Workplace conference speakers of recent decades have often directed us to a concept frequently termed “work-life balance.” For the contemporary Christian sister, who may or may not have the privilege of working at home or from home, this elusive concept is often reduced to a battle, and the desired equilibrium is generally rather elusive. At the end of the day, there are no competing factions to balance and no two entities to distinguish (work and life), but just one thing, and it is called life.
Have you ever felt like the day will never end? Ever noticed that the amount of work you do has no seeming correlation to the work that remains? Ever felt that the daily demands of living life have left you unable to focus spiritually, and certainly unable to advance the kingdom? The daily pressures of nurturing a marriage, raising children, running a home — of just living — can be so overwhelming and exhausting that, from the moment our feet hit the floor until the moment we collapse into bed at night, our sole objective is reduced to just getting through the day. Some may call that life, but it does not sound like the abundant life which our Lord Jesus referred to in John 10:10. We want balance, but experience a battle.
Where did we go wrong, or is this just the expected norm? It is telling to notice how unencumbered our Lord Jesus was as He moved through life. If ever there was a man whose days were filled and whose time and attention were in constant demand, it was He. And yet, there was never one who lived life with such clarity of focus, such singularity of mind, such tranquility under pressure. Even in the gospel of Mark, where He is seen as constantly moving and endlessly serving, He is not for a moment portrayed as unbalanced, overtaxed, or frazzled. When John notes that the Lord Jesus delayed in responding to the request to help his dying friend, Lazarus, we assume He was testing their faith, letting him die so that He could later raise him to life. What if it was simply that He was legitimately detained, and would not be hurried? He stayed two days longer where He was before making the journey, and arrived four days late. But, did He really? With purpose and confidence in His Father’s will, He moved through life with dignity, devotion, and discipline.
What about the infamous interchange between Mary and Martha recorded in Luke 10:38-42? We see the value of both sisters and their chosen paths, but it was Martha whose time was hijacked by the onslaught of unplanned activity and unanticipated visitors, while Mary zeroed in on the greatest need of her heart. Was it a battle of balance? Should Martha have contented herself with a simpler provision while not forgetting the relational needs around her? I think that is what the Lord was gently conveying to her.
Maybe He has been trying to communicate that to you too. Often, it is our perceived need to provide the best for others that hinders our willingness to serve with simplicity and to open our homes and lives to others. We want to excel and to be appreciated, but the battle for our time and the pressures of life render us incapable of “pulling it off,” so we elect to just leave our doors closed, our lives isolated, and we content ourselves with making it through the day and falling into bed exhausted.
What is the answer? Is there an answer? Here are a few suggestions. First, understand your own needs. While those are many and varied, our greatest is spiritual – communion with our Lord. We miss it for a day, and carry on. Miss it for a week, and we survive. Make a habit of missing it, and life becomes a dreary drag. In John 15, the Lord Jesus clearly taught that, without Him, we would be able to do nothing. There would be no fruit, no sweetness. There may be much effort and activity, but there will be no fragrance of Christ about it. We need Him. We need time with Him. It must be first, and it must be a priority, for it will lend character to everything else. It will sweeten service, purify motives, temper temptation, and make the inevitable busyness not a battle to be fought, but a life to be lived.
Second, understand your own sphere. Who does not struggle with this? Our Lord did not. He came to seek and to save those that were lost. He was clear on that. He knew those whose lives He would touch, and those who would have to be touched by others. His love was limitless, but His work was focused. How about us? As parents, our families are our priority. As believers, our personal relationship with our Lord is our priority. As members of a local church body, our priority is the other members of that body. As citizens, our priority is our neighbor. As spouses, our priority is our life’s partner. But, how do we balance these priorities? Do we rank them? Please, no! It sounds good to do so, and it would make us feel spiritual if we placed God and the local church at the top, but what would that communicate to, and say about, our spouses, our children, and our neighbors?
God does not give us competing priorities. He gives complementary priorities. My family does not get in the way of my serving the community, or my use of hospitality. My spouse does not rob me of my time with my Lord, or my devotion to Him. My family does not detract from commitment to the assembly, or service to my fellow saints. All of these things are included in the sphere in which I serve, live, thrive, and grow. Take away one, and I lose balance. Ignore one, and I become underproductive. Use them all together, and I live an abundant life, a joyful, fruitful life, that is attractive to those who watch me, knowing nothing about my Lord other than what they see in me. What a responsibility!
The third suggestion – stick to it, and work it. After attending to your devotional needs, and understanding the sphere of service that God has given to you, stick at it, and stay in it. Why does God have you living where you live? Can you reach your neighbor for Christ? Can you open your door, put on the coffee pot and invite them in to get to know them? Can you use hospitality to get to know those with whom the Lord has surrounded you in your home and work life? Can you live a real, normal, balanced life before them, so that when the moment does come, you can be a witness to them? That does not mean knocking on the neighbor’s door and giving them an invite to your gospel meeting, unless you have previously invited them to your table! Our sphere of service is wherever God has placed us to live this abundant life He gave to us. The joy is in the living. Serving is the routine of life. Balance is needed. A smile is necessary. Closeness to Christ is essential. And if we have these, the rest will be natural. These suggestions are not given from a vantage point of satisfactory success, but rather the experience of frequent failure. May God help us to live with balance, and to live Christ at home and in the sphere He has placed us.