Who’s Setting Your Priorities?
By Glynnis Whitwer
Have you ever been frozen in indecision, wondering what to do next?
Me too. There are so many demands on us, it’s getting harder and harder to stay true to our priorities. Sometimes it’s even hard to identify our priorities.
What does God really want me to do? Especially when there are so many important needs out there.
If you can relate to that question, you’re not alone. There’s been a shift in society that’s silently affecting all of our ability to identify what’s most important. As I’ve traced this issue back a few years, the confusion seems to have started with email and accelerated with our cell phones.
Let me back up, and try to explain…
Growing up, my family had a house phone. Just one. And it was connected to the wall with a cord. There was no call-waiting beep or answering machine. And of course, no email or texting. So if you wanted to reach me, you had to keep calling until you got through. Or maybe head to my house and actually knock on my door. Quite frustrating when “someone” spent hours talking to a friend!
Basically, the burden to communicate was on the person with the message to share.
Today the responsibility to communicate has shifted. No longer is it your burden to reach me; all you do is type-type-type a message, hit send and all the responsibility floats through cyberspace and lands firmly on me.
Multiply this by every which way people can reach me, and before I even wake up, I’m behind.
This shift has silently affected all of us. A typical day starts with checking some sort of communication device to see who might have emailed, posted or texted. Then, before we begin to handle what’s most important to us, our day begins by responding to what’s most important to others.
Without a concerted effort to stop this pull, we are drawn into the day’s rushing current like a tiny raft on a whitewater river. And rather than being proactive, our days are spent in reactive mode.
Sound familiar? If so, you’ve probably also experienced the too-long to-do list that comes with it. After we’ve given the best of our time and energy to others, there’s little left to address God’s priorities for us. Consequently we put-off, delay and procrastinate our priorities.
After years of shortchanging myself and my family, and often dishonoring God with disobedience, I realized I had things upside down! Things that mattered least replaced things that mattered most in my schedule. And work that would make the greatest impact on my life often fell to the bottom of my lists, then transferred to the next list until I either completed it with a fraction of my ability or abandoned it entirely.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to figure out our best work. It sounds so easy to say, “Identify your priorities, and do those first.” However, when we face multiple demands we can often feel helpless. And helplessness can lead us to escape, avoid or try and numb.
When those feelings start to overtake me and I don’t know what to do, rather than make a self-defeating choice, it’s time to press pause. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing … except seek direction and wisdom from the One who knows what our best is.
Given the chance, others will set our priorities for us. Yet God specifically has a calling for each of us that will only come from Him. To discern this, we need wisdom. Without God’s wisdom, we make decisions on facts and feelings. And the fact that I have 100 emails to answer and feel overwhelmed does not mean it’s wise to do so now.
To find wisdom, I need to silence the demands of many, to hear the commands of One.
God is faithful, and His Word promises we can receive wisdom. In fact, it’s a gift from God. Here is what James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
As my life becomes more interconnected with others, my priorities are harder to identify. There will always be new demands rising to the tops of my to-do list, giving me reasons to delay tackling my own priorities.
There is hope. When we take our tiny raft out of the raging river, and sit on the banks with our Heavenly Father, He will give us wisdom for what to do next. Sometimes it’s answering an email, but it might be something else He has planned for today.
Glynnis Whitwer is a wife, mother of five young adults and executive director of communications for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her latest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, can help you overcome procrastination of those things that really matter most in your life. Visit Glynnis on her blog at GlynnisWhitwer.com.