Can God Help with My To-Do List?

By Keith Miller | January 19, 2011

Keith, I seem to be constantly overwhelmed with stuff to do!  I am busy all day getting things done, but the list of what DIDN’T get done seems always longer than what I did get done!  I can hardly go to sleep at night because I worry about how I will ever get caught up.  How can I get God involved in solving this?  I seem to be pretty helpless about it myself.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Lots of people (including me) have this experience.  Here’s how it usually goes for me:  Yesterday, I woke up with things to be done swarming around in my mind like bees looking for a place to sting me.  I jumped up and made an “action plan” about these urgent tasks.

Once I’d completed it, the plan transformed some things I could “consider doing” to a list “carved in stone” and handed to me on a mountaintop by God.  I felt that I had to accomplish the entire list that day to be a worthy human being!

However, as I prayed, asking what God would have me do that day, I realized that there were several problems with the list—and the ones like it that I have made up every day for years.

1. It was at least twice what any sane person would try to do.

2. It was a grandiose projection of my own unreal expectations of how much time it really takes to do each thing.

3. It was a reflection of the fact that I wasn’t trusting God with the everyday decisions about how to spend my time each day, since I realized that my primary job is to love God and the people I contact every day, and trust Him with the rest.

I thought about what my list would look like if I could somehow totally trust in God (which, I realize, is practically impossible, given my human tendency to take back control once I’ve surrendered.)  But if I could, how would I prioritize this list?  What would I remove altogether?  What could I entrust to someone else?  What really had to be done?  Trying to answer these questions gave me a new perspective on how I fill up my time with what seems to be “urgent” without considering what God might think is really important.

Then I remembered a story I had heard a while back about a man who routinely brought work home from the office to do after dinner.  His little boy wanted his daddy to play with him, but his father always told him that he was too busy.  Finally, in tears, the little boy asked his mother, “Why can’t Daddy play with me after supper?”

His mother said, “Because he’s behind with his work at the office.”

The little boy asked through his tears, “Well, why don’t they put him in a slower group?”

I realized then that perhaps God wants me to get in a different group, too, the group of those who know that they are not God, and have seen that “sober judgment” includes seeing things as they really are, including how much they can realistically expect themselves to do in a day.  And that’s when I began to listen more and care more specifically for the people in my schedule—and when I do that—I have been amazed at how much more peaceful and at home I feel in my own everyday life.

Lord, help me to be willing to live a sane life for You that includes taking time to love the people You’ve given me to love—even if I have to get in a slower group.  in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. – Romans 12:3 (NIV)

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. – 1 Peter 4:1, The Message

When we breathe, we do not stop inhaling because we have taken in all the oxygen we will ever need, but because we have all the oxygen we need for this breath. Then we exhale, release carbon dioxide, and make room for more oxygen.  Sabbath, like the breath, allows us to imagine [realize] we have done enough work for this day. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus said again and again. Let the work of this day be sufficient…. – Wayne Muller, Sabbath

We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God. Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world. – Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life

3 comments | Add One

  1. Jeanne Porter - 01/19/2011 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you for your answer to this question about a “to-do-list”. This is very helpful to me. Oh, how I miss the days of small groups when people really needed one another. My small group in church is basically a “book club”. I am really lonely in my church and need to become more vulnerable about my feelings and thoughts. I really want a “girlfriend”. I have a wonderful husband who is a good listener. I am thinking I will ask someone to meet with me periodically for sharing, Bible sharing and prayer. I feel like a lone ember Christian burning out.
    Church is mostly a social club. My husband and I have a counselor we meet with every two weeks, but that is not enough real sharing for me. I needed to unload, because I know how loving you are. John and I know you many years ago and have always appreciated you.

  2. Sarah - 01/19/2011 at 9:42 pm

    Breathe- this breath. Again, thanks Keith.

  3. Reesie Petree - 01/30/2011 at 11:22 am

    Once again Keith, you nailed me between the eyes.The fleas have been eating me alive!!!! Reesie

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