We can be so busy, and have so much to do, that we can get discouraged when we see that what we do isn't as perfect as we want it to be, or as others might expect it to be.
I often feel discouraged because I wonder how I can get everything done, and feel like giving up before I've even started! I was reading a post on perfectionism and overwhelming to do lists by Ann Voskamp yesterday that made me think. She said,
'I don’t open my eyes…. To my dust and my smudges and my grime and my love-smeared mess. Why can’t I remember: the state of my space doesn’t reflect the state of my soul.'
I found an online definition of perfectionism that said it is: 'a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.' I guess that I am quite susceptible to this, although I think I would be content with 80/90% of perfection!!
I would really like to get EVERYTHING done every day that I wanted to. I would like to have a moderately clean and tidy house every day. And when I don't, or when it looks like I won't, I get discouraged.
And in thinking about it I realised a few things that may help when all the things we have to do look like they are going to overwhelm us:
God wants perfect character more than perfect work
Though we are told to work with all our heart at whatever we do, I can't think of anywhere where God tells us to make sure our work is perfect! On the other hand I can think of plenty of places where we are encouraged to grow towards perfection of character (although of course we will never get there completely until heaven).
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor 7:1
So I think as far as our work goes we need to 'do our best and commit the rest' and remember that our character and seeking after the righteousness of Christ is what God values. So while hopefully that will mean a good standard of work, at times it just isn't possible - and then it shouldn't get us down.
Look up instead of around you
Elisabeth Elliot's second husband died a slow and agonizing death, and she says: 'even when he was at his worst and I was barely able to get through a day, the work was there, and by the grace of God I did it. When I remembered to look up instead of around me and to offer the work to the Lord, it was much easier and more pleasant.'
That is often my problem - that I look at all the laundry and dishes and tidying waiting to be done, and look at the very little energy I have to do it, and wonder how? But I need to I look up instead: look at God, ask for help, look at it in light of eternity and the glory of God and as Ann says, turn the problems to praise.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Col 3:1,2
Focus on your calling, not your to do list
It makes such a difference when I take 5 minutes to write down the important things I have to do that day and then pray and write down the order of priority. Otherwise it is so easy to get distracted by things that call out to me, but in reality can wait and are not as important as others.
However if all we think about is our list then we are bound for despair, as even the best time managers in the world say that we will never get everything done that is on our list! If we focus on what God has called us to, then it helps us to weed out the things that are less necessary or can wait, and concentrate on the things that are more important in God's eyes.
Another quote from Elisabeth Elliot (all these are from her book, 'Discipline - The Glad Surrender' which is really good!): 'There is always enough time to do the will of God.' which she gets from the fact that Jesus was able to say, "I have finished the work You gave me to do."
Don't worry, but seek God
This week I have been thinking a lot about this worry passage :)
"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matt 6:31-34
I realised that I'm not worrying about clothes and food, but I am worrying about what to do with my time, and how to get everything done! And it's still worrying!
So instead I need to seek God's kingdom and His righteousness, and not worry so much about how to spend my time, just follow my schedule the best I can, and when I can't then follow what it appears would most please God.
Everything gets so much easier in my mind when I simply narrow it down to pleasing God as my only aim.
Don't be too busy to sit at Jesus' feet
In the Bible, Martha was worried and troubled about serving, just as we can get that way when we are trying to think of how to get everything done on time and well. But Jesus said that Mary had the better part, and she was sitting at His feet.
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:40-42
I think we can get so caught up in being busy for good things that we actually forget to sit at Jesus' feet. Also if we do take time to sit at Jesus' feet, then we will be able to ask Him for strength and help, and be able to ask for guidance and wisdom to keep us on track with what God has called us to do.
Now I probably need to print this off and stick it somewhere to remind me when I start mumbling in my mind like Ann says she does in her post:
'I eat breakfast in silence and I don’t know how I am going to get dressed for church, rustle up a meal for 10 when we get home from church, make it through Latin and spelling and the early Renaissance and piano scales and fractions and the three meals a day for eight people this week and the 4 loads of laundry a day and all the prayers between now and church again next Sunday.'
Well at least I can thank God that I only have 2 loads of laundry a day, and 6 people to feed!