It’s Okay to Do Nothing for God

Sometimes, doing nothing is what God wants us to do.

It’s a difficult concept, this doing nothing, conditioned as we are through multiple weekly church inculcations to see works as a means of expressing our faith: we attend services and Bible studies, we participate in outreach ministries, we talk to people about Jesus, we sing at corporate worship programs as our principal means of expression, we volunteer for “leadership opportunities,” we pray eloquently aloud, we teach and minister and . . . do.

wild child childhood freedom coast victorian home house steve henderson art painting

We are all children in our Father’s household, and should feel free and safe in His care. Wild Child, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Indeed, so important is the process of doing that it becomes part of our social lexicon:

“How are you?”

Deep, pensive sigh: “Doing great, but I’m really busy, you know? Insanely busy.”

“Oh I know, I know. I’m busy too.” To reply in any other fashion is to imply a sense of slothful indolence, a spiritual torpor resulting from an inactive prayer life and distant relationship with God. Nobody wants to admit that we’re not buddy buddy with Jesus.

In the 21st century it is busyness, as opposed to cleanliness, that is next to Godliness, but given that, in our quest to be continuously active in the work of the Lord, we host Small Groups Study Alive! on Tuesday nights, our house is probably spotless, at least superficially, as well.

All by Ourselves

As anybody who has ever cleaned a house knows, when you’re doing it by yourself, nothing gets done unless you’re doing it, so while you’re washing dishes, for example, the carpet isn’t being vacuumed, the toilets swished, or the laundry folded. Unless we’re doing it, it’s not getting done, an attitude we take with us from the home to the office, into the church, and throughout our world, without ever asking the essential question:

“Why am I cleaning this damn house all by myself anyway?”

In a home with multiple members, it’s not as if we are the only ones generating dirty underwear, discarded mail, and uncleared dining room tables, and when we take on the tasks of many, we are being unrealistic, and foolish, with our time. So it is in our spiritual lives: whether it’s because we want to exhibit — to ourselves or an audience — an external level of metaphysical maturity, or whether it’s for a deeper, embarrassingly humble reason: we have a desperate need that we long to have fulfilled, and we’re determinedly trying to get God’a attention, we feel the obligation to do something, in order to see action.

After all, in our Puritanically based culture, which meshes seamlessly with a corporate oligarchy, we know from childhood that it’s all in our court. Ain’t no one gonna do it for us.

Helpless in Our Humanity

No one could have had more of this attitude than the Israelites, when they were on the run from Pharaoh, trapped in an impossible spot between an angry army and a very large sea. And indeed, the Hebrews did get upset over their inability to control the situation, to which their leader Moses answered:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today . . . The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

quiet contemplation woman country garden spring beauty steve henderson watercolor art

Waiting. Watching. Thinking, Meditating. They look like doing “nothing,” but they actually accomplish much. Quiet Contemplation, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Most of us know how that story ended — a literal sea of activity, with the Hebrews safely ushered to the other side. The principle activity required of them was to first, wait and see and second, walk.

A few weekends ago, we invited our 6-year-old granddaughter to spend the day with us, simply because we like being around her. The idea was that her mom would drop her off mid-morning, but in one of those unforeseen, totally unplanned inconvenient circumstances, the baby of the family spontaneously fell asleep for a much-needed and long awaited nap 20 minutes before mom was to leave. And while we live only three miles away,

  1. It was insanely rainy,
  2. It is the height of stupidity to wake a sleeping baby,


3. Nobody was about to escort the kid to the porch, point down the street, and say, “Take a left, go two blocks, then take a right; walk for roughly 65 minutes at your speed, take a left, another left, and a right, and keep a sharp eye out for Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Call if you get lost.”

In short, getting to Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a physical impossibility for a  6-year-old child, and while her great-great-grandparents no doubt performed far more impressive walking feats on their daily treks in the snow to the schoolhouse cabin, Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom didn’t see any reason to ask the child to do something that was effectively beyond her ability.

So Grandma got in the car and picked up the child. It was the decision of an instant, a no-brainer, really, because the central goal was to spend time with our granddaughter, and any minor schedule arrangement was more than worth the joy of being together. In a situation where one person is able to do nothing, and the other is able to do much, much more, the person of greater ability uses that ability to do much, much more, while the person who is able to do nothing, patiently waits.

God is a Person who is able to do much, much more than anything we can do. And while frequently, we work together, with His graciously giving us tasks and work within our ability, sometimes the task He gives us is to wait on Him.

And waiting, which feels like doing nothing, is incredibly difficult. We are tempted to fill the time with busy tasks — like running up and down the living room until Grandma arrives — but really, all we’re asked to do is wait. Quietly. Patiently. With a sense of trust that He loves us, He knows that it’s raining and the distance is too far, and He’s on His way in the car.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where it took me years and years to realize that I wasn’t the only person on the planet waiting for an answer to a prayer to which I really wanted and needed answer. On the journey, I encountered and talked to many people who felt the same way, and one of the benefits we receive as we wait is the encouragement that we give to one another.

God hears your prayers, and more than any U.S. President could possibly imagine, He feels your pain. Do not look to the examples of men to show you the ways of God.

Posts complementing this one are

Why Your Life on This Planet Means Something

Defining Success

Three “Christian Teachings” That Jesus Didn’t Teach



About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
This entry was posted in children, Christian, church, Faith, Family, home, inspirational, Life, Lifestyle, prayer, religion, spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to It’s Okay to Do Nothing for God

  1. Elizabeth says:

    If you have a chronic illness, or your child does…or as happened to me, I and my child both did…you soon learn that man’s ideas about church involvement simply are not correct. Cause we are to take care of what is at hand within our own homes first…as women esp. Who else can? If people read more of Scripture from page 1 on, they might get some different ideas about what is required…just sayin…

    • I agree, Elizabeth. Our church society sends a message that compassion is aimed toward the outside: into the town, the countryside, the world — and while it is true that we are to walk in the world and be salt, our compassion has no strength if it does not begin with the people who are closest to us, the gifts of humanity with whom we are privileged to live and love. Commercialized religion gives a shrug of the shoulders attitude of, “Oh, of course you have to interact with your family and stuff, but the REAL importance is attached to the ministries you are assigned by the leaders, and the activities they want you to fund.”

      Love your family, my friend, and may those around you open their eyes enough to see this love, and desire to experience — and give — it themselves.

  2. Pingback: Do You Suspect That You Don’t Matter? | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

  3. Pingback: Saying Grace in Public Places | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

  4. aleciabaptiste says:

    Love the analogy of you and your grand daughter! May we learn to wait with patience on our Heavenly Father and resist the urge to work, work, work.

    You also bring up such a great point that the new christian mantra is “busyness is next to godlness”–which I would also say is a variation of “cleanliness…”. It’s all about what we can do, rather than what our Great God can do! Thanks for so boldly, and beautifully allowing the Holy Spirit to use you to do good work.

    • Thank you Alecia. I am beginning to see that our desire to Do is a natural outcome of who and what we are — children of God, made in His image, and with a desire to create and do good things, a desire given to us by our Father.

      Our problem (mine, definitely!) is impatience, and like young children watching an adult — briefly — we then plunge in with little, busy hands and often undo more than we do! And our Father gently moves our hands and says, “Wait. Now watch, closely. You’ll get your chance, but I want to hold your hands through it first.”

      As we grow in our relationship with our Father, like young children into young adults, our hands are more capable, our eyes more observant, our skills stronger — but it all starts at that beginning, as young, impatient children.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s