An English Actress Imelda Staunton said,
You can only do your best. That’s all you can do. And if it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough.
It sounds comforting. It sounds like a wise advice. What else can you do? You can do your best and just have to live with what is not good enough.
But it is hard to accept that. Today is the World Cup final. All the teams did their best. But when their best was not enough, they felt so sad and disappointed. Many of them cried like children. When our best is not good enough, it is hard to swallow.
But sometimes I wonder, “Did I really do my best?” Doing our best is a very subjective statement. Often, it is a convenient way of explaining away of not going further when we could. It is a comfortable excuse to close the door for new possibilities. It is rational justification for accepting the status quo and doing nothing about it.
I hope that we don’t use “doing our best” as a coverup for our laziness and our fear.
Doing His Best
Today, we see a very good man. His name was Joseph. We have different gospels telling different stories of Jesus’ birth. Luke was very much focused on Mary and what she went through. We see her dilemma, her struggle, and her experience. Matthew sheds light on Joseph and what he went through.
He had a woman whom he was engaged to. I am sure he was excited to have a new life with her. He was looking forward to marrying her.
But one day, he found out that she was pregnant. He knew that it wasn’t his baby because they didn’t have that kind of relationship yet. He didn’t sleep with her yet.
His heart was crushed. He was disappointed and probably very angry. He felt betrayed. He could have exposed her to public shame. That could create a very bad situation for Mary. Not only would she receive public shame, she could have been stoned to death.
But Joseph was a good man. He didn’t want to harm Mary in any way. He swallowed his disappointment and anger. His best was to dismiss her quietly.
Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
That was doing his best, he thought. BUT HIS BEST WAS NOT GOD’S BEST. To show that his best was not God’s best, God sent an angel to him.
This was what the angel told him in his dream.
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.(Matthew 1:20, 21)
What was happening was nobody’s mistake. It wasn’t Mary’s fault either. It was all in God’s plan.
All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet. (Matthew 1:22)
We have been reflecting on Isaiah’s dream. It was another one of Isaiah’s dreams.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
That was what Matthew quoted in today’s passage with the explanation of Immanuel.
Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)
Surprisingly, Joseph accepted that his best was not enough. But not only that. He accepted that his best was not God’s best. This was Joseph’s faith.
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:24, 25)
Joseph did not use “doing his best” as an excuse to take an easy way out. Joseph accepted what God wanted to do. Joseph accepted God’s deeper plan for him and for his child and for the world. That was his faith.
Wait for God
That is what is beautiful about life. Our best is not everything. Our best is not the end. When our best is over, then God’s best takes over. We should leave a room for God’s best. Don’t close the door at your best. Be ready to accept what God will do when you can’t do anything about it.
Life is not all about what we do. Our life is very much about what God does. That’s why in an impossible situations, we still hope. That’s why in our suffering, we still rejoice.
Doing your best is important. Yes, once you do your best and your best is not enough, you have to accept the result. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t live with guilt. But don’t close the door. That is when you wait for God’s direction.
Don’t give up. Wait for God. God will show you the way.
Reading and understanding God’s way is more important than doing your best. Thing is: If you do your best, God will show you his way. If you don’t do your best, God waits until you do your best. But if you do your best, then God will show you God’s best. God will show you wonderful things in your life. You will see that life is full of miracles.
Joseph experienced the miracle of having a baby who would save people from their sins. If he remained at doing his best and closed the door, he would not have experienced this wonderful miracle.
My friends, life is wonderful. Life is more than doing your best. Life is more than being good.
Jesus’ birth is the greatest miracle. God becoming a human being is the greatest miracle. It was not something we human beings could create by doing our best. It was possible only by God’s doing.
During this Christmas season, pray and wait. Are there things that you just cannot resolve or achieve? Do you feel that doing your best is not enough? Are you sad? Are you discouraged? Are you even angry?
Pray and wait and see what God is doing in your life. You may be able to see much bigger things in life.