As we strive to be more productive and to be better stewards of our time, we often encounter an internal conflict. On the one hand, we want to continually maximize our usage of every second – but on the other hand, we want to honor our families and enjoy our relationships.
It seems that keeping family in the right perspective is a nearly universal problem among those interested in time management. The reason that many people want to learn the principles of time management in the first place is to bring balance and peace to the struggle between family and our productivity.
Relationships are often the first casualties of a hectic life. Guilt and frustration can pop up as a result of not spending time with our family like we feel we should.
Relationships Versus Productivity
This stress is compounded when we try to serve the Lord. Pastors and ministry professionals feel a nagging sense of discomfort if they neglect the needs of their calling or the needs of their family. Even for non-professionals, strong conflict is felt when we have to decide between spending time with family or serving in our churches.
We want to do a good job of raising our children and loving our spouses – while at the same time, we want to work as unto the Lord and serve effectively in our ministries. But the two seem to be odds.
It’s all too common to feel pulled in two directions at the same time – and then to feel like a failure because neither area is getting the time you feel is necessary. We feel like we’re letting down our families, our bosses, and our God.
But resolving this conflict depends on redefining what it means to be productive. Effective time stewardship is using each and every second for the glory of God. Being productive is doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason. Being productive occurs when you are a faithful steward.
This sounds simple – but it requires a massive paradigm shift.
We tend to think of being productive as accomplishing things. Writing books, preaching sermons, starting businesses, achieving goals, making products, volunteering in the church – these are the things we view as really mattering. And the pursuit of productivity would naturally be doing more of these things.
But that’s not biblical reality. As stewards of our time, our mandate is to be faithful. That means doing things the way God would intend us to – the way he’s outlined in scripture. Our “job description” from God includes things such as growing spiritually through Bible reading and prayer, spending adequate time with our families, taking care of our physical bodies, and resting.
Ignoring one area of God’s instructions to us would be just like an employee who ignored part of their job description. It would be like the salesperson who is good at getting new customers – but refuses to follow their boss’s instructions to keep current customers happy.
In God’s eyes, spending the proper amount of time at home is just as productive as spending the proper amount of time serving in the church.
So how much time is the proper time to spend at home? How much time is the proper time to spend at church?
At this point, most people would tell you that you need to have your priorities in order. God is first, then your spouse is second, a close third is your children, etc.
I grew up hearing that, but I respectfully disagree. I think that view often leads to more confusion and frustration.
Furthermore, it’s not really a biblical model. As pointed out in the wonderful book, How to Balance Competing Time Demands, God shouldn’t be at the top of the list – He should be permeating every element on the list. He is the list.
The Bible shows us that God is Lord over every area of our life. Instead of nice, neat boxes of priorities, the Bible presents a holistic view of our lives and our time.
In one sense, there is inherent conflict between all of the areas of our life (health, family, service, work, etc.). The conflict exists because we can only be in one place at a time and we only have 24 hours in a day.
But in another sense, there is no conflict. I’m not trying to serve the different areas of my life, I’m trying to serve God.
Conflict occurs when I don’t serve God faithfully or when I don’t believe that His ways are the best ways. As I mentioned earlier, a sovereign God is not going to require us to cram 30 hours of activity into 24 hours a day.
Balance can absolutely be achieved. But balance is a byproduct of faithful obedience to God.
The order is important. Balance doesn’t come from arbitrary lists of priorities and schedules that we show to God as evidence that we are following Him. Instead, we seek to follow His ways first and foremost – planning, scheduling, striving, and adjusting in the moment.
How to Live with Balance:
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding balance. If there was a simple schedule to follow, then I’m sure God would have put in the Bible and there wouldn’t be much for me to write about!
The specifics of a balanced schedule will be different from individual to individual. It will vary from life stage to life stage. It will vary from day to day.
But here are some principles for determining what a balanced schedule looks like for you:
1. Have a renewed mind.
In Romans 12:2, God tells us how we can make good decisions. Let the indwelling of the Spirit and our study of scripture lead to a renewed mind – which leads to transformation and ultimately good decisions.
The best way to know what God wants us to do is to read what He’s told us. The Bible should permeate our minds and hearts so much that we can’t help but spill over into appropriate action and balance.
2. Pray unceasingly.
Combined with our Bible-centered renewed minds, we should continually be seeking strength and wisdom from above. (1 Thessalonians 5:7)
3. Balance is continual.
I heard a question once that was enlightening: As a tightrope walker makes their way across the tightrope, when do they balance? The answer is obvious: all the time. This isn’t just about an annual check-up on how you’re doing – this is second by second living.
4. Balance takes planning.
Don’t think that balance is just going with the flow and making it up as we go along. The way to be most effective with our time is to think and plan. We can’t rigidly stick to our schedules, but we can’t fly by the seat of our pants either.
Evaluate regularly how you’re doing. Make changes if necessary. It’s wise to have accountability partners who will exhort and encourage you. You should also regularly talk with your spouse to get their assessment as well.
As is so often the case with time stewardship, one area (such as balance) opens up discussions on other areas (such as goal-setting mentioned in items 4 and 5 above). I believe I’ll write more about that at a later point. But for now:
What are some signs telling you that you have a balanced life – or a life out of balance?
What strategies do you have for finding balance?
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