By / Dec 27

Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Depressed. Panicky. Stressed. Burned out. Broken. Paralyzed. Drowning. Empty. Recognize yourself in any of these words? Maybe in all of them? You’re not alone. These are the most common words I’ve heard Christian women using to describe themselves and their lives.

Whatever happened to the words peaceful, calm, joyful, content, quiet, rested, refreshed, and fulfilled? Wouldn’t you like to exchange the second set of words for the first?

It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Especially as the demands upon us keep multiplying: housework demands our energy, employers demand our hours, the church demands our commitment, friends demand our presence, kids demand our taxi-cab, credit cards demand our dollars, school sports demand our evenings and Saturdays, the yard demands our sweat, charities demand our donations, the sick demand our visits, marriage demands our time, relations demand our phone calls, email demands our replies, Pinterest demands our perfection, and on and on it incessantly goes.

Sometimes you want to run away, don’t you? Or curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. Or jam your fingers in your ears and silence the clamor. Or maybe lock the door and throw away the key, the phone, and the ever-lengthening to-do list. The demands are simply overwhelming. And there’s little prospect of change, little hope of experiencing the second group of words again, until, well, maybe retirement.

I sympathize, because I’ve been there too. However, over many years, and through many struggles, the Lord has graciously delivered me from the first set of words and into a more regular experience of the second. In short, he has taught me, and is teaching me, how to live a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands.

The five wells of a grace-paced life

A grace-paced life? What’s that? It’s a pace of life that’s constantly refreshed by five different wells of divine grace.

Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others.

First, there’s the motivating well of grace. We used to be driven by money, family perfection, beauty, careers, or earning God’s favor. But instead of filling and fulfilling us, these motivations drained and dried us. Now though, we daily drop our buckets into the unsearchable depths of God’s saving grace in Christ to freely receive his overflowing mercy and love. Filled to overflowing with gospel grace, we are now energized and enthused to serve him at home, at work, and at church, as our heart beats, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Second there’s the moderating well of grace. Grace moderates our expectations of ourselves and others. At the foot of the cross, we have seen our sin and our sinfulness. We have learned that we are not perfect and never will be. Therefore, when we fall and fail, we don’t torment or torture ourselves. Instead, we calmly take our sins to Calvary knowing that God’s grace forgives us all our imperfections and lovingly accepts us as perfect in Christ. We don’t need to serve, sacrifice, or suffer our way to human or divine approval, because Christ has already served, sacrificed, and suffered for us. His perfection moderates our perfectionism as we remind ourselves, “Accepted, accepted, accepted.”

Third, we are refreshed by the multiplying well of grace. We no longer believe that everything depends on us and our efforts. Rather, we trust God to multiply our few loaves and fishes. We don’t sit back and do nothing, but neither do we try to do everything. We sow and water, but we realize that it’s God who gives the increase. God’s blessing multiplies our work in a way that no amount of extra hours or effort can. How calming and soothing is this realization and the prayer it produces: “Multiply, multiply, multiply.”

Fourth, the releasing well of grace helps us hand control of our lives over to God. We trust his sovereignty not just in salvation but in every area of life. Yes, we still work diligently and carefully, but releasing grace humbly submits to setbacks, problems, and disappointments, accepting them as tests of our trust in God’s control. When tempted to micromanage and dictate our lives and the lives of others, we drop our bucket into this refreshing well as we whisper to ourselves, “Release, release, release.”

Finally, there’s the receiving well of grace. [C]loser inspection reveals [it] to be made up of a number of smaller wells. Each of them represents one of God’s gracious gifts to his needy creatures: a weekly Sabbath, sleep, physical exercise, family and friends, Christian fellowship, and so on. In our fast-paced life, we used to push these gifts away, thinking that we didn’t need them. But in the grace-paced life, we approach these wells saying, “Receive, receive, receive.” The more and more we see that our heavenly Father designed and drilled these wells for our good, the more we receive and enjoy their renewing and refreshing waters.

Editor’s note: Content taken from Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona and David Murray, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

By / Jan 27

Are you a woman whose life is aimless, hurried, frenetic or just flat-out impossible? If so, you’re the very one Alli Worthington had in mind when writing Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy. In her new release, this wife, mother of five and executive director of Propel Women draws from her life experiences, research and the Bible to help women break the cycle of “crazy busy.” She sketches out a framework women can use to find God’s purpose for their life instead of succumbing to the relentless, runaway pace of today’s culture.

How she does it

Worthington is a winsome writer and skilled at keeping things practical. Her easy-to-read style and manageable book sections allow busy women to read smaller portions on the go. And her humor and transparency keep you easily engaged.

Worthington starts her book by setting a helpful paradigm for what it means to function “within capacity.” And the personal stories from her former chaotic routine assure you that she “gets it.” She lays out seven diagnostic warning signs to help women discover if they’re living within their God-given capacity. And she poses several questions to help women gauge their personal limits and embrace them. From the beginning, Worthington encourages honest self-reflection about what motivates your crazy busy life by sharing the ins and outs of her own story.

