I’m a work-from-home wife/mother/sales strategy consultant/writer who is blessed with the spiritual gift of time mismanagement. I’m constantly on the lookout for the magic to-do list that will help me weave the threads of all my vocations into a glorious tapestry, instead of the giant, knotty mess they often are.
A recent blog post caught my attention with its updated take on an old technique. Each Friday, it suggested, you should spend some time writing a “got done” list for what you’ve accomplished. The idea is simple: Focusing on your accomplishments will improve your emotional state and fuel your enthusiasm to keep working through the list of things you still have to do.
What Got Done
The idea is helpful, if not exactly new. Who among us hasn’t supplemented the bottom of our to-do list with a few things we already did, only to immediately check them off? Yet sometimes our fight to find things important enough to put under the “done” column can make our hearts sink, not soar.
Many days in my early years of motherhood, caring for three daughters aged 4 and younger, the single line on my “done” list would have read “survived.”
These days, though my “done” lists are longer, my “results” lists can still look distressingly empty. Emails go unanswered; article submissions languish in obscurity. Others experience this sort of discouragement in a different ways. The unemployed father of four has his “done” list of job applications submitted, but no interview invitations. The high school senior has her “done” list of college applications sent, but no acceptance letters received. We toil, but our labors don’t always produce fruit.
What God Did
When we’re struggling in a season marked by fruitlessness, the Sunday school answer is to center our thinking on the gospel. We shouldn’t worry about what we’ve done or not done, but remind ourselves of what God has done for us in Christ. Now, it’s never a bad strategy to spend time thinking about the gospel! But there’s an additional strategy we can employ, one followed by King David, that can keep us from falling into discouragement. It requires us to see not only the big picture of what God has done for us in Christ, but also the ways God is working in our everyday lives.
If someone asked David what he’d done the day the events of 1 Samuel 21 unfolded, “survived” would’ve been a legitimate answer. On the run from Saul, David fled to what he thought was safety with King Abimelech, only to be found out. David pretended to be crazy so he could flee yet again to the relative safety of a cave. He wrote Psalm 34 to commemorate these events.
The psalm doesn’t say a lot about David’s accomplishments; instead, it focuses on God’s. It’s about God and what he did, and does, because of what he’s like.
Few of us will experience a day as eventful as David’s. Whether our day is filled with the dramatic or the ordinary, or our labors lack any visible reward, asking ourselves what God did orients our hearts away from discouragement over our lack of accomplishments, and toward the goodness of God.
Consider your day and ask yourself God-focused questions. Here are a few to get you started:
What Did God Do in You?
- Did he tell you something wonderful in his Word this morning?
- Did he help you keep your temper with your screaming 3-year-old?
- Did he answer your morning prayers to help you win the procrastination war and do the housework first, or finally click “send” on that difficult email?
- Did he teach you something of himself as you looked out your bedroom window, or drove the kids to MOPS, or mowed the lawn?
- Did he give you new peace over that impossible situation with your job search, your health, a family member, or a friendship?
What Did God Do in Others?
- Did your toddler learn what “Mommy said no” means?
- Did your 4-year-old finally stay dry all night?
- Did a former coworker text you out of the blue with a job lead?
- Did a friend call to apologize?
- Did your nurse/neighbor/coworker share something you committed to pray about?
- Did God answer that prayer?
What Did God Do in Your Circumstances?
- Did he help you keep your cool with your kids when they invaded your office as you desperately tried to email that overdue presentation?
- Did he help you see your passive-aggressive coworker with Jesus’s compassion, instead of sinful resentment?
- Did he send you someone to minister to, in a grocery checkout line, or the waiting room at the doctor’s office?
- Did he send a stranger to minister to you?
In asking and answering such questions about our day, we model David’s words in Psalm 105—we give thanks to the Lord and make known his deeds. We may not accomplish all we hope, but God is always at work. As we glory in his works, his providence, and his name, our hearts rejoice.