“You should work out more.”
“You should yell less.”
“You shouldn’t still be struggling with that.”
“You should lead your staff better.”
“You should stress less.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg that was crushing my soul and sucking the life out of me…until I instituted a strict “NO parking, towing enforced” policy with all the “shoulds” that had taken up residence in my thought life. Being a lover of words, and knowing the power that our words have, I’m surprised it took so long for this one to finally get my attention. For as long as I can remember I have lived under the shadow of “should.” The weight of the “shoulds” was suffocating, yet I couldn’t seem to press STOP on the track that played continually in my mind. That is, of course, until I truly stepped into freedom.
Galatians 5:1 tells us that “Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” The “freedom” mentioned here reads as “liberty” in the King James translation, and it means “the liberty to do or omit things having no relationship to salvation; not bound by obligation; free from the yoke of the Mosaic Law. ” (BLB) The Mosaic Law, in the Old Testament, was the long list of “do’s” and “don’ts” given to the people of God as requirements for holiness. But under the law, perfection was impossible. For this reason, sacrifice was necessary for the cleansing from and forgiveness of sins. Fast forward a few hundred years, and we see Jesus come on the scene-the perfect sacrifice who would go on to give his life to create a NEW testament. A new covenant between God and man, whereby salvation is based not on merit, adherence to the law, or any measure of human ability (of which we would always fall short), but is based instead on the perfect sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. We now, therefore, are INVITED into a restored relationship with our Heavenly Father-made possible only by His grace. We cannot earn it, deserve it, or make enough mistakes to mess it up. This is the perfect union and fellowship that He created us for, and it also the very thing that threatens the enemy of Heaven.
Because of Jesus’ victory on the cross, the power of sin and death no longer has a hold on us-therefore the only threat the kingdom of darkness can attempt is distraction. The moment we say “yes” to God’s invitation, we’re His-forever. But He’s not only interested in our eternity, He’s interested in our RIGHT NOW. It is your day-to-day life that can demonstrate His goodness. It is your daily transformation that can minister to others. It is His grace and abundance flowing through your story that can point others to Jesus. And there is nothing that makes darkness tremble like a child of God living freely and fully into their identity in Christ, walking with all the power and authority of Heaven at their disposal. So how does the enemy of God attempt to distract us from living this abundant life? By whispering lies about the things we “should” be doing in order to be “good enough”.
You see, I believe the truth is that we ARE in fact called to “do”. To act on God’s love. To walk in obedience, forgiveness, and selfless sacrifice. To give ourselves fully to advancing His kingdom and allowing His love to transform us into the holy, set apart people He created us to be. But this is all based on INVITATION, not OBLIGATION. And the degree to which we walk into this invitation has NO bearing on God’s love for us, grace over us, or blessings towards us.
The strategy of the enemy is deception. He twists and distorts truth into an ugly, condemning, shame-filled version of what God intended. You see, only God can create. The enemy doesn’t have creation power. So he can only take what God created and divert it from it’s good and holy purpose. God created us to work with Him, to walk in relationship with Him, and to care for His creation and the things He has entrusted us with. But the enemy takes this beautiful, God-given invitation, and would have us believe that if we aren’t living up to a twisted version of it-that we are failures.
“Should” carries condemnation and shame.
“Should” would have us believe that we aren’t good enough and never will be.
“Should” whispers that we need to do more, bigger, better.
“Should” will have us operating out of our own ability and strength, instead of living out of the OVERFLOW of God’s grace running through us.
“Should” will have us striving so hard to have it all, do it all, be it all that we are unable to stop, rest, and hear the gentle voice of God reminding us that we are already more than enough because of His son.
“Should” points out failure whereas God points out growth and opportunity.
“Should” strangles not only us, but those around us who we burden with the same noose we’ve put on our own neck.
“Should” focuses on our lack instead of God’s limitlessness.
What “should” is burdening your heart and mind?
What “should” do you find yourself imposing on others?
I encourage you to identify all the “shoulds” you’ve been living under, and ask one important question: Says who?
There is a beautiful invitation waiting for you. An invitation to live whole and holy. To live free and focused. To live into an incredible kingdom assignment, fueled by the love and grace of God and the power of His Spirit at work within you. We have a great responsibility to steward what God gives us. To walk obediently into all that He calls us to. To trust Him to show us how to do it, every step of the way. And we can’t do it when we’re weighed down by the self-imposed “shoulds” that we take on. So let’s make a new kind of resolution in the coming year. A resolution to setup a “no parking” zone in our heart and mind, and tow away every “should” that threatens to burden us. Let us pick up instead the grace and freedom offered us by a God who loves us endlessly and waits expectantly for us to join Him on a journey of trust, surrender, and obedience.
There is nothing like a life lived free.
“If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.” -John 8:36