I have been feeling restless. It is a sense that I am not using my time wisely or doing what I ought to be. One day this week, I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show, on my way home from work. A twenty-year-old called in asking about next steps for financial planning and finishing his schooling. The host asked him where he imagined himself being at forty. I suddenly felt old; had life passed me by? At twenty, I wouldn’t have imagined myself where I am today, twenty-two years later. God has graciously provided me with a career that I enjoy and excel at. I am energized by doing my job and doing it well. My needs are met with something left over to give. But I fear I am not fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.
Is this feeling a simple matter of ‘numbering my days’ and understanding how fleeting life is, or am I wasting my life? It isn’t as though I am idle, but a person can be busy without doing what God is calling her to do. I suspect that I am supposed to be doing more or something else. I don’t know exactly what God’s purpose for me is. I tend to think that it would something that has a lasting impact on God’s Kingdom, but that could be pride inserting itself into the equation. After all, the person who is working for God shouldn’t be concerned with seeing his or her impact. It should be enough to walk in faith and obedience and leave the results up to God.
But we urge you, brothers. . .to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
I know that I can’t live my life based on my gut feelings, but I don’t want to quench the Spirit, either. I have been thinking of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 which instructs us “to aspire to live quietly.” To ‘live quietly’ does not mean to hide at home or in the comfort of our lives. From the context and similar passages, we see that we are to avoid stirring up conflict or controversy in our community. “Mind your own affairs” similarly calls us to refrain from gossip and to not insert ourselves into other people’s business. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about the lives of others or be interested in their struggles. We cannot show love for others without becoming involved in their lives to some degree. This is where I fail. I have been living too quietly. It was already a problem before the pandemic, but now I am in real danger of becoming a hermit! And while I know people who are more reclusive than I am, that doesn’t change my own need to work out how to be more actively engaged with the people around me.
While I can’t pinpoint the source of the restlessness I feel, I am sure that I need to get out of this cozy new comfort zone I have established. I see traces of evidence that God working on me, making me more open to the people around me, but I also see that I am covetous of my time. I am praying that God will help me to be more generous. I know that God wants me to give freely of my time in the same way that He wants me to give my money freely. I have learned that God’s economic formulas defy man’s principles of accounting, but what about time? I never feel like I have an adequate supply for everything I want to do. But this is a selfish perspective. God wants me to focus on what He wants me to do. I need to look to the needs of others and not just my own. Even though life is fleeting, God can multiply my time like the widow’s oil, if I will trust Him with it.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.
I have been taking little steps like talking to my neighbor if she is sitting outside when I get home from work. It shouldn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, since she is a nice woman and I am a talker by nature, but in my mind are all the things that I want to accomplish between arriving home and going to bed. I feel the loss of time when I am trying to fit in dinner, exercise, tending my garden, and relaxing a little. Still, I know that visiting with her is worth my time. Actually, that is wrong: it is God’s time. Any love, kindness, or encouragement that I can give to my neighbors is a good use of God’s time.
This another concept that I need to retrain my brain on. We sinners are so focused on ourselves. If I didn’t take the time to stop and reflect on these issues, I would probably continue in my selfishness without even recognizing it for what it is. Instead, I need to view my time as belonging to God, in the same way that I try to recognize that every tangible thing I have is actually on loan from Him. Rather than feeling restless and passively wondering how God wants me to use my time, I need to turn my focus to prayerfully seek how God would have me use His time. I think it would be good for me to pray about this every morning. God help me to have more discipline!
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil.