Saying No to Good: A Lesson Learned from Emmaus [Day 16 of 31]

Do you ever wonder…why in the world did she say that?  Me too!

There’s such power in words for lifting up or shooting down.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  James 3: 9-10

But, I have discovered that words aren’t always black and white.  Sometimes it’s not the speaker of the words; it’s how the listener  “hears” the words.

Sigh…I learned this yesterday.

At the end of my Emmaus weekend, I received letters and cards from my friends and family. This was (oddly) one of the most difficult parts of the weekend for me.

Some writers praised me for who I am or what I’ve meant to them.  These letters were particularly important to me because during the weekend God revealed to me that I’d lost much of my confidence in the past year.  Through a variety of struggles, I’d begun doubting every decision – every word I said was carefully considered and censored.  (More on this “identity crisis” in days to come – I am telling you, this Emmaus weekend blew me away.  I’d need a 5,000-word post to cover it all;)

These “complimentary” letters and cards reminded of who I am and WHOSE I am.  It was as if I expelled a huge sigh of contentment and peace after reading these. I have actually read them a few times!

To those who wrote them, my deepest and sincerest thanks.

A few letters took a different path.  I felt a bit chastised after reading these two letters.  Both said, “here’s what is wrong in your life and here’s what you need to do.” Not that directly, but that’s how I felt – and they came from two people I love and respect.

Sadly, I allowed those two letters to overshadow the other 15.  I got so focused on those two, I couldn’t see the other 15.  In fact, I later described all my letters as if they belonged in the “not nice” category…

Sometimes hurt clouds and distorts our view.

When someone’s hurt you or you’re living in a difficult season, it’s so easy to focus on the “two” instead of the 15.  Yes, the two might hurt, but look at the other 15 (or more!) amazing parts of your life.  Often in life it truly is a matter of perspective.  Focus on the 15 and pray about the two.

I prayed about the two:  God, you know the hearts of both people, and you know what I need in this moment.  You see the big picture, and I see only the small “Sarah-only” picture.  Help me to see this your way.

I stuffed the letters away and “left” my confusion with God.  At 3:00 am that night/ early the next morning, I revisited those letters – surprised by my earlier assessment.  This time, I saw the 15 and not the two.  And, in the two I saw something a bit different. Maybe the “chastisement” came from a place of love. Maybe these two people see something I can’t – or won’t – see.

One letter spoke of my penchant for spreading myself too thin, especially in service to my Creator.  The letter expressed fear that I’d burn out or exchange what could be great for what is simply good.  My immediate reaction?  Really, Writer of Letter #2?  You’ve been singing this same song to me for years.  You could’ve been nice this time. Grrrr! 

Then, as God would have it, Monday morning brought a plethora of new opportunities.  Humbled, grateful, amazed at how God answers prayer…the dreams first breathed by a 3rd grader coming true over 25 years later.  And, as I looked at my schedule and available time, guess what the Holy Spirit reminded me of?  A quote from Letter #2.

He reminded me to let go of the good and choose the great.

As I looked at the opportunities before me, I felt God saying, “these are all good.  They all serve Me.  But, which one is great?  Which one glorifies Me most?” In other words, don’t say “yes” to every good thing that comes along – even if you really want to do it (and I do!).  Say yes to only the great.

No, no, no!  [Picture me kicking and screaming on the ground.]

Saying no is hard for me because I love people.  I don’t want to disappoint people.  I want ALL people to know Him.  And, I fear that if I don’t say “yes” then I will miss planting a seed, showing His glory.

Yet, if that’s true, then I serve a very small God.

God desires to use me – in some places, but not all places.  And he doesn’t NEED me at all.

Thank you, Letter #2.  [Picture me swallowing a big gulp of pride.]

Friend, God wants great for you, not good. When it seems as if someone is criticizing you, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and ask God to reveal the truth in those words.

What about those words make your chest tighten and your hair stand up?  Maybe there’s some truth in them?

We serve a big and mighty God.  A God that doesn’t need you at all, but He wants you.  He loves you. He delights in your heart turning to Him in response to the gospel.  He smiles upon your service to Him and others.  His ways are not our ways.

“For my thoughtsare not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55: 8-9

He doesn’t think like we think.  He sees a picture that’s much larger and greater than the one we see. So, take a deep breath, pray, and rethink the ugly words, the difficult situations.  See the 15 good, not the two bad.  Then, stop and ask:  Are the two really BAD?

Regardless, praise Him always.


  1. Beth Elkins says:

    I must confess, I am a professional at seeing the “bad 2” and not the other 15. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. ummmm are you reading my mail??

  3. Angel Carpentet says:

    Definitely needed this today. Thank you for the encouragement and thank the Lord for you and this blog.

    • Thanks so much, Angel! I pray my blog leads people to Jesus…that through my words, you can see him as the only way!

  4. I look forward to 10 500-word posts or 5 1000-word posts or go ahead with one enormous better grab a coffee before starting 5000-word post!

    Advice I once got that has helped me many times: if someone tells me something about myself that hurts me and I think it’s way off base, but I can’t shake it off because I wonder if God has some truth He wants me to see, I need to pray and ask Him to bring that truth to me from someone whose friendship and love I trust.

    Just today I had a conversation with someone about this very thing and now look, you have written about a similar situation!

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