Just do what you can

In the Old Testament Joshua makes his commitment to the Lord loud and clear: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” How wonderful it is when whole households commit themselves to serving the Lord, not just on holy days, not just in name only, but every step of every day.

The reality for many believers, though, is that in their devotion to Christ, they’re in the minority at home. They might be a minority of one. Needless to say, this can be challenging. Finding a time and a place to pray can be difficult. Stewardship decisions, giving to support church life and to help the needy, can be even harder. Fasting can be feel like pushing a boulder up a steep incline.

In our spiritual life, regardless of our personal situation, one universal rule of thumb applies: Just do what you can, but make sure you are doing what you can. Let’s look at the example of fasting.

If you are the only one fasting in your house, make sure that the meals you take alone are fasting meals; the family meals can be what they will be. “Just do what you can.”

However (and this is a big “however”), do not make the fact that the family is having potroast for dinner an excuse for not eating fast-friendly foods at other times of the day when you are in complete control of menu options (e.g. lunch time at work). “And make sure you are doing what you can.”

Also, when you’re having that potroast, you can always take smaller portions and have only one helping. Portion size is as much a part of fasting as menu items.

There’s always a way. Less than perfect situations are times for creativity and patience, not times to throw in the towel. Less than perfect situations are blessings, because they are opportunities to turn our frustration at not being able to “do it properly” into humility and patience for others in their spiritual struggles.

Finally, we should never underestimate the impact that our small but sincere acts of devotion have on our family. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul reminds us that “a little yeast work its way through the whole lump.” Or as St. John Chrysostom said:

“If but ten among us lead a holy life, we shall kindle a fire which shall light up an entire city.”

It may take a while, but the wintess of our humble, simple, and persistent faith can work wonders. So just do what you can, and make sure you are doing what you can.

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