Coming up to my holiday this year, I was getting stressed. The list of things to do kept growing, while the time and power and ability to do them all was diminishing with each day. I got there, and was able to get away and relax away from phones and emails and sermons. At just the right time, my review copy of Matt Fuller's new book 'Time for Every Thing? - How to be busy without feeling burdened' came in the post. The very book for me and my situation. And it really and truly was (and will be!).
This isn't a long book (which is a good thing, given its topic), but it's packed full of helpful advice and wise counsel, built solidly on biblical foundations. In the opening chapter, Fuller quickly diagnoses the problem. 'Time. I would love to have more of it.' Writing about the invention of the pocket watch, he comments, 'Ever since then, we've been able to carry around with us a ticking measure of the day's disappearance.' But even more importantly, 'what needs to change is how my heart views those hours.' While we try to pack too much in (or else waste it), building on Ecclesiastes 3, he writes, 'There may be a time for everything that God expects, but there is not time for every thing that could be done.'
The first part of the book lays the foundations. Through the chapters, we explore why we're feeling worn out and weighed down - and the burdens we need to lay down (religious rules, a need to prove myself, expectations, needs of others, and our own security); the rest that Jesus offers (rest in life, not from life), including a helpful mini Bible tour of the concept of rest, through creation, Sabbath, and the land. This chapter on rest also included the helpful insight that even the yoke of Jesus is good news - that he has laid out good works for us to do, in his steam, not our own.
There are some great pearls of wisdom as he thinks about trusting God in 'trusting work, not anxious toil' (Ps 127). The antidote to stressful toil is in 'knowing that the living God will provide what we need.' This runs counter to today's culture where being busy seems to be cool. This continues into the chapter on time wasting - which comes from both being idle or easily distracted, as well as focusing on the wrong things. Commenting on the parable of the talents, comes this gem: 'You can gain everything life has to offer, and have wasted your life.'
In the remaining chapters, Fuller walks the reader through priorities, work, family, church and leisure. The practical wisdom comes thick and fast, with lots to think about and apply. Rather than thinking that this book will enable us to find time for everything, he writes, 'How do we find time for everything? Well, the simple answer is: we don't - but there is time for every thing that God wants us to do.' Explaining the Ephesians 2:10 good works God has prepared for us in advance, we don't need to feel guilty over other good things which are left undone. He then sets out some principles based on the freedom to serve between the 'floor of obedience' and the 'ceiling of obedience' - to do less is sin, to go beyond is idolatry, but within those parameters there is freedom. This was very helpful to think through and apply.
The chapter on church was good, in showing the essential nature of meeting together - which even acts as a solution to the Sunday blues, because we see Sunday as the first day of the week, rather than Monday morning. The togetherness of church is emphasised, meeting together, asking who have you encouraged rather than what have I got out of it myself? Comparing and contrasting church with social media, the stand out line was: 'We need to meet, not just connect.'
The chapter on leisure was also good (and not just because I was coming into my holidays). The suggestion to find what is genuinely refreshing was helpful - and led to conviction over my poor camera, sitting in its bag having been neglected for a while. Hopefully I'll find time to get to know it again, to savour God's creation. As Fuller writes, 'Learning what drains us and what refreshes us makes a massive difference to how tired we feel.'
The final chapter provides the challenge to put in place the things we've learned throughout. 'What changes should I make in order to maximise my faithfulness in serving the Lord with the time he has given me?' While we can't do everything, Jesus says to do what you can (like the woman with the alabaster jar). And in doing it, be reliable and deliberate.
This was a great book. In my own case, very timely, providing both encouragement and challenge. Anyone could read it with profit, but particularly if you're feeling the pressure on your time and wondering what to do about it. Thank you to Matt Fuller for writing it and sharing the ideas, and thank you to The Good Book Company for the review copy.
Time For Every Thing? is available from The Good Book Company and in ebook format.