So it’s September and for those of us still in school, it means scrambling to have all our supplies ready, paying somewhere around $500 for books we might not even use, and meeting new people so that we don’t have to feel lonely in that one class we have that might not carry any familiar faces. It also might mean being extra involved in that one club you love so that you can recruit more people to join and love it like you do; it might mean clambering to get ahead in certain classes because you can just feel the tension and stress coming when your bag weighs you down with all those textbooks already. Or it might even mean balancing all of those activities at once.
For me personally, the struggle of balancing school, involvement in extra-curricular activities, and financial situations is a constant for me. The amount of planning and organizing that I have to do is sometimes overwhelming, especially when I am constantly being pressured by various sources to be successful in every aspect. The obvious answer to the question of how to balance is easy – you simply have to prioritize your activities, decide what matters most, and cut the things that maybe you’ve always wanted to try, but know you won’t have time for.
But sometimes the lines of prioritizing become blurry.
I guess it would be somewhat obvious to say that as a Christian, it is my goal to have God as my #1 in life. In having Him as my #1, that would make everything else become #2 or 3 or 4, and so on, right? And that’s exactly what I try to do. But although I make this my goal, sometimes knowing what God wants me to do with my time is difficult. For example, I know that God wants me in university. He has brought me there for a reason, and I know that he is calling me to be a high school teacher. In this way, it would make perfect sense to make my academic schooling #2.
However, if I am constantly only focused on my grades and getting on top of everything, am I constantly focused on God too? To answer myself, I would say no because I am focusing so much on academics that I am not putting enough focus on Jesus. So then I join in a couple Bible studies and connect with other Christian friends so that I can be kept accountable in my focusing on Jesus and keeping Him #1. But what if I get so involved in these things that I am no longer having a focus on my studies anymore? I know that God wants me to be a teacher and I cannot be a teacher without putting the right amount of effort in my studies, and how can I do that if I am so involved in these other things? These other activities are not bad activities – actually, they are very helpful activities that encourage me in my walk with Christ. But where do you draw the line between being involved and being so involved that it becomes ignoring God’s call? Where do you draw the line between focusing on academics and being obsessed with grades? How can I really prioritize God as my #1 if I am not quite sure if I am either being too involved or being too obsessed?
In my last blog, I talked about the significance of having God first in my life and how it lightens my anxieties. Now I am struggling with what it really means to put Him first. Does putting God first mean putting my studies before Bible studies because he is calling me to be a teacher? Or does it mean that I should put Bible studies and Christian extra-curricular activities first because He wants me to learn more about Him?
One of my many faults is that I am always looking to the future. I think to myself things like: if I get anything less than 80% on my essay, I am not going to be a teacher in the future because I won’t be able to graduate with such a poor mark in this class. If I don’t go to the next Bible study, everyone will think that I am not a real Christian. If I am not sharing the gospel every chance I have, that could mean that I am the reason another person goes without Jesus for the rest of their lives. I realize while typing these thoughts, that it sounds rather silly. Regardless of how silly they are, they are truthfully the thoughts that I process on a daily basis. I think that in an exact moment of time, a decision that I make will affect the future immediately. And while that may not necessarily be a bad way of thinking in some situations, it can sometimes be harmful to let my worries of the future, or what other people may think of me, dictate what I do in life instead of letting God dictate what I do in life.
A passage in the Bible that has really helped me manage these thoughts and focus my priorities is from Ecclesiastes. I really do need to realize that there is a time for everything, and Ecclesiastes says exactly that: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). The author, whom some historians believe to be King Solomon, goes on to list all the various times: “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, and time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8). Look at all the different times we have in life! There are so many, and yet God has a place for them all at the perfect time.
While I admit that there is no part in those verses that say “a time for school and a time for fun, a time to teach and a time to learn, a time to study and a time to spend time with friends”, this verse assists me in recognizing that there is not one time for all those things at once, but a separate time for each thing. What I mean is, I am not humanly capable to do all things at once, but instead take one thing at a time. This means that my priorities may switch from time to time depending on what God’s special timing is, and His specific call in my life. When I think about priorities, I now hear God saying things such as: there is a time to share the gospel, there is a time to sit down and listen to others. There is a time to focus on the task of becoming a teacher, and there is a time to sit with Christian friends and be encouraged by their company.
While God should always be my #1, what falls into place next may shift from day to day, which is why it is so important to spend daily time with God – because “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11). This is what I now know is keeping God as #1: spending time concentrating on His word and listening to His guiding voice – He will show me my priorities for each day, He will show me what to do in His perfect timing.
These verses also give me encouragement because there are certain things I have a passion for, adventures that I wish to embark on that I know I am not quite capable of doing yet. But I know that in God’s perfect timing, I will be able to. As long as I focus on Him and keep Him #1 by spending time with Him every day, I know that I will be able to accomplish all that He wants me to. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Balancing activities and making priorities can sometimes be a challenge. But keeping Jesus as first priority will allow everything else to fall into place perfectly. And that is a promise that God has for all He has called.