Do What You Can

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Editor’s note: Jim Manney is the author of A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer and other books about Ignatian spirituality. Below is an excerpt he shares from his newest book, What Matters Most and Why: Living the Spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

You must not think that God requires what man cannot accomplish. There is no need to wear yourself out, but make a competent and sufficient effort, and leave the rest to Him.

—Ignatius Loyola

As pearls of Ignatian wisdom go, this is perhaps the most practical: “Do what you can.” “Make a competent and sufficient effort.” Have you done what you can in this situation? Have you overlooked something? Are you giving up too quickly? Or are you trying to do more than you can? Have you forgotten that the outcome of this venture is up to God, not you?

These are tough questions, but Ignatius reminds us that we can answer them. We’re not to be swept up in events like a stick caught in a fast-flowing river. We’re not to make these decisions thoughtlessly. We’re to reflect on them, make them consciously and purposefully. We can decide to let God be God. We’re not in control of everything; we control a lot less than we think we do most of the time, but we can control this. We can decide to let God be God and to do what we can.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Thanks Jim. Doing one’s best and leaving the rest to the Almighty is a win-win situation. The Bhagavad Gita proposes an attitude of ‘Nishkama Karma’. It refers to doing what one can without the expectation of receiving acknowledgement or a reward. Saint Ignatius of Loyola is an epitome of all that is good in diverse cultures and various spiritualities.

  2. Thank you. I’ve been losing sleep about a situation I don’t seem able to resolve. I think I’m trying to do more than I can. So, I’ll let God be God.


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