What do you normally do when you have too much to handle—let go of one thing to do another, or try to somehow do everything?
With this new year, you might be thinking through priorities—what to hang onto, what to let go of. Sometimes being overloaded is unavoidable—we have deadlines; there’s a family crisis; sometimes everything in our lives comes to a head all at once. But many times we’re overloaded as a result of our own choices. We take on as much as we think we can handle, but it turns out we thought wrong. Or we really did take on as much as we could handle—and then the unexpected hit, and we didn’t have the physical, mental or emotional resources left to deal with anything more.
Learning to rely on Jesus goes a long way toward getting us through whatever challenges we face. But God also wants us to use wisdom in choosing our priorities and in deciding how much we really can handle, so our lives don’t get overloaded and imbalanced in the first place.
And that might include ministry as well. As Watchman Nee observes in Changed Into His Likeness, “We experienced no difficulty at all in losing sight of what God wants us to do! Just a little overwork—indeed we might say, just a little extra work for God—is all too capable of diverting our eyes from that ultimate vision.”
So tab up, and read Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Matthew 6:24-34; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 10:38-42; and James 1:2-8. After each passage, ask yourself the following three questions:
• What’s the problem here?
• At what point does it become a problem?
• What’s God’s answer to the problem?
Now that you’ve looked at all four passages together, here’s another couple questions:
• Which of these passages hits closest to where you’re at right now? Why?
• Based on your own reflection earlier, what should your response be—and what would that look like for you specifically?
Now, let’s think about what we might be able to do about the things we’re dealing with. We’re going to start by doing a little dreaming. Make yourself an empty pie chart, maybe 2-3 inches in diameter. Fill it in what you’d like your typical day to look like, if it were up to you. Be realistic—don’t put in 12 hours of sleep followed by 12 hours of rest. But dream a little, too—what good things do you wish you could give more time toward, but just don’t seem to right now?
Here are some general ideas to help you started; use as many of them as you want, or add your own. Be as specific as you’d like. Take maybe three minutes to do this exercise:
• work (including commute)
• eating (including prep time)
• Bible study/prayer
• family time (where the family actually gets your attention)
• “alone time” with your spouse
• what else?
So, based on the chart you just drew, what things matter most to you?
OK, let’s make another chart. Only this time, you’re going to make your chart represent how your life is really going right now. Take another two minutes to do that right now.
Now, spend some time wrestling with what you’ve just learned about yourself. Reflect on these questions:
• What’s the biggest difference between this chart and your first one?
• What do you think would be different if your life were more like your first chart? How would you be different?
• Be honest: What’s really stopping you from making these changes? What do you think is your first step toward addressing those issues or attitudes?
Take the time to pray about the gaps you see between where you want to be and where you are right now. Pray that God would reveal what things you can let go of, as well as “multiply the time” you have so you can serve God and others you care about the way God’s calling you to—without damaging yourself in the process.