Western culture loves its buzzwords, and “balance” is one that’s been circulating for a while. We constantly lament the lack of balance in our lives, search for the right methods to secure it, envy others who seem to have it, celebrate when we manage to feel we’ve achieved it, and even make it the object of our spiritual discussions and prayer requests: Lord, please help me find the right balance in my life.
Words are powerful but limited tools, and often we want to use a simple word or phrase to summarize big ideas loaded with significance. I think that has happened to this term “balance.” We use one word to convey a deep sense of inadequacy and longing, a vague but unexplored conviction, or a heart that has fallen prey to the world’s vain must-have-it-all pursuits.
So already this word, though not a bad or wrong word, is often insufficient to convey its intended meaning. But also, we don’t find this notion of balance in the Bible. The book of Proverbs doesn’t admonish, “Let not balance forsake you.” Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the balanced, for theirs is a life of ease.” It’s not a virtue of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
What place, then, should the pursuit of balance have in the life of a Christ-follower? Or, more accurately, what should we mean when we talk about seeking balance? Or are we seeking something else entirely? If you are drawn toward a “balanced” life, consider whether the Lord is actually calling you to one or more of the following biblical actions:
I often feel overwhelmed by my full plate of work, school, serving our church, keeping our home, discipleship, Bible study and prayer, marriage, motherhood, hospitality, friendship, and caring for my body. My lament to my husband or a trusted friend usually includes a list of all the ways I’m “failing,” and a subsequent list of all I need to do to achieve balance in my life.
It’s easy to assume this is the good and godly goal—to hold everything in perfect balance, allotting equal portions of my time and energy to every endeavor. But God calls his people to faithful obedience, not balance (1 Timothy 2:2–3; 1 Thessalonians 4:11). He has prepared good works in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). Often, faithfully walking in those good works will look unbalanced.
Stretching the grocery budget to feed college students lunch after church. Quitting a job or shutting down a side hustle to care for family. Neglecting social media feeds to rest and refocus. Waking early to spend time in the Word.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John dropped their fishing nets and obediently followed Christ into a wildly unbalanced life of faithfulness (Matthew 4:18–22). Our faithful obedience may or may not look that extreme, but it will look more like sacrifice and slow growth and death to self than serene, manageable balance.
On the flip side, sometimes our lives are thrown off-balance because we are being poor stewards of what God has given us. Often my tearful rants to my husband about being so overwhelmed eventually reveal sinful control issues or laziness or skewed priorities. Instead of abiding in Christ and stewarding wisely, I’ve foolishly gone rogue—and no perfectly executed to-do list or Netflix binge can balance me.
R.C. Sproul said, “Fundamentally, stewardship is about exercising our God-given dominion over His creation, reflecting the image of our creator God in His care, responsibility, maintenance, protection, and beautification of His creation” (Genesis 2). What a beautiful responsibility we’ve been given, to each steward what the Father portions us. But so often we take on more than our portion and become poor stewards of good gifts. We squander time and energy on empty pursuits, or chase leisure and distraction. May we confess and repent instead: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:37).
Sometimes our pursuit of balance is a carefully disguised craving for comfort or control. We want life to be easy and to feel we’ve got it handled. We cling to expectations of what our schedule should be like, how our relationships will go, how our life plans will play out. How we respond when these plans go awry reveals what our hearts are treasuring. Does life feel off-balance because our expectations are unrealistic or because we’re holding them too tightly? Are we more focused on getting what we want than on surrendering to the Sovereign One, whose way is perfect (Psalm 18:30)?
Reframing our pursuit of balance in these biblical terms can help us see more clearly the state of our hearts—what it is we’re truly seeking. Balance is not our prize; Jesus Christ is. When we abide in Him we have all we need to live a life of faithful obedience (John 15). Remember Christ’s call: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle … and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). In the gospel Jesus offers us a yoke-exchange, and his easy yoke and light burden are better than balance.