Work/Life Balance

When I was growing up, we lived in a house on my grandmother’s farm. My father and I had an annual spring ritual which was to go ‘fencing’. That meant taking a trip around the perimeter of the farm to check the condition of the fences. It was essential to ensure that animals, mostly cattle, wouldn’t be able to get out into someone else’s property. “Good fences make good neighbours” is a favourite saying of farmers.

In our physical world, it is easy to observe barriers or boundaries. There are fences, walls or signs that inform us that we are moving from one place to the other. Healthy living involves knowing and observing boundaries in the emotional and spiritual areas of life. For many people finding the boundaries between work life and personal life can be very difficult.

People want a sense of fulfillment in their work and desire a rich and fulfilling private life. Finding balance can be a challenge. The teacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes seemed to understand this dilemma.  “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me…So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun…There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw is from the hand of God.” (Eccl 2:18-25)

The teacher sees both good and bad in work and recognizes that work and life enjoyment are both from God. And yet, there can be a lot of frustration in sorting out that interaction. He goes on to write that to “everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Eccl 3:1) To me, it sounds like he is helping us to think about boundaries in life.

We are not what we do. Our value and worth comes from God. He has given us talents and skills to be used to bless others and provide purpose. We should not conclude that work is all there is in life. We need to enjoy family, good food and fun times. The teacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is short and our work will not be finished but left for someone else. We need to hear this perspective today.

It’s not easy in the modern world to find the right work-life balance. But then, it wasn’t easy when Ecclesiastes was written. The point is, that wrestling with finding the boundaries and balancing the good things God has provided is a part of life. There is wisdom in thinking about these things and letting God guide us to the answers.