The People Pleasing Dilemma Vs. God

Friday morning dawns, and I am on my way to lead the women’s Bible study at my church. As I load my car with the items necessary to teach these women who have been Christians all their lives, I receive a call from my daughter who needs me to go shopping with her to find a bathing suit for summer. I open my iPhone planner and search for a space to squeeze in the bathing suit excursion. Filing through my days, I pass by the Lectio Divina meeting with friends, move past my sessions for spiritual direction, scroll by the appointment to change the cloth on the cross in our sanctuary, and the list continues.

One appointment after another seems to make my life full of activity. These activities are all good things and generally ministry related. In fact, as I look more closely I see that my goings-on are usually connected to something that someone else has asked me to do. For example: teaching in our Vacation Bible School, visiting someone who is ill, or taking a meal to an elderly couple. Yes, all of which are valuable opportunities.

Sometimes, overwhelmed with all my undertakings, I stop to ask why I am so stressed and edgy. Taking inventory of the things that fill my life, I cannot quite determine how I have ended up in this place of exhaustion and over-extension. Getting up in the morning, the demands of the day are already off and running as I chase close behind. Often I find myself rising to face the day with a long list already filling my post-it note, and divided into four neat categories: errands, emails, meetings, and jobs at home. I breathe a quick, “I need you Lord,” and drag him along, making my way through the penciled lines on my paper.

Something is wrong. I know it, and God knows it. Though longing to remedy the situation, I am unable to say no to good opportunities that come my way. Saying no makes me feel as though I am disappointing others. In addition, if I do not step in, things simply will not get done, or so I think. I reason that these occasions are ministry, and one should never turn down a chance to minister, right?

How do I set aside pleasing those around me and instead please God? Turning to the Bible for answers, I am drawn to the life of Christ and how he handled the needs of the crowds and the demands that pulled him in so many directions. It seems that on many occasions when the strains of his public life pressed in, his response was to get away to deserted places.

Wait, really? God incarnate, Creator of the universe, living in the form of a man, needed to press the pause button: to stop his ministry, stop healing the sick, stop casting out demons, stop preaching the Good News, and pull away to care for himself? How much more then, do we need to come away and refresh ourselves under the care of Christ?

Mark 6:31 is a prime example for us to follow. Returning excitedly from a ministry tour, the disciples tell Jesus all they had done and taught. Can you picture it? The disciples were probably enthusiastically talking nonstop about all that had happened. Then the Gospel records that since so many people were coming and going they did not even have time to eat. At this point Jesus speaks to them, “Come to a quiet place and get some rest.” I imagine Christ saying, “Have you had lunch yet?” He pulls them away from ministry and the needs of others to renew themselves.

What if I were to start my day by asking God what he wants of me? What jobs are essential, which needs should I follow up, and for whom should I pray? This would mean releasing my grip on what the day looks like and prayerfully letting him direct me. This would entail surrendering to God by giving him my schedule, appointments, and asking for his input. Thinking about my day, week, month, or even year, I could invite God to sit at the drawing table with me; allowing him to help design my time according to his purposes and grace.

Pleasing God or pleasing people? Are we driven by ministry or by the opportunity to commune with God? The first account of our heavenly Father being pleased with Jesus is at his baptism. Matthew 3:17 says that after Christ came out of the water a voice from heaven was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” How can this be? Christ had not even begun his ministry. He had done nothing that would merit the pleasure of God, yet God was well pleased. Could it be that what it means to please God is far from the doing and ministering that fills our lives? That pleasing God simply flows out of our communion with the heavenly Father?

While I process through my desire to please others, the busyness of my ministry, and organizing time issues, I am trying to prayerfully keep in mind what I know pleases God. As we have seen Christ model communion with God, I am challenged and yearn to do the same. My hope is that you will experience connection with Christ even as you navigate through all the activities that make up your day.

Do you, at times, lean towards pleasing others above God?

How does this manifest itself in your life?

How does pleasing God “play out” in your own life?

6 Comments

  1. B4thirty8 July 12, 2016

    Your post about pleasing – I felt like you wrote this just for me.
    I can never say no because I feel like there are others busier and working harder then me and saying no implies I’m doing enough. And I feel like doing for others is something I should have a finite attitude about.
    Your post has helped me see
    Things better.

    1. Jayna July 12, 2016

      So glad this resonated with you. That’s the Holy Spirit! It is something that I continually fight against.
      Will keep you in my prayers as you navigate through this, and pray for me too.

  2. B4thirty8 July 12, 2016

    I meant to type “shouldn”!

  3. B4thirty8 July 12, 2016

    Wow – really need to slow down. – shouldn’t

  4. Monica F July 13, 2016

    I got to a point in ministry work that my lists were entirely made up of what people were asking me to do or what I thought people wanted me to do. I had no margin and was living exhausted from saying ‘yes’ to everyone- even though I genuinely loved and wanted to serve those around me. So, two years ago, at the beginning of a Sabbatical season I read the book, ‘The Best Yes’, by Lysa TerKeurst, and it really helped me regain perspective on my ‘to do lists’. And like you mentioned above, I found myself drawn to stories about Jesus resting, retreating, and communing with His Father. I began to allow myself the space to breathe, and learn how to ‘follow in His steps’ in this particular area. I’m still growing in this, learning to say no graciously, while investing my time in the people and projects the Father puts before me. Thank you for this encouraging post!

    1. Jayna July 13, 2016

      Sounds like a great book. So glad this encouraged you. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry of investing in what the Lord has for you to do.

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