All You Can Do

By Jim Tune

(This column was first posted November 26, 2014.)

In Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, Luke talks to the ever-wise Yoda about the enormity of his mission. Luke finally says, “All right, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda sagely offers his famous advice: “No! Try not. Do . . . or do not. There is no try.”

Nov26_JT_JNYoda was wrong. Sometimes there is no do. There is only try. I am frequently discovering that try is enough. What’s more, there are many things not worth trying or doing! Not everything is up to us. We are not in control. At some point it becomes necessary to accept that there’s only so much we can do. And that’s OK.

Throughout my early adulthood I understood I just needed to stay up later, wake up earlier, put more on the calendar, work harder. But these days I’m not so sure. Not everything is up to me. Working hard is good. But the whole world doesn’t rest on my shoulders. Sometimes all you can do really is all you can do.

There is comfort in telling yourself that your world is small and manageable, that you are in control. There is also a terror in this illusion. My world is not small or easily controlled. It can be a wild and bewildering place. I don’t know how this crept into my theology, but there was a time I believed it was wrong to be bewildered, confused, unsure. I am certain of many things. But I need not fear uncertainty. I must not try to manage that which is too big for me. I must not develop unyielding convictions about things I do not understand. I must not allow myself to be afraid or unduly threatened by people or circumstances that don’t shake out neatly into all of my little boxes and categories.

Psalm 131 speaks deeply to me about how to live and worship. It was written by King David and is known as “a song of ascents.” These songs were to be sung by pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem for religious festivals. They are a call to worship: “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself; I am like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:1, 2).

David seems to be saying a proud heart obscures his rest in God. C.J. Mahaney says pride is “when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon him.” Pride says, not only can I do it, but I can do it myself. What really captures my attention is David’s final understanding of his limits. David says, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” David is saying he’s learned to recognize his own limits, and that God alone was able to handle things beyond his limits.

I will probably always be a trier. That means I should probably try to let go more—and let God do.

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