October 22, 2020

My New Year’s Resolution – Work Life Balance (and a little more time resting in God)

KeepCalmI have have spent the last couple of days reflecting on work life balance. Or rather, my lack thereof. My apologies to those who have offered to help with Michael Spencer’s commentary on Mark. I keep meaning to get back to you, but this issue of work life balance is one of the things that has gotten in the way. Things came to a head today. I had holidays booked for Christmas, a long needed break, but instead was called in for three days to fix problems that only I could deal with. In my near future my boss’s boss has me scheduled to work for 19 straight days. I told my boss in no uncertain terms that that was not going to happen. My family life and my health have suffered because of work, and I am not going to let that continue. Hence the New Year’s Resolution.

Having left today’s post a little late, and not sure what to do, but thinking of life work balance, I decided to get back to Michael Spencer’s Bible Studies, and see if there was maybe a gem in there that I could post. We had posted excerpts up to Mark 5, so I was reading from Mark 6 and came to the story of the feeding of the 5000.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place…

Here is what Michael Spencer had to say about this little snippet:

Of course, we also see here the love and attention Jesus has for his followers, his desire to spend time with them and his sensitivity to their needs. Mark observes that so many people were surrounding Jesus and the apostles that there wasn’t even time to eat! Anyone who has ever been in vocational ministry can certainly relate to those words! Mark has frequently described the crowds that followed Jesus and there are hints here that the crowds had increased as a result of the mission of the apostles. It is not sinful or selfish to seek the kind of healthy balance in life that makes real ministry possible. We can never minister to the people God sends to us if we are not willing to withdraw and allow God to minister to us. This passage goes beyond simply the example of Jesus in this to show, beyond a doubt, that Jesus initiates such times for his followers. I do not believe Jesus would have appreciated the workaholic Christian martyr who sacrifices health, family time, relationships, sleep, reading and prayer in order to help everyone on their schedule. One thing I have learned in 23 years of ministry is that those you minister to will gladly suck the life right out of you if you do not take care of yourself! And I don’t think God is going to be all that pleased with some of our ministerial heart attacks as signs of how caring we are. As we add new staff every year in out ministry at Oneida, I watch well-meaning people spend all day and half the night talking to the troubled- to the point that their own personal exhaustion and spiritual emptiness make them cynical towards ministry in general. People often ask me how I do as much as I do and I tell them it is by not doing as much as possible! I value my time alone, my reading and prayer time and believe it is a divine command to put my family before those I minister to on campus. Thank you Jesus for this example and affirmation that we all need to withdraw for rest in the wilderness before taking on the battle for the promised land.

Michael’s example is a little different to my own, but I think that the principles are the same. Burn out whether through church or work is not healthy and not where we are intended to be. I have heard recently both at church and work the need to have a sense of urgency. “There is important work to be done, and we need people who will be committed to do it!”

This reminded me so much of one of Michael Spencer’s best ever posts: This Wretched Urgency – The Grace of God or Hamsters on a Wheel. If you missed it the first time (or second, or third), take the time to read it. Then read it again. If you haven’t read it for a couple of years, you should read it again too.

There are plenty of example in the New Testament of Jesus taking time to rest and be alone with God. If he, the Son of God, needed this, how much more do I.

My New Year’s resolution then, is also my petition to God. “Let my 2014 be characterized by having a healthy balanced life and rest in you.”


  1. Excellent insight, Michael. I notice the imbalance you talk about in the people around me at work. They complain of having no time to do laundry for a month (How many clothes do they own?) and when they do, the laundry stays on the dining room table for weeks. I know of only a very few coworkers who are not very overweight, diabetic, and/or suffering from back problems as a result of their lifestyle. They’re all good, devoted workers — but the workplace is wrong asking that level of devotion from them. I bet if they demonstrated the same devotion to a religious group, their relatives would be staging interventions and calling in the cult de-programmers; but because it’s a job, not a religion, our culture thinks it’s all right to let it devour you.

    I too struggle to live sanely. At least I’m on an academic schedule and have vacations more frequently than most.

  2. Gordon MacDonald made the observation that the things in life of less ultimate importance — the “urgent” things — tend to scream at us and demand our attention, while the deeply important matters quietly wait for us to recognize them and attend to them. However, they will not wait forever, and if we keep responding to everything that screams and neglect the important things long enough, we may find we cannot attend to them any longer.

  3. Nouwen wrote that the keys to a healthy spiritual life were silence, solitude, and prayer…It’s difficult to achieve any of these apart from each other. Good post, Michael. We all need this wake-up, slow-down call from time to time.

  4. I remember a little booklet from Intervarsity Press many years ago called “The Tyranny of the Urgent”….

    I also remember the day I made my stand and told my boss, “I work for IBM and I’m married to my wife. It’s not the other way round.”

    I also remember the day a few years later when I resigned from the company.

    Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. No one is indispensable. IBM actually survived without me.

  5. As I walk and learn in faith, I am discovering that the enemy of my soul uses the “screaming of the urgent” to mask what I could be learning. Isn’t it powerful that we read that Jesus Himself drew away to be with His Father in heaven from the press of the crowds (and the urgent) to be alone in dialogue (prayer). And how easily I forget the power of the illustration. Maybe I passed by something that would have benefitted my limited journey.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    That’s a new “KEEP CALM AND” variant.

    I’m currently most familiar with the Brony one:

    But the one I’ve always gotten a kick out of reads:

  7. I have been working crazy hours since last September. Everything is a fire. I finally came to the conclusion that if they need me that bad then they will just have to understand that when I am so burned out, when my family needs me, when I am exhausted, I take a break/address outside work needs/get some sleep. As I told my Manager, the alternative is that I’m dead, I’m divorced or I am incapacitated, and all three are not acceptable.

    A lot of this comes from lack of resources or more specifically not wanting to pay for more resources. For those walking through this, we are caught with the ‘be glad you have a job’ attitude, pushed down on a frequesnt basis.

    For me, when things get this crazy and I am out of balance, I remember the story of Mother Theresa (OK… I don’t remember… I hear it from my wife) that when things get really insane to go sit for an hour in front of the tabernacle. I have done this and it actually works. Secondly, sometimes you just have to push back and draw boundaries. In my line of work I could have people calling me all day and all night. I just don’t pick up the phone at certain times of the day/night. Do I get flack – yes. But their alternative is to get rid of me and hope the next guy puts out at least as much in output.

    I have been discussing with my wife how much longer we want to do this. I’m 50 but I still have a number of kids in the house so I can’t just stop and go work at Home Depot (that would be fun!). Part of the reasn I like to go on retreat… or..as I did between Christmas and NewYears, turn off the phone, turn off the computer, etc and be with the people I love…. pissed more than a few folks off when I did that (what do you mean you aren’t accesible on your vacation…)