Choosing the Meaningful Over the Urgent

by VALORIE BURTON

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

I stumbled across a statistic I found awfully difficult to believe. It said that those of us living today have more free time than any generation before ours. I thought it must be a mistake, so I began researching.

But each study confirmed the statistic, despite it being the opposite of what most of us feel these days — that we never have enough time, and things are getting busier. So why do we feel we have less free time when, in fact, we have more?

The truth is, we’re technology rich and time poor. With all the advances over the last several decades, we’ve saved an enormous amount of time. Housework is faster. Communication is almost instant. Information is at our fingertips. But with all of this technology comes the belief that we can do more, do it faster and that we should.

Even worse, technology can be a distraction. Text messages, notifications, emails, social media, games and digital ads of the shoes you looked at last week that you can buy with the click of a button.

Unbeknownst to most of us, there’s an army of programmers engaged in a battle for our time. The longer they hold our attention, the more they can charge advertisers for the privilege of targeting us. So while you might beat yourself up because you feel addicted to your phone, the truth is, the digital world is designed to win more and more of your time.

And unless we choose wisely, it will steal time that would be more meaningfully spent connecting with the people in our lives and the purposes God uniquely created us to accomplish. Scripture addresses this in Ephesians 5:15-16: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Digital distractions aren’t the only problem creating a greater feeling of busyness. Many of us are wired in ways that make us more vulnerable to misusing our time. I call them “Core Vulnerabilities.” Do any of these describe your habits?

Optimism (you usually underestimate how much time you need to do things).
Perfectionism (you make things harder than they have to be and take longer “perfecting” — because it’s never quite good enough).
Over-responsibility (you spend time doing for others what they could — and should — do for themselves).
Over-achieving (doing more than necessary in order to gain acceptance or accolades).
Approval addiction (saying “yes” to requests to avoid disappointing others).
Excessive Guilt (you overcommit and overcompensate out of guilt).
These vulnerabilities can have tremendous influence on the choices we make with our time. They can sabotage God’s best plans for us and cause unnecessary time stress. Our Core Vulnerabilities can open the door to a spiritual battle in our mind, swaying our choices from wise to unwise.

God calls us to be wise. He wants us to choose the meaningful over mundane or even false urgencies which lead to continual stress and hurry, rather than purpose and contentment. If we don’t, we risk spending our time on things that seem important — only to look back and realize we missed out on the things that actually are.

When you’re making a decision about time, ask yourself: Is it meaningful … or just mundane? Tune into God’s voice guiding you toward the meaningful. Then heed His voice.

Lord, thank You for the precious gift of time. Help me daily see the eternal value of my finite time, so I can spend it in ways that glorify You and enable me to focus on what matters most in Your eyes. Free me of insecurities and emotional bad habits such as perfectionism, misplaced guilt and over-responsibility that cause me to be unwise in how I spend my time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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