I’ve admired Kay Warren for years. I love her faith, tenacity, and courage. When I found out she’d wrote a book called Choose Joy, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy. And I’m thrilled that she’s sharing part of it here with you today…
Many of us spend our days feeling driven by the almost impossible demands of our lives. More than two thousand years before email, social networking, cell phones, and carpools, the Greek philosopher Socrates said, “Beware the barrenness of the busy life.” Joy withers in our lives when we are too busy. Too often we overestimate the amount of time we have to do a task and underestimate the amount of time it’s actually going to take to do that task. We end up slaves to commitments we’ve made, saying yes to all the wrong things, leaving ourselves with no time or energy to say yes to the people closest to us.
When our children or grandchildren ask to play a game, we can’t because we have too much to get done. When our husbands give us that look, we say no because we’re just too tired. When a friend needs a listening ear, we’re distracted because we have to get back to the office. When we feel a tug to pray about something we heard in church that morning, we forget it on the way to the grocery store. We’ve given ourselves to pursuits that seem important and left the people closest to us longing for relationship.
I’m convinced most of us are terrific liars when it comes to busyness, but the person we lie to is ourselves. The ability we have to deceive ourselves is epic! When we say, “This is just a busy season,” or, “This is only temporary; I won’t live like this forever,” we fool ourselves into thinking that this frantic pace is just a temporary condition instead of the new normal.
As Annie Dillard says so succinctly, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”3 Yes, there are unusual seasons of busyness, but it’s far too easy to let a season become a pattern. What becomes a pattern becomes a way of life. And a busy way of life robs us of joy.
In Psalm 127:2, we read, “It is useless to work hard for the food you eat by getting up early and going to bed late. The Lord gives food to those he loves while they sleep” (GW). I don’t completely understand this verse because I have yet to wake up in the morning and find that everything got done while I was sleeping! But I know the point is that it is self-defeating to work morning and night, pushing because we think that if something is not done everything will fall apart, and then fall into bed so exhausted that we can’t sleep. Busyness fills a schedule, but it fractures a family. It robs us of joy.
The antidote to busyness is balance. Finding balance begins with an honest conversation with God. Ask him, “God, why am I busy? What does busyness mean in my life? What does it mean in my relationship to you? Why am I so driven? Why are these tasks more important to me than people and relationships? What does this busyness represent?” And God will show you.
Once you’ve had a heart-to-heart with God about why you are so driven, recognize the brevity of life and slow down the pace. My friend Lynnda, who moves slowly and gracefully through her very full life, told me: I am grateful for the faces who join us around our table of daily life—whether family, neighbors, or friends. Our lives are filled to the brim and overflowing with the richness of relationships; the bond of love that comes from walking in the way of faith with a determination to live deep instead of fast. Peace instead of the rat race.
Lynnda understands the truths of James 4:14, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (NLT), and Job 7:7, “My life is but a breath” (TLB). These verses teach us that time is life and life is short. Some might conclude that the brevity of life requires us to move fast in response, to make sure we cram it all in before we die. But Lynnda has concluded that because life is short, every season must be savored slowly and actually enjoyed.
Of course, every season of life has limitations, as well as unique opportunities, whether you have toddlers at home, an empty nest, a full-time job, or health concerns related to age. Yet we go through life acting as if life is not changing at all. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season” (CEV). In truth, we need to be constantly adjusting our schedule and priorities based on the season of life we’re in. Part of being balanced is knowing what season of life you’re in and adjusting for it.
My favorite movies of all time are the Lord of the Rings Trilogy—I love the pageantry, the heroism, the grand themes of good against evil, and the wisdom of one of the main characters, Gandalf the Grey. When another character complains that he wishes these bad times had not come when they did, Gandalf responds with these words: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”4
At the end of your life, will you be pleased with the decisions you made about the time that was given to you? More importantly, will God be pleased? The key is to yield control of our brief span of time to him daily, keeping in mind that depth, not speed, is the truest measure of a balanced life.
Psalm 31:15, “Hour by hour I place my days in your hand” (Message), is a verse that will keep you centered and focused on using your time wisely in the middle of calendars, to-do lists, and deadlines, thus nurturing joy in your soul.