Sorry, But You CAN’T Have it All

You Cant Have it All

Today’s post is the third in the Don’t Believe the Lie series. Americans are constantly fed the line that we deserve everything and we can have anything. We are told that, when it comes to career, family, finances, and material possessions, we really can have it all.

The sad thing is, this is simply not true. “Having it all” is a cultural myth that people have spread in order to justify the numerous and varying priorities in life, constantly pulling us in different directions.

Having it all conjures up ideas of a perfect life, filled with things and stuff, while simultaneously holding your dream job and being married to your soul mate. I hate to say it, but I’ve got to: Sorry, but you can’t have it all.

Part of the problem is that Americans believe the lie that, in order to feel fulfilled and worthwhile, they have to achieve certain things. You need to have a college degree (which I disagree with), a spouse, maybe kids, a thriving career, a house, 2 cars, a 401K, an active social life, and a network of friends. Sheesh, who can do all that? And why would you want to?

Men, specifically, are fed the lie that they need to be financially successful with a satisfying career to “have it all.” Women believe the lie that they need to have a booming career and be a full-time mom. Despite our best efforts, we are not superheroes. I can barely make my kids breakfast some mornings and I stay home with them. The thought of juggling both a full-time career and motherhood exhausts me.

Christ’s offering of the abundant life is not the same as “having it all.” Choosing to follow Christ requires sacrifice and commitment, as any believer can tell you. The trouble is, many Christians are swayed by the shiny, glossy, pretty things of the world and quickly abandon the Christ-centered life for something much less fulfilling.

Years later, when they have worked 60+ hour weeks, neglected their families, and forfeited their faith, they look back wondering where time has gone and, better yet, where is this abundant life they were promised?

Also, some Christians who enter full-time ministry and convince themselves that, in serving the Lord, other things like family can take a backseat. Far too many people who begin serving in full-time ministry eventually burnout or trade Kingdom work for the allure of money and worldly success.

The “having it all” lie is wrapped up in material or ministry success versus true greatness. Success is money, power, beauty, and fame. Greatness is loving Christ and loving others as yourself. One is temporal. The other eternal. One is built of empty promises. The other is built upon the promises of God.

You can, of course, achieve greatness apart from serving in full-time ministry. You do not need to be a pastor or on a church’s payroll to achieve greatness. However, you do not need a six-figure salary to achieve greatness, either. You simply need to lay to rest the idea that you can have it all–“all” being what the world sells.

I got married shortly after graduating from college. I was then pregnant with my first child soon after marriage. My first job out of college was working for an organization called the Alliance Defense Fund. I loved the work they did–Kingdom work through the judicial system. I knew, however, that I would be leaving my job–my hopeful career–to stay home with my baby, once she was born.

I felt so conflicted. One the one hand, I desired to have a competitive career in non-profit. I also wanted to raise my children and miss as little of their childhood as possible.

One day, the ADF asked a woman by the name of Phyllis Schlafly to come and speak the employees. She strolled up to the podium, a woman in her 70’s. She was energetic, passionate, and convicting.

Schlafly began to tell us all the story of how she went from being a homeschooling mother of 5 to one the most influential political activists in Washington. She explained how she had committed to staying home with her children while they were growing, and that motherhood was first and only her priority. As her children grew, however, she saw a need for conservative female voices in the political arena. So what did she do? She attended law school in her 40’s and became a constitutional lawyer. Since then, she has become one of the most prominent conservative activists in America, fighting to preserve the family. She has done more to protect families, women, and children than I can list here.

I sat there that day, maybe 4 months pregnant, listening to this woman… and I felt so encouraged. Suddenly, I realized that what I thought was having it all was actually a lie. There is no such thing, because I thought “having it all” was really “having it all right now.” Not later–now.

I hadn’t realized that, just as the Bible explains, there are seasons: seasons to grow, seasons to serve, seasons to achieve, seasons to surrender. “Having it all” and “all at once” are overrated. Our lifetime really is long enough to achieve all that we desire, just not all at once.

I’m still tempted to pursue worldly measures of success. I’m still torn sometimes between wanting a career and choosing instead to stay home and change diapers. But then I remember that the abundant life is experienced over a lifetime, not in a day.

