If you google the words “How to create a balanced lifestyle,” you will find everyone from psychotherapists to New-age Buddhists listing their “5 Easy Steps for Creating Balance in Your Life.” Without fail, everyone’s #1 tip will encourage you to look within. “Take some time to really look at your life.” “Be honest with yourself and notice the areas of your life that you’re neglecting.” “Plan out your day, and set goals.” “Define what a balanced life means to you.” “Take care of and nurture yourself.”
These bits of advice may be helpful, but they are no starting point for the Christian. The Christian path toward balance does not begin by looking inwardly. It begins by looking outwardly. It must start with a prayerful approach toward the throne of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16), as we make our request for a balanced life known (Phil. 4:6). Martin Luther understood this well. In the midst of a busy schedule, he reportedly said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Now three straight hours may not be possible for many of us, but Luther articulates a necessary first step toward a balanced lifestyle: Approaching God dependently in prayer for wisdom and strength.
The second step toward balance is similar. Before allowing other voices (especially our own!) to dictate how we ought to bring order to our stressful schedules, we need God to bring order to our stress-filled hearts. We need our busy hearts to be calmed by the assuring power of God’s word. For through it, He promises to revive our souls, make us wise, and provide strength for today (Ps. 19:7-8; Prov. 3:5-8; 1 Thess. 2:13). This happens primarily in church, coming under the preaching of the word and administration of the sacrament, and secondarily in our own homes. The goal, whether inside or outside of church, is to be so saturated by God’s word that we balance our lives in accordance with what He desires, not what we desire.
Our natural instinct is to take control of our hectic schedules and neurotically seek out ways to accomplish our demanding to-do list. Sadly, by doing so, we unknowingly adopt the starting point and practices of a New-age Buddhist. We focus on self rather than the true and living God. We get sucked into a vicious, self-focused cycle of stress, anxiety, and utter despair. But it doesn’t need to be this way. By God’s grace, we can deprive our flesh of that desire to control, stifle our pride to “get things done,” and declare our total insufficiency. That starting point and practice will only result in witnessing God bring order to our busy lifestyles.
When we set our minds on the eternal promises of the gospel and the eternal will of God, we will be so heavenly minded that we are of great earthly good. We will witness the sustaining power of God’s enabling grace (2 Cor. 12:9). We will strive with the strength that He provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 4:11). We will see more clearly how we ought to prioritize all of our tasks, commitments, and opportunities in a way that honors God (1 Cor. 10:31). We will treasure what God treasures and despise what He despises. This is not only the path toward a balanced life. It is the path toward a joyful life, one that focuses on God, others, and then self.
Our starting point will often determine our ending point. May our trek toward balance in busyness therefore begin with a declaration of our radical dependence God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in order to reach the all-satisfying end of glorifying and enjoying Him in the midst of a busy schedule.
Dr. David Briones is professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College.