Doing What We Can Do
“For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
STRANGE AS IT SOUNDS, WE ACCOMPLISH THE GREATEST THINGS SPIRITUALLY WHEN WE LEARN TO WORK WITHIN OUR LIMITS. If we expend our energy fretting about our obstacles and complaining about our limitations, we’ll do little lasting good; yet when we accept our limits and get busy gratefully doing what we are, in fact, able to do, productive things start to happen.
On one hand, the realization that God doesn’t expect of us anything we can’t do should relieve us of a great deal of stress. But on the other hand, the realization that God does expect of us what we can do ought to be a stimulant. When the time for judgment comes, our Judge will be concerned with what we’ve done with our abilities, the possibilities He placed before us. Even now, we can already see the harm that has come from failing to do little things in a timely fashion, things that were certainly doable at the moment we chose not to do them. A human lifetime eventually accumulates from these moments, and eternity will be the ultimate outworking of all these choices we’re making right now.
If we’re serious about making spiritual progress, one of the most helpful things we can do is meditate on the virtue of “resourcefulness.” One old-fashioned definition says that resourcefulness is “figuring out how to do a lot with a little.” In regard to spiritual things, we surely do need to be more resourceful, don’t we? Teddy Roosevelt used to say, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Applying that good advice to our spiritual lives, we can learn to grasp the simple, doable things that lie right before us and resourcefully squeeze the maximum good out of each moment. We grow toward God by just such steps.
British writer Lawrence Durrell once said in an interview, “It’s idle to strive for things out of your reach, just as it’s utterly immoral to be slothful about the qualities you have.” This principle is as true in the spiritual life as it is in the craft of writing. If a thing is not possible, neither is it necessary. What is necessary is the doing of what we can do.
“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do” (Edward Everett Hale).