Have you ever fallen for the lie that you “CAN have it all”? What are the “all” lies you struggle with? What, if anything, do you feel pulled between?

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13 thoughts on “Sorry, But You CAN’T Have it All”

  1. oh yes. i have believed that…and sometimes i “confuse” eph 3:20 with thinking God wants me to have it all. God is not a genie in the lamp and i am learning (and being content, even excited sometimes, wow what a thought!) that my abundance is set in the non-perishables. ;)

    1. Oh Melissa, I love your comment! There is so much packed in there. Ephesians 3:20 can play tricks with our minds. The question that comes to my mind is: What are we asking for? What are we imagining? Are they things in God’s economy or the world’s economy?

      And I love what you said too, that “abundance is set in the non-perishables.” Amen! The abundant life is not a pile of things but the promises of God!

  2. One of my favorite posts, yet. Truly. You fit so much in here and totally BUST this cultural lie. Well done!

    I think the best part is the last, where you say we “confuse” having it “all” with having it “all right now.” We’re such a Now Culture that this one’s hard to figure out. Patience (and make sure it’s patience for greatness, not success, as you so well define).

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks JC. You’re right, we are all about the now and instant satisfaction. Besides patience, I would also add perseverance–as in running the race well. It is a long race, not sprint.

      Recognizing that fact helps us battle the “right now” mentality too. xo

  3. My favorite post so far. This attitude is one I bought into (and sadly, I’ve seen a lot of it in the upper class suburban Christian culture as well) and it perfectly explains how I threw away the decade of my twenties, trying to “have it all.” It became a vain chase to “be as good as everyone else” and it came at the cost of my faith, my relationships, and my finances. Finding tranquility in a simple but honest life would have served me well all those years ago. Praise God that I at least see the error of that now, but there are consequences for that misguided thinking.

    1. “Finding tranquility in a simple but honest life…” this about sums it up. I don’t think God is opposed to wealth or material possessions (I’m writing about that in a week or so) but the word you used is important: honest.

      If people were to stop and examine their lives honestly, would they be happy with what they find? I’m sorry that you feel you wasted your 20’s, but am glad that you did not take decades to discover this truth, like some.

      And thanks! I’m glad this post was your fave!

  4. Really fantastic post. I think this is such a huge struggle for men and women alike. I am definitely afraid to give up my career to stay home with small children (whenever that might happen). At the same time I know how much I value my mom staying home with us when I was a kid. A decision like that will probably come in the next few years and I hope to approach it with complete faith in God’s plan for me and my family.

    Right now, I think our current struggle is what to do with what God has blessed us with (financially) while not trying to do everything at once either. At least we don’t have to figure it out on our own, right?

    1. Heather, I agree that men and women both struggle with this idea. Men seem to talk less about it and they don’t visibly suffer for their decisions the way women do.

      Women struggle with the decision of career vs. children and often times men do not need to make the same kind of decision.

      I’m glad you are thinking these things through beforehand. God changed my heart towards staying home and if that is what He has for your family, like you said,you don’t have to figure it out alone.

  5. For the better part of the last decade I’ve felt that the only way to experience true success is to pursue your God given passions. Unfortunately, I’ve also found that its a very difficult thing to do. I don’t really think there is a formula for overcoming a desire to be successful and have it all. I think it’s part of the reality of living in a fallen world.

    1. Steve, I think you raise a great point. Is our constant internal need and desire to “succeed” really a result of the Fall? Great insight.

      I would argue, without having done any praying or scriptural study, that yes. At least some of man’s drive to “have things” and obtain wealth is due to sin, certainly. I also think of Adam and Eve, hiding in the garden. They were hiding from their Creator, behind something, much like people run from God and hide from Him. We “hide” behind possessions, money, achievements, accolades and fame.

      I do not think however, that we cannot or should not pursue our “God-given passions,” despite the difficulty in handling one’s desire to be successful. Our measure of so-called “success” is what needs to change and be aligned with God’s measure.

      Thanks Steve for the insightful and thoughtful comment.

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