You know that feeling. Your life is filled with commitments with very little margin left, when you hear about another need, or find out a couple in your church is on the brink of a divorce, or someone asks you to help out in another ministry arena.

You wrestle with the tension of the push and pull. How do you know when to say “yes” to and when to say “no”?

We all carry the weight of expectations. Some of them are real and some we only imagine. Some are expressed, while others are only implied. They come from people in the churches we serve, from our husbands, from ourselves, maybe even from what God expects of us.

We know that it is physically, emotionally, and spiritually impossible to meet all the expectations…but how can we differentiate between what we are called to do and the things that look “good” but are not the “best”?

I have been wrestling with this question a lot these past few months. How can I discern what God is calling me to? Should I lead that Bible study? Deliver that meal? Have that family over to our home? Reach out to the shut in?

I don’t believe there is a formula we can apply to our questions to give us the correct answer every time (although I wish there was!) But I do think that when the expectations start pulling me in every direction, I need to recognize what is happening and stop to remind myself of an important truth and ask myself a few good questions.

First, am I living for the ONE? Galations 1:10 puts it this way, “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” In the end, only the approval of ONE will matter. He will be my only judge.

In light of this truth, I need to honestly ask myself, “Why am I doing (or considering doing) this thing?” It’s not easy to be honest with myself about my motivation! But it is revealing. If my primary motivation is to make someone like me or approve of me, then I probably need to opt out of that activity. But if I can serve for God’s glory even without recognition, I might be on the right path.

Once my motivation is right, I also need to determine whether I can fit the commitment into my current schedule. And I’m not just talking about squeezing it in! Can I do it without pushing myself and my family toward resentment and burnout? If not, is there something else I would be at peace with removing from my list of commitments in order to fit this in? And finally, can I support this new endeavor with prayer?

When I rush into meeting expectations without taking the time to ponder these questions and listen for direction (often because it seems so urgent or so obvious) I find myself hurting not just myself, but those around me. I fill spots that were intended for another, grow weary and spiritually dry, and lose my joy.

On the other hand, when I hang back from serving because I resent being guilted into it or because I feel frightened, ill equipped, or unmotivated, I miss out on the refreshing joy of being part of God’s Kingdom work. I want to serve willingly and where God is moving!

So if you, like me, wrestle with balancing the expectations of those around you with the call God has placed on your life to serve, I pray that you will make the time to seek His wisdom and let His Spirit guide you on your way. And that you will be free to serve the ONE.

Heidi is the mom of 8 kiddos (from 23 to 7 months!) and the pastors’ wife at The Way Church in Aurora, Colorado. She loves serving alongside her pastor/husband, Jeff, and  pouring into women in the trenches of ministry as she serves as the Assistant Director at Alongside.