Sunday, January 4, 2009

Today's Relief Society Lesson: A Balanced Life January 4, 2009

Please feel free to comment on your experiences or perspective as it relates to this lesson.

What are some things you would like to accomplish in 2009? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions or goals? (We’ll come back to these later…)

A few months ago my washing machine went out of balance. Instead of putting a load in and not giving it another thought, it made sure that I was paying attention when it started shaking like a jackhammer, and rocking it’s little section of my basement! It didn’t take much to figure out what was wrong and to fix it, but if I had left it out of balance it would have eventually broken down completely and I would have had a much bigger problem on my hands.

I’ve come to realize that proper balance isn’t just important for a machine. It’s important in our lives too.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said the following in a conference address in 1987:
“Many people have heavy demands upon them stemming from parental, family, employment, church, and civic responsibilities. Keeping everything in balance can be a real problem.
A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort.”
Sometimes we unknowingly create so much busyness and imbalance in our lives that we feel we “can’t” fulfill our temporal or spiritual obligations, but often we are well aware of what we are doing and are making a conscious choice that robs of us the peace of a balanced life.

When my washer was out of balance it was very obvious. Sometimes it’s not as obvious to us though, that our lives are out of balance.

What are some signs that our lives might be out of balance? What are some of the causes of imbalance in our lives?
What effects can this have on an individual, on a couple, on a family? Have you ever experienced this in your own life?

Brent L. Top relayed the following story:
My wife, Wendy, experienced a difficult situation. For years she had nearly exhausted herself, thinking she had to be the perfect wife and mother, the perfect Church member, the perfect neighbor and citizen. Instead of feeling joy, she often felt overwhelmed and discouraged. Her frustration was further exacerbated when well-intentioned leaders and friends seemed to indicate that if she had enough faith, she would be able to accomplish all these things. Only after a personal crisis of depression and anxiety was she able to understand fully the source of her suffering. It was a painful time not only for her but for our entire family. We have grown stronger and learned many lessons as a result. But perhaps we could have been spared much of the pain if we had more clearly perceived the need to maintain temporal and spiritual balance.

When I served as a bishop, I discovered that my wife’s experience was not unique. Likewise, Elder Dean L. Larsen, an emeritus member of the Seventy, observed, “I seem to be encountering more and more frequently in my circulation among the membership of the Church, people who are honestly trying to avoid sin, who are really doing their best, as they understand, to live in accordance with the principles of the gospel but who are unhappy, frustrated, and disillusioned to a considerable degree.”

In Mosiah 4:27 King Benjamin warned his people about going to extremes, even in doing good: “See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”

Leading a balanced life can be difficult for any of us. There isn’t an exact pattern or blueprint that works for everyone, and even our own blueprint may change during different phases of life. However, there are certain fundamental responsibilities we cannot neglect without serious consequence.

In an Ensign article from 2003 Donald L. Hallstrom gave us a guide to four fundamental areas to focus our attention on:
The 1st and most important is: our Love for our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The scriptures speak powerfully of this sacred duty:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:36–37).
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ … and a love of God” (2 Ne. 31:20).
Our love of Heavenly Father and His Son is foundational to all else. They are the source of peace (see John 14:26–27). Love for Them is the supreme motivation to keep “in the right way” (Moro. 6:4). It enhances every other aspect of our lives and allows us to love ourselves and others more completely. Answers to our most challenging problems are found only when we love Them and have faith in Them.

How can we put Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ first in our lives?

The 2nd area of focus is: Care of our families.
Prophetic counsel has taught us that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” and that “the most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.”
In his excellent talk: “Good, Better, Best” Elder Dallin H. Oaks said the following:
“In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.
The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.”

In striking a temporal balance, we are often forced to make hard choices between many good and desirable things. For example, varied educational and cultural experiences can be valuable in promoting talents and growth in our children. Church and community service opportunities may provide us with rich and rewarding experiences. But even when considering such noble causes and activities, we must, as Elder Ballard counseled, “remember [that] too much of anything in life can throw us off balance. At the same time, too little of the important things can do the same thing.” It may be that the worst thing we can give our children is the opportunity to participate in an additional sport, music lesson, or other activity that demands money and time away from the family. Teaching our children how to live “quiet, sane,” and balanced lives may be one of the most vital things we can do for them in these frenzied last days.

