Finding Simplicity – Part 1
This is the next message in our current series, “Breathing Room…creating margin for what matters”
Listen to Audio:
With all the advancements we have made, and with all of the technology that promises to make our lives simpler, why isn’t it? Instead of helping us slow down, many aspects of our lives are worse than they were 20 years ago. What happened to all the time and margin we were supposed to have? In this post I want to talk about finding margin by making life simpler.
I found an interesting definition for margin. Margin is the space that exists between us and our limits. When we reach the limits of our resources and abilities, we’re out of margin. Today, contrary to our expectations, life has become like Pac-man; it relentlessly eats up margin. I’m not saying that life was easy for our parents or Grandparents, but they had a better grip on simplicity and had more margin in their lives. They faced challenges that no generation before them had to face. But each generation has their own set of challenges to navigate.
Let me share a few of ours:
- We have 24/7 news coverage – creating stress and consumes time
- Computers, cell phones, gaming and social media keep us in constant contact.
- Debt has become a national epidemic
- Terrorism is a constant threat
- Medical insurance costs continue to skyrocket
- Traffic congestion keeps getting worse
- Our families are often fractured
- We’re stressed about environmental issues – real and contrived
- Our cultural fabric is tearing
- There is unprecedented political tension and hatred
I could go on and on. Never before have we had to face problems like this — and certainly never before all at the same time. The speed of the changes we face are also unprecedented. Sunday was once a day of rest. Now the boundaries between work, play, home and the office are so confused many people can never relax, or let down. I’m not saying it’s all bad news. Medical breakthroughs, and advanced technology have raised the standard of living and increased our life expectancy. More people have access to knowledge, jobs, and healthcare then ever before.
But the pain it brings is also very real.
Social issues confuse the spiritually immature and create stress in so many areas of our lives…our families, friendships, churches, neighborhoods, and our social unity.
So many people are emotionally drained, angry, lonely, and unfulfilled and they don’t know what to do about their feelings. As believers, these changes create a lack of community and a lack of time and energy to strengthen our relationship with God and with each other. All of this brings a greater level of stress into our lives. The dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Think about it. Stress is not the circumstance, but the response to the circumstance. And 21st Century stress levels are unprecedented. Our minds are in overload and our bodies are paying the price. We are given more and more choices. The options never end. The details only increase. The pressures continue to mount. The change is relentless. For most people the excess is too much. People can handle just so much before they begin to crack. And most people don’t even realize it’s happening until they run into a crisis and realize they have no emotional energy left to deal with it.
There are a few principles I’ve always remembered from my Professor at Nyack. First, he said, “God designed us to rest, to have margin.” He also used to say, “Jesus went to sleep even if there were still people that needed help.” In other words you can always find something important to keep you busy. So, how can we simplify our lives and find more margin?
Let me share a few thoughts:
First, we need to protect our emotional energy level.
Emotional margin is often key to building margin in other areas of our lives.
So, how do you protect and restore your emotional energy?
-Admit that you have a finite amount
-Admit when it’s low
-Fight for the time to replenish it
God has given us principles in His Word that will help in our effort.
* You can restore emotional margin by building a stronger support network.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
* It’s also a Biblical principal that serving others can refill your emotional tank.
Luke 6:38 reminds us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
* Forgiving others and reconciling relationships can stop the drain on our emotional energy as well.
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
* Having an attitude of gratitude also helps.
1 Thess. 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
Second, we need to understand that we were designed to get a good rest.
You need to get enough sleep…let me repeat…get more SLEEP!
Sleep disorders plague more than 50 million people in the US. Sleep deprivation has become one of the most pervasive problems we face. Good sleep allows you to make clearer, more thoughtful decisions.
Third, God needs to be a part of every decision we make.
Pastor Sean talked about this last week. What’s the most important thing in life? The answer is found in Matt. 22:35-40, “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him (Jesus) with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Before you get involved in any activity, pray, and ask, “Why am I doing this?” If you can’t come up with a strong answer…don’t do it.
Finally, we need to establish appropriate boundaries in our lives for those who consume our time by causing stress.
There are people in your life that you need to love, but that you also need to limit. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Some people are margin robbers (because of their poor choices), so limit their time and influence on you.
I’ve said this before but it bares repeating, you need to learn to say “No”. Many of us need to make some thoughtful and hard choices. We need to cut out time wasters. Because the most valuable use of our time is investing in God and people, in relationships, but to do that we need to bring more simplicity to our lives. Margin has a lot to offer, but it’s not easy to create. It takes effort to cut out the nonessentials from our lives and concentrate on the core elements. I think we’re all attracted to the idea of simplicity; the difficulty is in achieving it.
God is not calling us to escape modern life; but He does want us to transcend it. Simplicity will help bring peace, joy and contentment to our hectic lives. If we’re going to pull this off we need to address some stumbling blocks to accomplishing those Biblical principles.
And I’ll do just that, in my next post.