One of the most frequent topics of discernment for me is how to balance trusting God with getting off the couch and using my own efforts to make things happen. Here’s a recent example that highlights the kinds of dilemmas I often have:
Mother’s Day Out ends this week, and I’ve been thinking about our plans for this summer. My husband and I have decided that it would be good to get a babysitter to help me out a few hours per week, especially since he expects to be pretty busy for the next few months and may need to work long hours.
I’ve put out some feelers out, but so far have few leads on babysitters who want to work the number of hours we can offer. I’ve been praying about it, and if I were to articulate the “response” I seem to be getting to my prayers, it would be something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll get what you need.”
For some people this would probably be a straightforward answer. They asked, God answered, the end.
But we’re talking about me here, so of course it’s more complicated than that. “What do you mean ‘Don’t worry about it?'” I keep thinking when I get that message. “How, specifically, do I respond to that message?”
There is a spectrum of possible responses. At one extreme there’s the option of trust in God to the exclusion of action, in which case I’d put no further effort (other than prayer) into this endeavor. I once heard the story of a man who had an orphanage that had just run out of food. He was praying about it and felt like God was telling him that it would be okay, so the man just set the table and had all the children wait with forks and knives in hand. And, sure enough, there was a knock at the door, and it was someone who’d spontaneously dropped by to bring boxes full of food.
The other extreme is based on the “God helps those who help themselves” view. This path would have me keep working and searching high and wide until I manage to smoke out a babysitter somewhere in the greater metropolitan area. I could pour large amounts of time into exhausting every imaginable resource to find someone. Obviously I should still trust in God, but I could say that I’m trusting in the sense that I have faith that God will bless my efforts.
And then there’s something in between: doing some work, but not putting all that much time or energy into the babysitter search.
What’s the right balance?
One of the reasons that I so frequently have these kind of debates is that I have an odd personality combination of being a type-A control freak with an intense lazy streak. So I could see myself using the “God helps those who help themselves” idea as an excuse to work too hard and try to control everything; or I could see myself looking to the heavens with my best saintly expression and saying “let’s just trust in God — if he doesn’t send a babysitter, it wasn’t meant to be” as an excuse to sit on the couch instead of taking needed action.
I know that there’s no one right answer here, but I’d love to hear how you handle situations like this in your life: How do you balance taking action with trusting God? Do you have any guidelines for how much effort is too much (or too little) in any given situation? If you have any example situations from your own lives, I’d love to hear about it!
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