Worthington then spends the remainder of the book guiding the reader through an exploration to find “our sweet spot”: the place where one is operating at their best and fulfilling their “God-given destiny.” She explores nine areas to consider when making choices toward a more balanced life, covering a range of topics from relationships and a personal sense of calling to time management and communication styles. Each chapter concludes with a list of action steps to implement. But in the midst of the practical, Worthington does not lose sight of how a woman’s heart and mind work. She speaks to the inner fears and challenges common to women and closes her book by highlighting how the feelings of shame and worth powerfully influence our lives.

Great take-aways

One of the best features of this book is its practicality. Alli Worthington is truly gifted at breaking down concepts into accessible approaches to life. And she loves lists. So if you’re a bullet point-person, you will love the organization of her thinking through the crazy business of life.

Also, the overall mission of this book is praiseworthy. Women without friends to ask heels-on-the-ground questions about gifts and abilities will find a friend in Worthington and her practical wisdom. The author has planted deep roots in the growing field of life management, and this book bears some good fruit. But it’s Worthington’s transparency that makes her so helpful here. She’s refreshingly open about her family’s challenges and the heart work the Lord has done during those critical times. She teaches by example that “breaking busy” includes honesty before the Lord, others and ourselves.

Pump the brakes on breaking busy

Breaking Busy is marketed as using “solid biblical principles” from a “Christian worldview.” Yet the book’s perspective on knowing God and his will is the greatest cause for concern. To be sure, Alli Worthington’s love for the Lord is evident and sincere. She wants her readers to seek God’s will versus their own agenda. And she uses Scripture references throughout the book, offering helpful examples of applying biblical truth during personal trials. So, you may ask, “What’s the problem?”

The concern lies in Worthington’s paradigm for how one knows God’s will. More than once she testifies to hearing God speak specific messages to her in prayer. Worthington does not claim to hear God’s audible voice. She does, however, claim to understand specific, personal words from God through “nudges” or “senses” that seem to be disconnected from Scripture. One key example is when she felt the Lord telling her to quit the company she began. Worthington states that during a prayer time she “clearly felt God nudge me with two words, ‘Quit Blissdom.’” A second example occurred while deciding whether to take her current position with Propel Women. When describing her prayer time, she says, “As clear as day, I sensed the answer. It was very simple: ‘Do it.’”

Could these examples be just two exceptions to Worthington’s view on knowing the will of God? Unfortunately, it seems the examples are part of a pattern. In chapter two, Worthington aligns her personal paradigm in listening to God with Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. The substantial quote depicts a God who speaks subjectively through any means possible: the sun, the wind, faces of loved ones or in the “depths of your spirit.” The problem here is not with the Spirit speaking to God’s people, but hearing direction from God apart from Scripture and yet on par with Scripture. (Tim Challies and Michael Horton have carefully criticized this problem in their reviews of Jesus Calling.)

Regrettably, then, Worthington’s understanding of prayer runs the risk of bypassing the primary means for divine encouragement and direction. The Word of God is the only word that is promised to transform the heart and mind of a believer. But we are told in Scripture that God’s written Word is better, “more confirmed,” than any audible message (2 Pet. 1:16-21).  

Worthington does makes true statements about the Christian life and even appropriately applies Scripture at times. But, even then, she generally maintains a 30,000 foot view of the Bible that leads her to misinterpret and misapply it in on a number of occasions. For example, during her chapter on “Editing,” she teaches that God edited Christ’s life and that his agony in Gethsemane was a struggling over a “new calling”—as if crucifixion was a new idea to Christ. Yet from the Old Testament forward, Scripture is clear that Christ’s purpose was always to die for his people, with Christ himself speaking of his own death, burial, and resurrection from the beginning of his earthly ministry (see Isa. 53; John 2:18-22; 3:14; 12:27-33). It’s what makes Christ’s willful condescension so gloriously humble!

Finally, Worthington does not distinguish clearly between believers and unbelievers when it comes to claiming God’s promises. So, when she encourages women to find their worth in God or cast their cares on him during anxious moments, Worthington seems to assume that God’s covenant promises apply to all people in the same way. This message may not be intentional. But without a ground-level view of Scripture, this kind of universal encouragement can lead to confusion and discouragement for those who do not know Christ—even a distraction from their deepest need for him.

Why it matters

Maintaining a bird’s-eye view of the Scriptures causes the reader to miss the biblical contours that explain how God prepares his people for  “breaking [free of] busy.” Our “God-given destiny” is “to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

God has given us pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers and fellow church members to confirm his gifts and capacities he gives us so that we can glorify Christ in our calling and in every occupation. And this same church community helps us grow in God’s wisdom as God’s Word in Scripture transforms our hearts and minds. It’s by this Word-fueled transformation we are best equipped to make life choices that free us from “crazy busy.” Then the greatest joy is realized, by using these gifts in this new-found freedom, when we all grow up together to look more and more like Jesus.

What now?

Though the concerns with Worthington’s book are significant, it still stands that Breaking Busy offers much practical wisdom that will be useful to many women. And the reader will benefit from Worthington’s heart for others to live a fuller, more purposeful life that is pleasing to the Lord. For a believer who is well grounded in the Word, I would recommend this book to be read with discernment and appreciation for its practical and profitable insights. A younger believer is encouraged to read it with someone to provide further instruction about seeking the Lord and his will.  For more resources on knowing God’s will through the Scriptures see Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something or the following TGC resources.