Let me start this article by saying that I do believe in priorities. I do believe some things are good, some things are better, and some things are best when considering how to spend the limited time on this earth we’ve been given. But there are layers and nuances to everything. And it’s in those layers and nuances that depth is acquired. This is one of those little nuances that helped me understand that there’s more to the question: What is needful? And more to “good, better, best” than meets the eye. Let me explain.
Within the last month I took some time to list all the commitments I’ve got going on in my life. It was a lot. I didn’t know what I could possibly cut out, or how I could possibly do it all, but God stepped in and removed a big one. Within two weeks I found myself unconsciously trying to fill that space with a new venture instead of just giving space to what was already there, which was more than enough.
All that week I noticed a prominent question entering my mind:
What is needful?
An additional event happened in my life that cleared part of another commitment and the question came more forcefully:
What is needful?
I knew I needed to answer this question, but my schedule was so jam-packed I put it on the back burner for another week. As I focused on this new venture with a friend, I became more uneasy and stressed. The answer to the question could not be ignored any longer. So, one morning, after scripture study and prayer, I created a list to visually distinguish the needful and necessary in my life. I thought I was just revisiting the good, better, best question, I thought I was just revisiting priorities, but there was more.
As I looked at the list, I knew that the timing for this new venture wasn’t right for me. My friend was more than gracious when I explained my folly, and I will be ever grateful for her patience, but here’s the thing, I wasn’t prompted to answer the question and create the list just to categorize my activities into good-better-best columns. I was already quite aware of my top priorities, AND that God was asking a lot of me, and that I needed to pursue everything on the list (except that thing with my friend for the time being). The Spirit had already communicated to me that this would be a season of God requiring much of me.
So, I continued to ponder the question and look at the list, and I learned what God was really asking me—and it goes deeper than good, better, best. He showed me that I needed to be mindful and conscious of my filter for my commitments and responsibilities. He showed me that I need to take time to scrutinize the filter I’m running them through.
What does that mean?
It means that if you’re fulfilling your commitments from a preconceived idea of how they “should” be fulfilled, you may be doing more than is needful. For example, I have a number of things that I realized I was approaching from a “that’s how it’s done” mindset, and that’s how it needs to be done in order to get a certain result. But what if the results I have in mind and the results God has in mind aren’t the same? If I approach my commitments from my predefined way of doing things, to achieve a certain result—a result that may not be the reason God is asking me to perform the errand in the first place—I am missing the mark; I am doing more than is needful. Sometimes it’s not a matter of priorities, but rather an error of placing too much importance, or structure, or expectations on how our commitments are actualized and what they entail. We create extra stress and rob ourselves of peace because we think things need to go a certain way. We think a certain outcome needs to be achieved. We’re rigid in our thinking. We listen to outside voices instead of the voice within, God’s voice.
What is needful is to let God guide, to listen to what He wants, because it’s always a better and more peaceful and more fulfilling experience when The Omniscient God of all Creation directs the details.
Right now, what is needful is for me is to trust, to let things fall away naturally, to give space for God to direct His work for me through me, and to remain mindful of when I’m placing my own parameters on that work. Stress falls away when expectations are released to the Divine. I can accomplish all things through Christ who strengthens me, as I do them according to what is needful in Him.
I created a little worksheet for you where you can list your priorities and then determine if you are approaching any of those priorities from a mindset of control, expectation, “the way it’s done”, other people’s advice, etc. If you’re feeling stressed about having too much on your plate, and God has confirmed that everything you’re doing is needful, then I recommend investigating those commitments from a standpoint of what is needful in the way your executing those commitments.