The Balanced Life Is Often Our Cross
Christians are called to a balanced life. That does not mean doing everything in moderation; rather, it means being obedient in every area of life. That is a difficult task in this busy world. Being committed to doing our jobs or studies well while being active in church and also being good family members can be very tiring. We cannot predict some of the needs that will arise in those areas.
One spouse might be upset at night when the other desperately wants to sleep. Disunity might surface right in the middle of a busy program. A child might need help with his studies at a time when a parent prefers to watch television. At each of these times, we need to stretch ourselves and do what has to be done for the sake of our families.
Many people who work hard at their jobs or at Christian service do not give the serious attention to their homes that they should. We often look at these people and put their failings down to sheer commitment to their tasks. Actually, they are due to lack of discipline and disobedience to God’s ways. Others who are very committed to caring for their families do not do their jobs or their ministries conscientiously. They are also shirking their responsibilities. Doing all of this can be very taxing at times, but that is something we embrace as part of the cross that goes with being a Christian. I believe that for many Christians, their cross is living the balanced life.
Christians are called to a balanced life. That does not mean doing everything in moderation; rather, it means being obedient in every area of life.
Sometimes emergencies cause us to be stretched. It is Saturday evening, and a pastor’s preparation for Sunday’s sermon is not complete. However, his daughter has fallen ill. She needs to be taken to the doctor’s office. His wife could take the daughter without him. But seeing how much stress she is under, he joins in. When our children get sick, we don’t say that attending to them is not in our datebooks! We just do what needs to be done. Yet the sermon for Sunday morning has to be prepared. The pastor cannot slack off there. Losing four hours of preparation time means that he is going to lose four hours of sleep time! But he comes home and does the work that is necessary to have a good sermon ready the next morning.
Singleness, Marriage, and the Balanced Life
I must add that one who is active in ministry as a single person cannot keep the same lifestyle once he or she gets married. Incarnational ministry involves lingering with people and making time for long chats. Yet, once a person is married, he or she must do that without sacrificing time for the family. Now the family is also part of his or her ministry. Often, those we minister to do not appreciate that change. We must do our best to help them understand that there is a new normal after marriage.
Sometimes a person fails to recognize this and gives so much time for ministry in the first years of marriage that he neglects his home responsibilities. We’ll take the case of a husband in ministry. When his wife complains about his neglect of the home, he tells her that he must follow God’s call. The wife, being a devout Christian, chooses not to “fight God” and bears with her husband’s neglect of the home. After some years, however, the wife realizes that this neglect was not God’s will but the result of her husband’s lack of discipline. The consequence may be unpleasant confrontations at home. The guilt-ridden husband, by now suffering from something close to burnout as a result of his poor discipline, goes to the other extreme. He drops out of ministry or takes a job that brings material comfort to the home but takes him away from his call—or keeps his positions in ministry without properly fulfilling his responsibilities.
This book speaks to a common struggle Christian leaders face—balancing ministry and family priorities. Ajith Fernando equips leaders to cultivate a God-centered home, covering topics such as disciplining children, dealing with disappointment, and more.
Finding the Balance
Some of God’s servants who work very hard on matters related to ministry don’t give the necessary time for meeting important family needs—such as keeping the house in good repair or ensuring that the family has a house to live in. A pastor may be so busy that he delays taking his wife to the doctor over an ailment. When he finally goes, they realize that the problem is a serious one, such as cancer, which should have been treated right at the onset. There are many pastors’ children who are angry about their fathers’ neglect of such matters, which has caused big problems for the families involved. Sometimes these problems surface only later in life. We must not neglect difficult and time-consuming projects relating to the family because we are very busy with ministry responsibilities.
Amazing Joy and Security
Love has many ramifications when applied to life in the home. We learn more and more of the richness of love as we proceed through the years of marriage. If we have made loving our family members our aim in life, our lives will be an unending journey of exploration into the beauty of family life. We cannot overestimate the legacy of multiple acts of sacrificial kindness and consideration within the family. There is amazing joy and security in knowing that family members truly love each other and want the best for each other.
This article is adapted from The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando.