CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Peace over Preparations
Balance in the Spiritual Life
By Rhonda Maydwell
Her grades were slipping, friendships suffering, and her family felt they barely saw her anymore. Boyfriend? Alcohol? Drugs? No, none of these. It was her involvement with her church's youth group. For sure the youth program at her church was a great one — a caring youth pastor, adult leaders who poured into the teenagers, worthy opportunities to serve and grow. The problem was, her calendar was filling up even more than her spirit. Especially when she was asked to take on a leadership role, her church commitments began to consume her life and our family time. Her life was out of balance, and it was affecting every area of her life — including her spiritual growth.
I know this story well, because it happened to our family with our teenage daughter. The suggestion that she was spending too much time at church was met with (perhaps understandably) loud protests that nothing was more important than her relationship with Jesus (in full teenage angst mode). Of course I agreed with the sentiment, and I struggled with the idea of restricting her time at church. How could a good Christian mother do such a thing? I searched the Bible for guidance.
Joseph from Genesis had a vision as a teenager that he would be a great ruler one day. That day turned out to be a long time off, and in the meantime his life took many turns. Slave, accused rapist, prisoner, advisor...Joseph held all of these titles before God promoted him to leader. Yet Joseph was faithful in all of these lowly positions. He did his best in every position he was placed. In a modern society, Joseph would have seen high school studies and family obligations as important and worthy of doing well. He would have recognized these obligations as his opportunity to serve and grow with God. As Joseph matured through the circumstances of his life, God promoted him into a wise ruler and faithful servant of God.
It is nearly impossible to talk about busyness for the Kingdom without mentioning Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). In short, guess who was coming to dinner? Jesus! Mary and Martha were both followers of Jesus and honored by His visit. Martha wanted the event to be perfect. I can picture it: not a speck of dust in the place, perfect food, candles, fresh flowers around the home… It takes a lot of work to honor a very special guest. Upon His arrival, Martha continued to scurry around making preparations while Mary plopped down at the feet of Jesus wishing to soak up every moment of His presence. Martha boldly asked Jesus to force her sister Mary to help her. Instead, Jesus gently rebuked Martha telling her that Mary had chosen His presence over preparations. There was nothing inherently sinful with the desire to serve Jesus in the best way she knew how, but she became so distracted by her busyness that she nearly missed the opportunity to be with Jesus!
It is easy to get so distracted by work for the Kingdom that we miss the peace of God's presence. Well-meaning churches, women's ministry programs, and even church youth groups can overwhelm and overwork their members with a host of very good programs, get-togethers, outreach programs, meetings about really important items, etc. I recently spoke with a gentleman who declined an opportunity to be a deacon at his church because his head usher job already had him missing most Sunday morning sermons, and, in his words he "really needs that." Don't we all? Too often we make plans and create busyness without asking God if our plans involve what He wants. Just before crossing into the Promised Land, Joshua had to remind the Israelites to "come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God" (Joshua 3:9). After forty years in the desert, no doubt the Israelites were eager to get on with things, but work without the leading of God is just busyness.
During His three-year ministry, Jesus knew a lot about being busy. Besieged with requests for healings and prayer, often Jesus "and his disciples couldn't even find time to eat" (Mark 3:20). With all that He had to accomplish in a short time period, time and time again Jesus retreated for time to pray and find rest in the Father (Luke 5:16). The human side of Jesus needed respite and constant guidance from God. Everything Christ did was through the guidance of the One who sent Him. Likewise, we can be very busy doing things presumably for God, but not actually benefitting His Kingdom or our own spiritual growth if not God directed.
We hear stories about a woman in ministry neglecting her own family while attending to numerous church related activities, a young man spending so many hours a day in prayer that he feels he cannot seek employment, or a teenage girl so involved with her church youth group she struggles at home and school. Ministry, prayer, and church youth group are all good and God-honoring activities, but without God's leading they are personal pursuits. A life out of balance (suffering families, inability to lead a productive life, school and home struggles) are indicators that one might very well be following their own pursuits and not the will of God.
After much prayer I made the choice to restrict some of my daughter's church activities. As a parent of a teenager who had a strong heart for Christ but who was struggling with balance, I felt I needed to intervene. I instructed my daughter to choose the youth group events that meant the most to her and taught her how to say no to the rest — teaching her to balance her life so that she does not burn out and become an ineffective witness. I instituted one night a week that was guaranteed family time — dinner at the table, games, movie nights, chatting on the couch — just concentrated family time. I encouraged her to reconnect with non-church friends she had been neglecting (and who felt judged by her). Homework came before activities — and her grades improved. Today my daughter is stronger in the Lord, but she knows that God teaches and grows her through multiple venues. She is learning to seek God's Kingdom first before plunging ahead into another ministry, activity, or serving opportunity.
Some of us are chronic people pleasers who always say yes. Some worry that if not for them, it (whatever it might be) will not get done. Some of us find our value in our own works (let that one sink in for a moment). We neither ask nor listen to the Lord's leading, however, we are wise to hearken to Joshua's order to "come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God." If we seek His will, He will show us the way to go (Proverbs 3:6), we will do it well, we will have peace, and we will be prepared for His ultimate plan for our lives.
For more, see Carnivore Theology's podcast "5 Reminders for Students."
Image Credit: James Emery; "Yasmine reading in 'Synagogue'"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Family-Life | Health-Wellness | Personal-Life
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Published on 10-24-16