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A balanced life can be a trap

October 4, 2013

Balance is a buzz word today isn’t it? Balance is good. But it can be a trap!

“The problem with the goal of balance is that it doesn’t allow much room for people in desperate situations—those in crisis or the poor or the oppressed. What does it mean to tell someone with a terminal disease or a street person or a single mother with a physically challenged child that she needs “more balance”?”


“The quest for balance lacks the notion that life is to be given to something bigger than ourselves. It lacks the call to sacrifice and self-denial—the wild, risky, costly, adventurous abandon of following Jesus.” 

“Jesus never said, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and lead a balanced life.” He said to follow him.’”

“Imagine a conversation between the apostle Paul and a (modern day) time management consultant (TMC). It starts something like this:  

TMC: Paul, if you look at this pie chart, I think you’ll agree with me that your spiritual life is going pretty well. But vocationally, your tent-making has seriously fallen off. This has led to some downsizing in your financial portfolio. Let’s take a look at the time log I asked you to keep since our last meeting.

PAUL: “Five times I have received…the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”

Ortberg, John – The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People 

Chuck Smith’s journey on earth ended yesterday. He’s a hero who chose to pursue something significantly higher than balance.

God changed his heart and Chuck chose something more than balance. He chose to live a life of sacrifice and self-denial – the wild, risky, costly, adventurous abandon of following Jesus.

  1. This is a tough call, since “in my flesh dwells no good thing, I have the desire to do what is right but I cannot carry it out. ” Rom. 7:15
    So do I leave houses and land and spouse, and children to devote all my time to ministry. Do I place my health at risk by long hours of service to others without self-care? Do I devote all my income to serve the poor when my credit card balances (and stress) continue to rise trying to meet the needs of my family?
    These are personal situations I experienced early in professional ministry. Balance never entered my thinking. Whole-hearted commitment required every sacrifice – seeking first the kingdom and the promise that God would take care of everything else. My mentors would shout “vacation? How can you think of vacation when people are perishing all around you and headed for hell?”
    What I failed to consider was that my perspective was flawed, my character defects colored my decisions. I saw God as a King who required continuous unquestioned obedience. I had to be a willing servant or I was rebellious and unfit for the Kingdom.
    As my marriage and relationship with my children declined, I spiraled into physical burn-out and clinical depression.
    In recovery, medical intervention and therapy, I learned that neglecting my physical and emotional needs put me at risk – so off balance that I needed medication.
    For me, rest, order and balance became a lifeline through which Jesus began a work of grace that saved my life, my marriage and my relationships. Like Elijah of old, I needed food, rest and care. I needed boundaries and balance.
    Perhaps Chuck and others like him have a special dispensation of grace that allows for the scales of balance to tip in their favor. I too was touched by Chuck’s life and ministry, and I am grateful for the influence of the Jesus movement . Yet it is crucial, in my experience, for the servant of God to consider and solicit accountability for life-balance as well as spiritual growth in order to sustain a healthy and long-term ministry.

    • Connie, I’m so glad you shared your experience. I was raised in a pastor’s home and witnessed many pastors/staff get out of balance and watched families suffer. I agree with your insight completely.

      However, as a result of these extreme examples we sometimes over-react and make balance the ultimate goal. That’s when we lower the bar.

      Like you, I want the ultimate goal to be following Jesus. Sometimes that includes sacrifice. I desire balance in the process. However, if balance is my ultimate goal, I may be unwilling to ever sacrifice.

      I guess it’s a tension to manage while avoiding extremes.

      Thanks for helping this conversation be balanced. 🙂

      • LOL- and I’m in total agreement with you. Following Jesus with the motive of love and simple obedience will be a balanced life because He is in charge.

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