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Is That a “Should” on your “Shoulder?”-by Heidi McLaughlin

Posted: August 21, 2023

If you knew you only had thirty days to live, what is one thing in your life that you would stop right now?” This provoking question started a lively discussion amongst my group of friends. After much animated banter, one main theme came into focus; stop the life-sucking “shoulds”out of our daily activities. We agreed that many of us cave into guilt-induced obligations. We are afraid that we will disappoint people or they might not like us. The discussion became livelier as we tried to determine the obligations we needed to let go so that we could enjoy the vibrant, fulfilling life that Jesus came to model for us.

There is one prevailing statement I hear these days: “I am so tired!”It is a proven statistic that today we sleep 1-1/2 hours less that we did one hundred years ago.[i] More motor vehicle accidents are being reported because both men and women are falling asleep at the wheel. There is an increase of sleep disorders, illnesses, depression and anxiety. What does this have to do with the “shoulds” in our daily activities? Many of us are working very hard to meet the demands of every day existence, but sadly, we also succumb to the guild induced “shoulds” that deplete our energy, cause our stress and rob us of freedom and joy.

Whenever I am in doubt, I look to Jesus who modeled the abundant, fulfilling life. I can visualize him looking around at a ragged, bunch of over-zealous, overburdened humans and He was compelled to say: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:29 MSG).

Whenever I read that verse I want to curl up in His lap and unburden my soul. I want to get away from all the unnecessary shoulds in my life and learn how to live the “unforced rhythms of grace.” I need to be confident and bold enough to say “yes” to only those things that I have been created to do. Marcus Buckingham, the author of Find Your Strongest Life, says this about the shoulds. “Because you neglect the specific moments that strengthen you, your life gradually becomes filled up with the grab bag of activities and responsibilities. You may have a good reason for taking on each of these responsibilities-everything from…’If I don’t do this, no one else will’ to A good mother should do this.” [ii]Unfortunately this barrage of demands makes women feel responsible and we end up doing things that are not part of God’s plan for our lives.

So how do we find those “unforced rhythms of grace” and begin to say no to the “shoulds” and find that rest we so desperately need? Let’s walk with Jesus and learn from Him:

  1. He knew His purpose. Yes, he worked hard, but he always focused on His purpose in life…”to do the will of His Father.”(John 8:28; Matthew 26:39)
  2. He prayed. Early in the morning He went up to secluded places to talk to His Father. (Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16)
  3. He fed on the word of God. When He was vulnerable and tempted, He told Satan, “It is written.” (Matthew 4:4, 10)
  4. He slept when He was tired. In the midst of chaos and storms, Jesus was able to sleep because His soul was at rest. (Matthew 8:24)
  5. He was thankful for His present circumstances. Before Jesus performed miracles, or broke the bread and served the wine-He looked up to Heaven and prayed. (John 11:41, Mark 14:22)
  6. He owned very little “stuff”. He wasn’t obsessed with accumulating new clothes, toys or technical equipment that seems to consume our time. (Matthew 8:20)

Trying to please everyone in this life is exhausting; it drains us of energy and we succumb to the authority of other people instead of Christ. Oh that we might learn to let go of some of the ugly “shoulds” in our life and move into step with Jesus as we practice the unforced rhythms of grace.

[i] http://psychcentral.com/lib/2010/sleep-deprived-nation/ (August 24th, 2012)


[ii] Marcus Buckingham, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009) 90, 91.

Posted in: anxiety, ask for help, ask God, chaos, Conflict, each day has enough troubles of its own, Encouragement, Expectations, Freedom from Busyness, frustrations, grace, live one day at a time, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, perfectionism, re-evaluate, Say no, should, trust God for today

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