Sam Tielemans is a marriage and family therapist in Las Vegas, NV. He has spent thousands of hours working with people struggling with depression, anxiety, addictions, or challenges in marriage. He’s certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy and loves working with people! He is one of the professional therapists on the Advisory Board for Leading Saints and has been a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s been married for 10 years and has a 4-year-old and 8-year old.
It’s not a secret that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are asked to give a lot. Unfortunately, many sincere and devout members of the Church struggle with feelings of inadequacy despite their best efforts, and they wonder if they are doing enough or if they should be doing more.
After all, Nephi said that
“we are saved by grace after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23),
so how do we know when we’ve done enough? When can we actually feel satisfied with our efforts? How do we know if we are doing all we can do?
An assumption that’s easy to make sometimes is thinking that we have to add more to our already-full schedule in order for us to feel confident saying we are doing all we can do.
But what if there was another way to approach this so we can feel at peace with our offering of time and talents to the Lord?
What is Enough?
To start, I think it could be useful to more clearly define what it means to be ‘doing enough.’
Without a clearer and more concrete definition, ‘doing enough’ becomes an overwhelming and impossible standard to achieve because we don’t actually know when we’ve accomplished ‘enough.’ This makes it very difficult to feel satisfaction and contentment regarding our efforts in our callings or as members of the Church.
One potential way to define what is enough might be: Are we acting in alignment with what God wants in this moment or phase of our life?
Looking through this lens at our callings, how we use our time and talents, or any other matter, now gives us a better standard by which we can judge if we are acting congruently with the will of the Lord, which is all He wants for us.
“the Lord loves effort,” but “He doesn’t expect perfection today. We keep climbing our personal Mount Sinai.”
While it’s true that our responsibility to give of ourselves, our time and means to furthering His kingdom, but how each of us do this in our individual circumstances and in the various stages of our life will be different.
This way of looking at things can help release us from the overwhelming feeling of always falling short, despite our best efforts.
I heard a local stake president speak at a meeting where he described the sheer number of responsibilities he had in connection with his calling and how it was impossible for him to fully accomplish everything that was required of him in that position.
So instead of feeling guilty and beating himself up about all of the things that he couldn’t get to, he accepted the reality of the situation and then decided to prioritize what he felt like the Lord wanted him to focus on during his tenure.
With that understanding and perspective, he was able to feel total satisfaction with his efforts and service because he tried to act in alignment with how the Lord wanted him to act, even though there were many things he didn’t spend his time doing.
Different Seasons and Different Expectations
As we consider the sometimes overwhelming number of things that we are asked to do – namely, scripture study, prayer, ministering, performing our callings, temple and family history work, etc., instead of wondering if we are spending ‘enough’ time in each of these endeavors, it might be useful to consider how much energy the Lord would have us devote to these practices in our current phase of life.
The amount of time that a young couple with small children will be able to devote to going to the temple, will be different than an empty nester who is retired. Both groups of people have different priorities and demands that require their attention, so what the Lord expects from each of them will be different.
Seeking Personal Revelation Brings Peace
Honest reflection and prayerful consideration with an open heart invites the Lord to reveal to us His will and desire for each of us, which can then influence our actions and priorities.
Surely there will be many times where we need to course correct as it relates to our priorities and focus in life. When this happens, we need not shame or beat ourselves up for “not doing enough,“ rather, we should simply take the instruction we get from the Spirit as feedback to help us realign with God and His will for us in that moment.
This is the sum and total of what it means to repent – it’s simply a realigning with God and His will, which is what I believe President Nelson refers to when he teaches us about the “joys of daily repentance.”
Instead of taking Nephi’s statement about being saved after all we can do as a call to add more to our overbooked schedules, we can cross reference that with the observation made by king Lamoni, who, in humility, said,
“It was all that we could do to repent of our sins (Alma 24:11).”
Nowhere in his exhortation to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies did he talk about doing more, rather it was that they should repent of their sins and have their swords be washed through the blood of the Son (Alma 24:14).
Through a continual seeking of the Spirit and to be guided, we can be directed in our daily efforts to align our will and actions with the Lord, for the Spirit “will tell you all things what ye should do (2 Nephi 32:3).
What Would the Lord Have Me Do
Dropping the impossible standard of ‘being enough’ and replacing it with the question of “what would the Lord have me do today or in this moment?” can free us from guilt and burnout feeling trapped in a hamster wheel of flurried activity.
Additionally, because the Lord loves effort and wants us to follow His matchless example, He has provided a way for us to be empowered by grace through the enabling power of the atonement to “receive strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to [our] own means” (Bible Dictionary, grace).
Sacred Alignment With God
The Prophet Joseph Smith said,
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence,”
and the Lord knows our hearts and is encouraging, lifting, and helping us along our path, not critically evaluating our efforts and hoping we stumble so he can take pleasure in meting out justice.
When it becomes clear that a decision or priority has slipped out of alignment with God, we can heed the Spirit’s promptings to know how to return to the path that He desires us to walk so we can ultimately experience a fullness of joy.
“It is essential for any person to have an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to the will of God.”
Thus, having a prayer in our heart to discern the Lord’s will for our individual circumstances will empower us to experience the joy He wants to bestow on us, even though everything on our gospel to-do list might not get done.