I know that for the sake of my marriage and family I should not overcommit myself. But we attend a church that schedules activities and events six or seven nights a week. My husband and I are asked, and expected, to accept leadership in many of these functions. Frankly, I feel guilty when I don't do what my pastors ask of me. As a result, we have very little time together as a family. How do we accommodate these competing needs?


I can personally identify with your dilemma. Shirley and I went through a similar era in the first decade of our marriage. At that time, I believed I was obligated as a young Christian to accept anything asked of me by my church. I served as superintendent of youth, as a member of the church's governing board, as an adult Sunday school teacher, and as someone who was available for whatever special assignments came along. Shirley was heavily involved in church activities too, leading the children's choir and serving as director of women's ministries. I was also finishing a Ph.D. program and carrying very heavy professional responsibilities. It was a breathless time, to be sure. At one point I remember being scheduled seventeen straight nights away from home at a time when we had a little toddler who loved to play with her daddy.

Gradually, I came to understand that the Lord wanted me to use good judgment and common sense in the things I agreed to do--even if they involved very worthwhile causes. There will always be more good things to do than one man or woman can get done. I realized I needed to maintain a healthy balance between Christian duty, work responsibilities, recreation, social obligations, and meaningful family life.

Then I came across two Scripture references that helped clarify this issue. The first is found in Matthew 14:13-14, as follows: "When Jesus heard what had happened [to John the Baptist], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

Jesus was undoubtedly grieving at that time over the beheading of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist. He needed to "withdraw privately to a solitary place." Nevertheless, the people learned of His whereabouts and came seeking His healing touch. Even in that painful time of loss, Jesus took compassion on the people and reached out to those in need. From this I concluded that there are times when we, too, must give of ourselves even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so.

But there was another occasion when thousands of people sought to be healed by Jesus. After spending some time with them, He got in a boat with His disciples and rowed away. Mark 4:36 says, "Leaving the crowd behind, they took [Jesus] along, just as he was, in the boat." Undoubtedly, the large following that day included individuals with cancer, blindness, physical deformities, and every other kind of human misery. Jesus could have stayed there through the night and healed them all, yet He had apparently reached the end of His strength and knew He needed to rest. He and His disciples rowed away, apparently leaving some of the needy people standing on the bank.

A similar event is described in Matthew 14:23, where we read, "And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone" (KJV).

Just as there is a time to give, there is also a time to be alone, to pray and to escape from the pressures of the day--even though there are worthy things yet to be accomplished. Those who fail to reserve some downtime for rest and renewal--as Jesus did--are risking even the good things they want to accomplish. That is like installing a new sprinkler system in a yard and putting too many outlets on the line. When that occurs, nothing is watered properly.

Let me offer another illustration. Did you know that grape growers not only trim dead branches from their vines but they also eliminate a certain number of the fruit-producing branches? They sacrifice a portion of the crop so that the fruit that survives will be better. Likewise, we need to eliminate some of our breathless activities to improve the overall quality of the other things we do.

Having said that, let me offer a word of caution. This need to maintain balance can become an excuse for not carrying our share of responsibility in the church. Pastors tell us that a few of their members do most of the work while most others get a free ride. That is wrong. We shouldn't go from one extreme to the other in our search for common sense.