Breaking Through the ‘I Can’t Do That’ Barrier

A couple of years ago David, our worship team leader, challenged the team to each find one thing within our walk with God or within our music to improve and take up to the next level. We spent weeks talking and praying about what that could look like and each person set themselves a different goal to achieve.

For me, I knew it was time to work on harmonies.

Harmonising was something I had never been any good at. The few times I gave it a go I would simply get it wrong. It was frustrating and embarrassing to keep messing up in front of people and as there were plenty of other singers in the team who are amazing harmonisers; I found that I could get away with just singing the melody most of the time.

This spared me the embarrassment of making mistakes each week, but there were drawbacks. There were times when I knew the songs would sound better if there was just one more part in the mix. Even then I couldn’t bring myself to try a harmony, even when I could hear in my head what was missing from a song, I couldn’t fill the gap because stamped firmly in my mind was big block letters that said ‘I can’t do that’.

I had drawn a line over my singing that said I can never improve pass this point.

I think many of us can find ourselves contained by the words: ‘I can’t do that’. Now, some ‘I can’t do that’ phrases are completely unimportant; I can’t break dance, but I don’t lose much sleep over that one, but other ‘I can’t do that’ phrases have a far bigger impact on our lives, such as:

    I can’t control myself
    I can’t change
    I can’t do this anymore

Big or small things, the more we let our ‘I can’t do that’ barriers build up the more limited we become. ‘I can’t’ can take away our courage to try new things and diminish our confidence. It can be especially crippling in our creativity. It locks the door firmly shut before we have even tried the handle. ‘I can’t do that’ will erode our freedom a little bit at a time.

When we look at the things we can’t do we can feel defeated from the start. But what we need to recognise is that when we say ‘I can’t do that’ what we actually mean is:

    I can’t do that easily


    I can’t do that quickly


    I can’t do that alone

To say ‘I can’t do this’ is defeatist but to recognise that ‘I can’t do this easily’ is realistic. It leaves room for hope and possibility.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish’

Luke 14: 28-30

Jesus is saying here to think carefully before you commit to being His follower because there is a cost involved. This principle is true for lots of things in life. Any big goal comes at a price. There is a cost to breaking through an ‘I can’t do that’ barrier the same way as there is a cost to building a tower, or a cost to following Jesus.

In my goal to learn how to harmonise I knew that the price would be my pride. Reaching this goal would mean putting myself out there, making mistakes, slowing down in practices, and getting it wrong in front of people. My weaknesses as a singer were about to be exposed; that was the cost.

So apprehensive, but determined to finally tackle this, I asked the singers who were excellent at harmonising for advice and found that they were happy to help. Opening up and saying ‘I am struggling with this and I want to get better at it’ was the best thing I did because it allowed my friends to get behind me. They instantly put me at ease and gave me all the support I needed. Quite simply, they were fantastic.

I quickly learnt that the embarrassment of making a mistake wasn’t nearly as bad as the shame I had felt before on giving up on something just because it wasn’t coming easily to me. I also learnt how encouraging, patient and kind our worship team are.

I filled my days with singing and as I practiced I rediscovered how much I love music. I turned the radio up on every journey to and from work and tried to copy the harmonies on any song I could find. I recorded parts into my phone so I could listen to them over and over again at home. In practices I tried to add them, and when I made mistakes and got it wrong, I kept on trying.

Slowly, over the following months I got a little bit better at harmonising, and it got a little more easier. Then I got a little more confident, and it got a little easier. And making mistakes became less traumatizing each time I made one. And gradually finding and singing harmonies felt more and more natural.

Now I know that my harmonising goal was a really small, unimportant goal in the grand scheme of human accomplishment, but it mattered to me. This small achievement added a new lease of life for me in worship; I now had more choices in how I sing, I had new ways in which to worship God, I had more to contribute to our worship team. I was that much more flexible and more willing to take risks. I won a little victory over an ‘I can’t’ in my life and it simply made me want to sing more and more!

I have discovered that just because something is small, it doesn’t mean it’s not big enough for God to care about. God’s kindness and interest in us reaches all the way to smallest details of our lives; like the number of hairs on our heads.

God is with us in all things and I think it gives Him great pleasure to watch us take the skills He has given us and strengthen them; He is with us when we test our limits and He guides us to stretch them further. He is a good teacher who delights in us as we learn new things.

Galatians 5:1 says that ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free’. In Christ we are free; free from sin, free from condemnation, free from judgement. Jesus came to set us free from everything that makes us slaves. So if our own fear and insecurities are holding us captive, then Jesus can free us from them as well. His liberating power has no boundaries.

Sometimes we have all the faith in the world that God can do anything and still be crippled by doubts in ourselves. We need to recognize that the God who can do anything is at work in our lives too.
A part of living in the wonderful freedom we have in Christ, is to keep on pushing through the ‘I can’t do that’ barriers that keep us contained. From out tiniest hopes to our wildest dreams I am constantly amazed at what is achievable with God.

Once I tackled the ‘I can’t harmonise’ barrier I set about breaking free from some of the other insecurities that hold me back. Some battles are harder than others, many are on-going, but I am determined to live in the freedom Jesus has given me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13