For When “Just Do It” Doesn’t Work


By Jessica Sanborn | Twitter: @jlsanbornwrites


“Just Do It” is a great slogan when it comes to Nike shoes and things like: “Get off the couch and move!” “Floss your teeth!” “Eat your vegetables!” Or: “Sit down and write!”

But there are times when “Just Do It” doesn’t work and when trying harder only leaves me feeling depleted and frustrated. Motivation, determination, and willpower have little power to change my heart. My ego cannot transform my soul. When it comes to matters of the heart, “Just Do It” doesn’t work, and what I really need is to Just Be.

I grew up with a Christianity that offered a Just Do It approach to faith.
Love. Believe. Forgive. Trust. Heal.
Just do it.
Are you having a hard time with that?
Pray harder.
Maybe try memorizing scripture.
Are you having your devotions every morning?
Just do it.

Sometimes change happened in the middle of this doing and I found myself closer to God’s heart. God’s grace and love always meet us where we are at.

“Just Do It” worked to a certain extent until it just didn’t work at all. Like when the words stuck in my throat and prayer seemed pointless. Or when I was so worn and over-committed I didn’t have it in me to love one more person. “Just Do It” was most unhelpful when the Questions scared away the Answers I thought I needed for any sort of real faith. “Just Do It” helped me fake it, but it couldn’t wake up my dying soul.

So I gave up. I didn’t have much choice. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, I couldn’t just do it anymore. I quit church. I quit my job. I stopped doing, and I quit trying to figure everything out. I stopped pretending to have faith. And by some miracle, this Baptist daughter tumbled into contemplation.

In repentance and rest are your salvation. In quietness and trust are your strength. This verse is true. It happened to me.

At its heart, contemplation is giving up, surrendering, and making space for God to do God’s thing. “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Be still and know. This is contemplation.

All out of words, I showed up with my tired, heavy, doubting heart saying: “Here I am God. Are you here too?” Breathing in and out, waiting, if only for a few minutes–this is how I found contemplation.

Then I found a few words, words that became the prayer I breathed in and out throughout my day: “Awaken my heart to your Love, God. Awaken my heart to your Love.” This, too, was contemplation.

I found myself falling into scripture stories, letting them envelop me, finding myself in these stories and letting them become a part of me. I was that lost lamb, Nicodemus, Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. They were telling me my story. And this, too, is contemplation.

There are so many ways to practice contemplation.

Contemplation is paying attention to my world–open to its messages or just appreciating the way my child feels heavy and soft in my lap. It is walking quietly in the woods–eyes and heart wide open. This is my heart beginning to wake.

Contemplation is a way of being in the world. It is a way to practice being.

As Madeleine L’Engle said, this time of simply being is that “time in which God quietly tells us who we are and who he wants us to be. It is then that God can take our emptiness and fill it up with what he wants.”

Contemplation doesn’t require many answers. It isn’t just something to do. But it offers rest for the weary, drink for the thirsty, nourishment for the hungry soul. Contemplation is found in those green grasses and still waters the psalmist sang about. Contemplation is Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening. When we stop running, stop trying to do everything, when we just stop, we make space for God to do God’s thing in our hearts–to undo us, to remake us, to wake us up, and break our hearts wide open. Contemplation isn’t a formula, although you could approach it from a “Just Do It” mindset. Without a heart of surrender, it might become another task: Sit in silence for 10 minutes. Check.

My fall into contemplation saved my soul. God was waiting for me there–was always there–waiting for me to stop, to be still, to know. God is waking up my heart to Love, Belief, Trust, Forgiveness, Faith, Healing–God is making these all a part of who I am. I don’t have to “Just Do It” any more. I don’t have to fake it.

“You cannot capture silence. It captures you.” -Richard Rohr


About Jessica:


Jessica Sanborn is mom to three little-ish people and wife to a great guy. She grew up believing that she was supposed to be Anne of Green Gables’ next-door-neighbor, but is now learning what it means to belong in her own feet, right where she is at. She writes about faith and becoming at