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Life as a Three-Ring Circus: Learning How to Achieve Balance

Advice on learning how to balance our lives and schedules from Karol Ladd, the bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Woman

When it comes to balance, experience is often our best teacher. Through our successes and our mistakes, we begin to learn what does and does not work in our lives. Personally, I can look back and recall times when I was overcommitted or engaged in responsibilities that played to my weaknesses instead of my strengths. In each of these cases I learned to make changes, adjust myself, and find the proper balance. Experience has taught me a great deal about when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to additional activities or responsibilities.

The Perfect Balance
What does it take to live a life of balance? We can find the answer by looking at Jesus and the perfect, balanced life he lived. We read in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” That statement identifies four areas of growth and development that are necessary for balanced living. We must pursue them intentionally if we want to follow Jesus’ example in our own lives. Let s look at them individually.

Wisdom. I know we have covered the topic of wisdom earlier in this book, but here I want to emphasize the importance of wisdom in maintaining a balance in life. It is through wisdom that we make proper decisions about our schedules. Through wisdom we find opportunities to serve and to get involved in the work that God is doing all around us. A wonderful saying is attributed to German poet Wolfgang von Goethe’s mother: “How many joys are crushed underfoot because people look up at the sky and disregard what is at their feet.” Wisdom gives us eyes to see the joy that’s right there waiting be discovered. If we pursue wisdom, we’re certain to find joy in the process.

Stature. Stature relates to the physical side of our well-being, which definitely plays an important role in healthy, balanced living. Physical health is closely connected to emotional health; it’s much harder to keep our emotions in balance when our bodies are sick or in pain. A regular exercise routine can be an important key to healthy stature. The obvious physical benefits are a trimmer look and stronger muscle tone, but the emotional benefits are just as real as the physical ones. Studies now show that exercise releases endorphins — neurochemicals in the brain that help head off depression, reduce anxiety, and boost energy.

How do you choose the workout or exercise routine that is right for you? It’s important to consider your age, your natural physical abilities, and your overall health. With some sports, like swimming or jogging, you may have to start out slowly and build up to a more demanding workout. It is also crucial to consider your own personal enjoyment. If you hate to run, you probably won’t be motivated to get out and jog on a regular basis. Walking may be a better choice; it’s considered one of the best exercises for women over forty. Remember to consult your doctor before you start any new exercise program.

You may find it helpful to enlist a workout buddy to make the exercise time more enjoyable and to hold you accountable. My husband and I walk each morning together. I must admit there are mornings I don’t want to get out of bed, stretch out, and walk for several miles; but knowing that my husband is expecting me to join him helps me get moving. We have a wonderful time talking along the way (actually, I do 85 percent of the talking, but he’s a great listener).

Proper nutrition is another important key to functioning at our peak, both mentally and physically. As we choose to eat a healthy diet of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, we begin to look better and feel better. In his book Food and Love, Dr. Gary Smalley points to an amazing connection between what we eat and how we relate to other people. Smalley specifically identifies four categories of food that tend to harm our emotional and physical health: white or refined sugar, white or refined flour, hydrogenated oils or animal fat, and chemically laden foods. In our society of abundant fast and processed foods, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I eating healthy? Am I giving my body the energy and nutrition it needs?”

Sleep is also an important factor that impacts our physical and emotional well-being. I know one thing about myself: a tired Karol is not necessarily a nice Karol. Perhaps you’ve noticed that about yourself too. Yet many of us fill our calendars with all kinds of activities and fail to schedule enough time for proper sleep. Studies show that most adults need eight hours of rest in order to function at their best. Of course, we all know people who seem to require fewer hours; but personally, I can’t relate to those who say they can get by on four hours of sleep night after night. We need to give attention to the amount of sound sleep we’re getting and adapt our schedules, if necessary, to make sure we’re getting enough. And if on occasion we have a short or restless night, the best thing we can do for ourselves is try to catch a late-afternoon power nap to help us make it through the rest of the day. Ultimately, hearty, healthy sleep can be just the catalyst we need for a happier, more energetic life!

Favor with God. The word favor reflects a type of grace in a person or on the part of a giver. In Luke 1:30 we read that Mary, the mother of Jesus, found favor with God. Acts 7:46 says that King David enjoyed God’s favor. Unlike salvation by grace, which is a free gift from God that cannot be earned, favor is something that can be deserved or gained. Jesus himself tells us how in John 15:10-14:

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

We experience the favor of God when we walk in obedience to Christ. The result, Scripture says, is great joy. Sin or disobedience to God, on the other hand, is like a dark cloud that covers our joy. Are there any dark clouds in your life? Do you struggle with a gossiping or backbiting tongue, with bitterness or jealousy, with impure thoughts? Take a few moments right now and ask God to reveal areas of sin in your life that you need to confess. Then ask him to help you turn from them. There is sorrow in our sin, but great joy in a life of obedience!

I want to be perfectly clear: Our eternal destiny is not in question; that’s sealed from the moment we step out in faith and trust Christ. As Christians we cannot fall out of grace with God. However, we can draw closer to him as a friend and experience his favor and joy as we walk in his ways. With God’s favor, our lives are in balance; without his favor, we tend to be off-kilter.

Favor with mankind. How we relate to others certainly has an effect on the balance and joy reflected in our lives. Jesus spoke often about our relationships with one another. In fact, when someone asked him to name the two greatest commandments, Jesus responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). That’s “favor with God and men” in a nutshell! As Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

Growing in favor with mankind does not imply that we are to become people pleasers, frantically running around trying to make everyone happy. We must distinguish between the thoughtfulness involved in serving others, which is healthy, and the giving in to people’s thoughtless demands, which can be unhealthy. Jesus himself said that not everyone is going to be supportive of us. Matthew 5:11-12 records his words: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

There you have it! Because we are followers of Christ, people are not always going to like us. We shouldn’t be caught off guard by that. The same kinds of people didn’t like the prophets down through the ages. But what should our response be? Jesus tells us to rejoice (there’s that joy word again) because we can look forward to a heavenly reward. Of course, we’re not to go around looking for trouble or causing disagreements. But if people choose to dislike us or even persecute us for following Christ, we shouldn’t let it get us down. We can still live a peaceful, balanced life, growing in favor with God and man, if we heed Solomon’s general life principle: “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

As positive women we need to focus on developing these four areas of a life in balance: wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with mankind. All four are important. Think of them as the four legs of a chair; if one is missing, balance is difficult to maintain. If we work on our relationship with God, for example, but neglect our fellow man, we hide God’s light to the world. If we pursue wisdom but fail to maintain our physical well-being, our lives lack the energy to share what we have learned. If we focus on our physical beauty to the detriment of the other areas, our existence is shallow and futile. But by growing in these four areas together, our lives will be in healthy balance and God’s joy will shine through us, lighting up a darkened world.

Karol Ladd, the bestselling author of The Power of a Positive Woman (The Power of a Positive Woman © 2002 by Karol, Grace, and Joy Ladd), offers lasting hope and biblical truth to women around the world through her positive book series. A gifted communicator and dynamic leader, Karol is founder and president of Positive Life Principles, Inc, a resource company offering strategies for success in both home and work. Her vivacious personality makes her a popular speaker to women’s organizations, church groups, and corporate events. She is co-founder of a character-building club for young girls called USA Sonshine Girls and serves on several educational boards. Karol is a frequent guest on radio and television programs. Her most valued role is that of wife to Curt and mother to daughters Grace and Joy.




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