I have a question regarding work/life balance.
I'm a young Christian man in my mid-20s and have a rather demanding job requiring long hours (not to use numbers, but I really don't see any sunlight) and large periods of travel. My issue is not that I am lazy or dislike what I do, but most of my family and friends tell me that I work too hard.
At work, I have always tried to strive for excellence in all that I do. When I travel for work, I usually have a team of coworkers/staff, which puts me in a terrific situation where I am basically "forced" to interact with my coworkers on a very close level, which allows me to share Christ and my eternal hope with my coworkers, as well to take them to events like church plays and revivals in areas where we are traveling. I see it as a tremendous opportunity.
One drawback, however, is that I cannot be as active in long-term projects at church, even though I try and participate in small projects at church ranging from donating an occasional Saturday morning (when I am not working) to help work with the youth, to handing out Bible tracts on my way to dinner in the evenings. I still try and be as active in church as possible, and I attend regularly, but midweek Bible studies are tough when you have a deadline the next day.
I realize that I am young and single, and will never have as much energy and enthusiasm to learn business skills that be can be used for the edification of other believers as I have right now.
I figure that even Paul benefited from learning to make tents as a youth, and life is really only a blink in the eye of eternity. I also have the same problem most young guys do that I have a hard time imagining what it is like to be 30 (that seems horribly old to me). As a result I try and rush through my career more than most.
I honestly don't believe that I am in it to get rich or to have prestige; I just think that I will focus on the career for now for the above reasons and have a life later.
When I explain this to people they still tell me that I work too hard.
Does it seem like my priorities are misplaced? Does it sound like I should tone down the work hours in order to participate in church and family activities?
I think maybe you're setting up a false dichotomy in your view of work and (fill in the blank). Whether it's work and family, work and church, work and ministry, or work and play, all of it makes up what we call "life."
There is no "work now and have a life later." Life doesn't wait for you to finish a season. Life is now. What you are doing now is how you are spending your life.
I don't mean to quibble over semantics; I'm sure you probably agree that you shouldn't create these dichotomies. The danger, though, is that it can happen without your being aware that it is happening, and that really is a problem.
The Christian life isn't defined by what season you're in; it's defined by where you are in your journey with the triune God. Whether you're a 20-something, hard-working single; a 30-something dad with little kids; or a 40-, 50- or 60-something empty nester, you are having your life right now.
Here's the deal. We have no guarantees about tomorrow. When God calls us home, we go home. Period. Now, it is my sincere hope that we all live long, healthy lives, but none of us have that assurance. Sometimes it's a good practice to pull back for a minute and view our lives as a whole, rather than in chunks of seasons and time, and ask ourselves, "Is this the legacy I want to leave?"
According to Scripture, life begins when we know the Father. That's life, plain and simple. It doesn't start when we leave home. It doesn't start when we graduate from college and get a job. It doesn't start when we get married and have children. It starts when we know God and is defined by that for the rest of eternity.
As long as how you spend your time moves you forward in your intimacy with God — whether it's school, work, play or family — then you're probably spending your time wisely.
If, on the other hand, you aren't experiencing intimacy with God and others, it might be good to pull back and evaluate your life, and see whether your work has anything to do with your "distance" from God and people.
There's not a thing wrong with working long hours in and of itself. I believe work is intended to be a form of worship, and if we "work as unto the Lord," it brings Him pleasure and glory. I would say that about most of the ways we spend our time: playing, parenting, "spouse-ing," whatever. All of it is sacred if we dedicate it to God.
I wonder, though, if there is some reason why several people have expressed concern about your work schedule. Maybe they see something that you can't see. It might be good to ask those who have expressed concern whether there is something they see in your life that has them worried. God could be speaking to you through them. You should at least explore that more.
One final thought. Some careers keep us on the run, traveling all over. If we're not careful, all of that running around can serve to "unplug" us from solid fellowship with other believers, ideally in the form of a local church. There's a reason God wants us plugged in: We are not supposed to live out this walk of faith alone.
Sit down with your pastor (or a mentor) and ask him to be totally honest with you. Ask them to let you know if they see that your priorities are out of whack and to hold you accountable. They are the ones that live with you and see you operate. They would be the most likely ones to help you stay on track.
Copyright 2008 John Thomas. All rights reserved.