In this week’s video, Donnie Smith tackles the thorny topic of work-life balance. The video starts with some helpful practical perspective about how to navigate balance and then gets into the heart of the issue – which is that balance is fundamentally a heart issue.
Work – maybe more than any other area of life – is the means by which we survive (earn a paycheck), achieve or preserve social standing (our job and status), and feel a sense of purpose by contributing to something bigger than ourselves (our role in the overall economy/society). The primal impulses we have for work are there because God created us that way; he gave us work as a means of cultivating and sustaining life and culture. These are good things.
But this also means that in our distortion of God’s good world, we – all of us – are primed to look to work to give us something that only God can give. Instead of trusting God for our security, we trust what we earn from work. Instead of looking to God for our significance, we look to our title, company, LinkedIn description. This root relationship with work can be true whether you are working 80 hours a week or 35.
Because our hearts so easily shift, we need a regular practice of observing limits in our work. We need to affirm that we are a people called to multiple assignments, not just called to our paid work. We need to answer affirmatively the question that Donnie summarizes in the video, “are you willing to trust me?”
As the year is still fresh and many of us are positioned for new habits, I want to encourage you to adopt some intentional practices that will help cultivate your heart, practice balance, and ultimately help you do even better work.
There are MANY practical ideas out there (Donnie mentioned a couple in the video). Here are a few to consider that can help shape your heart:
- Spend 3-5 minutes sitting in stillness meditating on God’s word. Start with Matthew 11:30 (my yoke is easy and my burden is light). At the end, remember these four truths about God:
- God is great, so I don’t have to be in control.
- God is good, so I don’t have to be afraid of my circumstances.
- God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself.
- God is glorious, so I don’t have to look to anyone else.
- Specifically invite God into your workday and ask to stay in his presence (John 15:5) and for wisdom in your work (James 1:5). Bonhoeffer says it well: “the organization and distribution of our time will be better for having been rooted in prayer…decisions which our work demands will be simpler and easier when they are made, not in the fear of men, but solely in the presence of God.”
- Plan for a 24-hour sundown – sundown period of rest, only doing things that enable you to rest, worship, enjoy, or stop. This will not happen overnight. You’ll have to orient your week around it and work up to it. Start where you can – a half-day, maybe.
The last two years of life in a pandemic have revealed or accelerated many trends that were already in motion or bubbling beneath the surface, and our exasperation with an unhealthy and unsustainable work environment is one of those. But do not be deceived – simply finding a “better” job or limiting your hours, while good things, will be helpful in the short term but will not address the heart of the issue. Because above all, balance is a heart issue.