorrect actions go uncorrected. The point of the instruction was to redirect the incorrect actions. Sure, there were times when a quick “don’t” or “stop” were necessary for safety’s sake. But as a rule, we were to give redirection as a means of correction.

Here’s an example. If one of our clients had a habit of dropping his coat in the floor when he walked into his room, we shouldn’t say, “Don’t drop your coat in the floor.” We should tell him, “You should put your coat on the coat hook.” He needed to know what to do in place of what he had been doing. Oh, how that spoke to me!

So many times I need to know what to do in place of what I have been doing; especially when it comes to the instruction God gives me. Here are some examples I’ve struggled with.

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matthew 6:25a)
  • “In your anger, do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (Ephesians 4:26)

Have you ever gotten into an argument with a close friend, a spouse or other family member, and then have them tell you not to be angry? You might as well tell me not to be hungry after I’ve gone all day without something to eat. I need to know what to do that replaces my being angry. If I truly want redirection; if I really want to find something to replace what I’m not supposed to do, I have to look for the right substitute.

Finding the right substitute is a little easier for me when it comes to my diet. I can always grab a sugar-free fudge pop instead of and ice cream sandwich. Finding the right redirection for the “don’ts” that God shows me in His Word requires some digging and some study. But, I’ve learned that if I ask God to show me where and how He wants me redirected, He will.

  • And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, (1 John 4:16-18a)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Some of the “don’ts” take a little deeper digging, especially concerning those things that are more difficult for me to deal with: weariness and anger. I had to take a closer look at what God was telling me in those verses. I had to really listen to what He was telling me not to do.

I looked back to Ephesians to see what I was supposed to do about this anger issue. If my anger emotion has an on and off switch it must be broken, so I needed a little more help with this one. I read that verse in another translation.

  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. (Ephesians 4:26, NET)

Let God show me the real cause of my anger before I go to bed. There’s my redirection. Usually it’s something that needs correcting in me. Usually He’s trying to show me something like a critical spirit or pride that refuses to admit that I was wrong.

But for the weariness? How am I not supposed to be tired when I have so much to do? I read the verse again.

  • Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

It didn’t tell me not to be weary. It told me not to become weary. Don’t let myself become worn out. How do I do that? I use the right power source. I use God’s power, not mine.

  • …His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 1:19-20)

I also learn to do only those things God has for me to do. Not every good thing has my name assigned to it. God gives me enough hours in the day to accomplish everything He has for me to do, with plenty of time left to rest and keep myself from becoming worn out. This isn’t an easy lesson to learn. As a matter of fact, it’s almost a change of lifestyle for some of us. If this is something you struggle with, I highly recommend a book written by Lysa TerKeurst called The Best Yes.

So, the next time I feel myself turning into my own version of my daughter when she was three years old, stomping her foot and forcefully telling me, “No tell me ‘no’!”, I will do my best to remember redirection. I will do my best to refocus on what I should be doing, rather than what I shouldn’t. And I’ll do my best to remember that when God tells me “don’t”, it’s with even more love than I had for my daughter as I did my best to teach her and to keep her safe.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! (Hebrews 12:9)

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