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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Maintaining a Balanced Life

“The man who fears God will avoid all extremes” (Ecclesiastes 7:18, NIV).

It is quite interesting that the book of Ecclesiastes follows the book of Proverbs. Both are written by the wisest person who has ever lived—Solomon. Yet at a first reading, these books may seem like a contradiction. In Proverbs 4:7, Solomon says, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” The entire book is teaching us how to attain wisdom and live a disciplined life.

Yet in the first verse of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” He goes on to say, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes was written at the end of Solomon’s life. He had lived a life of great extremes—if one wife is good, then hundreds are even better; if one palace is nice, then many are better; if knowledge of plant life is helpful, then knowledge of everything is best. Yet as Solomon aged, he saw the futility of the extremes and realized that life is meaningless apart from God (12:13).

Solomon tells us that there is a season for everything (3:1-8), and he encourages us with these words: “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is a gift of God.”

In chapter four, Solomon says, “The fool folds his hands and ruins himself. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” I believe he is describing the extremes of one who is lazy and one who is a workaholic. The lazy person may see the futility of grasping for wealth, yet he accomplishes little and disappoints those who depend on him. While the workaholic is driven by greed, he lives a life with full hands and an empty heart.

I believe Solomon would want us to understand that we should live disciplined lives that are balanced—working and resting, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, embracing and refraining. Some women may tend to work, weep, mourn, and embrace projects, and truly neglect opportunities to be refreshed. And at the other extreme, there are women who neglect work in order to only rest, laugh, dance, and refrain.

Here are some practical ways to make sure we are living a balanced life:

· Work when it is time to work.
· Sleep when it is time to sleep—try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
· Play more games—especially with those you love.
· Pray every day—and make sure there is a time of silence for listening to God.
· Take time to express thanksgiving and praise.
· Take time to celebrate the good things—every good thing is from God.
· Read more books—watch less TV.
· Call your family often.
· Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and take a walk every day.
· Don’t waste time on complaining; smile more.
· Don’t over commit; know your limits.

So how about you? Are there extremes in your life? How can you grow more balanced? Consider reading Ecclesiastes and writing down the ways you can avoid extremes.

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