William Lloyd Freeman, born in the county of Gloucestershire in the south of England, penned the beautiful hymn that we often sing, Our Times are in Thy Hands. It isn’t quite clear as to the circumstances that led him to write this hymn, but it appears that he must have understood a little of the truth that David understood when he penned Psalm 31:15: “My times are in thy hands.” The following is an excerpt from that hymn:
Our times are in Thy hands
Father we wish them there
Our life, our soul, our all we leave
Entirely to thy care
Our times are in Thy hands
Why should we doubt, or fear
Our Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.
A quick search of the book titles about time management at major online retailers reveals a thirst for better ways to manage our time, to become more efficient and productive. Much of the content of these books reflects the readers’ underlying panic at trying to cope with a society that continues to, almost mercilessly, demand more from us all. Sometimes, critical strains are created in our relationships at work, at home, or in school because of a sense of not being able to manage our time effectively.
The very technology (i.e. smartphone apps, etc.) that has been developed to help us with time management seems only to demand more of our time, creating new tasks, activities, and responsibilities for us to fit into our busy schedules. This provokes more anxiety, even panic, as we desperately struggle to meet our deadlines and obligations. We often feel like hamsters on the activity wheel of life, vigorously spinning, but accomplishing little.
While our obligations and responsibilities are not going to simply melt away as a result of reading a book or article about time management, we as believers can find great comfort in the truth that David understood, “My times are in the Thy hands” (Psa 31:15).
If we can trust God, through His Son, for the eternal security of our soul, and wait on Him to guide us through the circumstances of life, then we can trust Him as well to help us manage our time. Often the panic arises from a false belief that we control our own schedules, but our time is directed by the eternal God, Who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. When we recognize this, we can have peace. Understanding this foundational truth is really an expression of our submission to the will of God, and of His control and direction in every aspect of our lives.
Looking to the Word of God for further guidance as to how we can manage our time yields some very powerful observations and principles to help us:
Genesis 1:5 – Time is a construct of God in creation
Time was created and further divided into units called days. This is the currency with which we, as finite human beings, work. But the Creator of time is eternal, with no beginning and no end, and it should comfort us to know that there is nothing that happens out of sync with the purposes of God. Furthermore, we should understand that we cannot cram an unlimited number of tasks into a finite day. Thinking about the tasks that we undertake, and making an educated estimate as to how long it will take to complete them, will help us to avoid overburdening our schedules, thus creating unrealistic expectations.
Galatians 4:4 – God sent forth His Son in the “fullness of time”
So often worship is sparked in our hearts as we consider this wonderful truth, but there is also an observation to be made here regarding the management of our time.
The sending of the Son of God was no haphazard decision made by divine persons on a whim. This was a wonderful, calculated move by the eternal God to redeem us from the bondage of our sins. But it happened at the right time in history, suggesting that there was planning involved. There is no substitute for planning and forethought. Taking time to plan our activities in the days, weeks, and months prior will be helpful in managing our time and moving forward effectively. We will not always plan them realistically or appropriately, but we will be much closer to efficiency if we plan appropriate time to complete each task.
Luke 10:40-41—Martha was full of cares and troubled about so many things
Most of us, if we’re honest, identify with Martha better than with Mary. We know what it is to be bothered by the need to be serving and meeting our obligations. It took the Lord Jesus to point out to Martha that Mary had actually chosen the “good part,” and that occupation with the Lord Jesus was far superior to the arbitrary standards of hospitality that were so important to Martha. So, can we learn from this with regard to time management that we must establish appropriate priorities with our time? Martha spent her time working busily in the home, but the Lord Jesus was there. There was a suitable time for these activities to be done, but Mary seemed to understand that the presence of the Lord and her enjoyment of that must take precedence. We often substitute less important things for the things that are vital to healthy, spiritual growth and daily fellowship with the Lord. Daily time spent in God’s word and in prayer will help to illuminate those priorities more clearly.
Martha was distracted by the activities in which she was engaged, and it is quite possible that those distractions hindered her from a fuller enjoyment of Christ. He was in her home, yet the priority of fellowship with Him was lost to mundane chores. So often we are distracted by unnecessary activity or by things that ought to be of less priority. The tasks that are identified as priority for completion should have every possible roadblock of distraction removed. A useful exercise would be to ask ourselves how much of our day is spent with unnecessary or unimportant distractions. Social media is fantastic, and helpful with so much. However, it can rapidly drain our days of that precious resource of time. A disciplined limitation of it may help us to complete those tasks that are (or ought to be) priority. We should be challenged to find, and eliminate, other unneccesary distractions in our days.
Exodus 22:29 – Procrastination is a terrible enemy of efficient time management
The children of Israel were responsible to give the firstfruits of the vine, the product from their winepresses, and their firstborn unto the Lord. They were cautioned about delaying in this regard. Imagine a scenario in which an Israelite procrastinated in planting his vineyard. The care required in producing the grapes was delayed, which would certainly delay those grapes being placed into the winepress to produce what was required. Each delay would compound the next, and each one would ratchet up the level of anxiety, particularly when it came time to give to the Lord.
How many of us can identify with the ominous sense of doom and despair that settles in at the thought of being unable to complete a task or fulfill an obligation? It seems easier to delay initiating the task than it is to start it. But is it really easier? Many of the world’s premier psychologists in self-help books on time management describe procrastination as a result of fear of the consequences involved when those tasks are initiated. Procrastination may also occur when we feel inadequately skilled to complete a task, or because we genuinely dislike what a particular task entails. For example, if I put off completing that paper for composition class, then I can defer the boring, arduous task of doing research because I dislike the time it takes to research. A simple suggestion that shouldn’t shock us is to commit this seemingly small item to the Lord. Remember, we are asked to cast all of our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (1Peter 5:7). We can also break large tasks into smaller ones, which will help us to accomplish the larger goal.
Ephesians 5:15-16—Making the best use of the time that is allotted to us
In these verses, we are strongly encouraged to redeem or use the time wisely because the days are evil. There are certainly moments in all of our lives when the time spent, even on legitimate needs, can be used more efficiently. For example, will it really impact our day much if we turn off the radio while we’re sitting in traffic in order to think of those in the local assembly that we are associated with that need special prayer? (Keeping the eyes open for this activity is always strongly encouraged). Also, time waiting for a haircut at the local barbershop can be used to text on a smartphone to a brother or sister who needs a word of encouragement.
1 Timothy 5:13—Idle time can be the slippery pathway toward sin
Paul cautions Timothy about the danger that young widows might face should they just visit house to house, with too much idle time, i.e. time that is empty and not filled with productive things. He warns that idle time could lead to “gossiping” or to becoming overly concerned about or critical of the affairs of others in a slanderous or malicious way. Let us learn, then, to assess our own idle time and attempt to eliminate it from our schedules. Idle time (not to be confused with time used for rest) creates a perfect storm for distractions and a wandering mind, and can lead us to become involved in that which would be displeasing to the Lord. As a side note, idle time in the setting of private internet access has had disastrous consequences for many believers. May God preserve us and keep us cautious in this regard!
There is little doubt as to the demands that each of us face with respect to our time. These pressures are all too familiar to us, and won’t likely go away. We live now in the dimension of time, but we will not always be governed by time, as our soul and spirit is eternal. In our glorified state, it appears that we will no longer have to wrestle with the limitations of time, but until then may we have the attitude written so simply by the author, William Lloyd Freeman:
Our times are in Thy hand;
Jesus, the Crucified,
The hand our many sins have pierced,
Is now our guard and guide.