How can we tell if we have too much of something in our life? Or too little of the important things?
How do we teach our children to keep a temporal and spiritual balance- especially with school, sports, extracurricular activities and other activities? In other words, how do we teach our children to live “quiet, sane and balanced” lives?

Why is it important to have balance in our family lives? What can we do to simplify our lives? What would be the benefits of doing so?

The 3rd area to focus on is: Service to the Lord. A natural extension of our love of God is our desire to serve Him. The Lord said, “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me” (D&C 42:29). The way we serve Him is by serving one another. Mosiah 2:17 says “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “Service is an imperative for true followers of Jesus Christ.”

Our time spent in Church service may vary during different periods of our lives depending on specific callings we receive and our family circumstances. However, our desire to serve should never waver.

It is easy to feel that to magnify our callings we need to be continually serving, leading, or counseling. However, it may be that we render more significant service and develop more substantive spirituality by having fewer meetings and activities. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) urged the Saints to return to what he characterized as “quiet, sane living.” More recently Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.” Our lives are out of balance if we allow outward busyness to supplant inner goodness.

Sometimes we fail to resist many of the demands placed upon our time because we are afraid such an action might be selfish. Yet the Savior Himself would sometimes withdraw temporarily from the pressing needs of the multitudes. Surely this helped Him serve others with renewed strength.

It’s okay to say no to those activities that we don’t have the time, resources,or energy for, but we also need to still be willing to help when we are able, and to have enough balance that our answer isn’t always “no.”

How do we balance the needs of our family, work, callings, and service to others?

The 4th focus is: Life’s temporal work. Although our careers or occupations may appear to be temporal, they support other, more eternal aspects of life and can provide valuable service to others (see D&C 29:34). “The Family—A Proclamation to the World” gives clear direction: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed, “Perhaps none need the principle of balance in their lives more than those who are driven toward accumulating ‘things’ in this world.” Moreover, numerous good and honorable causes beckon for our time and energy. Whether selfishly or unselfishly, we may get and spend, hurry and scurry, come and go, and later discover that we have laid waste our emotional and spiritual strength and given our hearts away to things that matter very little in the end. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, paraphrasing Isaiah, warned, “Do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy” (2 Ne. 9:51; see Isa. 55:2).

How do we balance our work responsibilities with our spiritual and family needs? How can we make sure that the things of this world don’t become a higher priority than time with our families?

What are some specific things we can do to create more balance in our lives?

There is no peace for those whose lives are out of balance temporally or spiritually. They can become tossed to and fro by the winds of discouragement and the storms of frustration. Yet just as the Savior stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee (see Matt. 8:26), He can bless our lives with His calming, comforting, and guiding influence if we will slow down, run only as fast as we have strength, and yet “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Ne. 31:20).
I believe that when we focus on these few basic objectives we will be more likely to be able to manage the many demands that life makes on us.

Sisters, as we think over our goals and resolutions for 2009, I hope that we’ll each take the time to see how well these goals fit with a balanced life, and maybe even make a more balanced life one of our goals. As you think of what you’d like to do in the year ahead, keep foremost in your mind the sacred covenants you’ve made with the Lord. As you work towards creating more temporal and spiritual balance in your life you will more fully enjoy the peace that our Heavenly Father and our Savior want you to have in your life.

This lesson was compiled from the following talks:
A Balanced Life by Brent L. Top (Liahona, Apr 2005, 40)

Seeking A Balanced Life by Donald L. Hallstrom (Ensign, Aug 2003, 52)

Good, Better, Best by Dallin H. Oaks (Ensign, Nov 2007, 104-8)

Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance by M. Russell Ballard (Ensign, May 1987, 13)

1 comment:

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