Can’t vs. Won’t

no signEver considered the words “can’t’ and “won’t”? Their differences are clear enough. At their basic definitions, can’t means “unable,” and won’t means “unwilling.”

I remember the morning my daughter and I had a major showdown over those words. She was not yet two years old, and I asked her to turn off the television.

“Nooo,” she said. “Can’t!” She meant, of course, “I don’t want to do that, Mom. I’d prefer instead to keep watching my show.”

I told her again, and again she refused–this time a little more defiantly. Round and round we went, until many stomps and yells and tears later, she turned off the TV.

It wasn’t that she couldn’t obey. She just didn’t want to. Not unable–just unwilling.

Consider those words in the life of a Christ-follower. “Nothing is impossible with God,” Jesus said, so when He instructs, He also empowers. The same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us. How, then, can we say “can’t”?

Unfortunately, like my daughter, we often say “can’t” when we mean “won’t.” God calls us to obey Him, and we answer back with all our excuses–our financial limitations, our over-full calendars. “I’d love to help with missions!” we say, until we find out their greatest needs are prayer and finances.

“I don’t want to do that. I’d prefer instead something a little less…costly.”

We dig in our heels defiantly, pitching a toddler’s tantrum before the Lord of the Universe, and tell Him “can’t” when we really mean “won’t.” We’re not unable–just unwilling.

But the thing is, God did. He loved enough to send His Son, to die, to serve. He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He didn’t already do for us–and then some. He was a willing servant.

By His power, we can. Will we?

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