Balance is one of the toughest parts of being a teen. You feel pressure from all sides: parents wanting you to be invested in the family, teachers telling you to focus on your academics, coaches demanding dedication to sports or other extracurricular activities, and friends expecting you to “be there,” to provide support in the bad times and to join in on the good times. This is only compounded further for Christian teens, who are also being directed, by both the Bible and godly adults in their life, to spend one-on-one time with God, to spend time in community with other Christians, to go to a Bible study, to attend youth group, to attend church, etc.
Unfortunately, there is no “quick fix” to this dilemma. Every person works differently. We can’t all structure our lives the exact same way because we are, obviously, not exactly the same. But here are some guidelines that will help you figure out how to spend your time in a manner honoring to God:
- Pray.Ask God to help you discern what your priorities should be. I would caution you against going into this expecting to “receive a sign” or “hear God’s voice.” It’s not that God can’t provide direction of this kind, but problems arise when we want a specific answer and we don’t get one. “Now what? Does God just not care? Is he too busy? Am I not praying right?” You get the idea. So instead of asking God to “reveal his will,” ask him to make you discerning, to help you to have “the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says,
“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
- Evaluate.Take some time to honestly look at your schedule. Are you spending time doing things you shouldn’t? And that doesn’t just mean things that are dishonoring to God. Are you involved in clubs or activities that you aren’t fully invested in? It’s common to overestimate how much you can handle and spread yourself too thin. Trust me, it’s better to have a few commitments that you are truly committed to. Not only will it keep you saner, but you are far more likely to have an impact than if you are juggling too many responsibilities.
- Be present.When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to live in the future, constantly worrying and stressing and planning. But if you are living in the future, you are missing out on the here and now. In Matthew 6:24, Christ instructs his followers,
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
So don’t sit in class agonizing over how you’re going to get your homework done. Don’t cheat yourself out of quality time with your family or friends because you’re brooding over that big project/game/performance this weekend. Simply put, be where you are. When it’s time for class, pay attention. When you’re at a sports/music/drama/whatever practice, focus on that. When you’re with people, be with them.
- Don’t feel guilty.
This is a tough one, but boy is it important. No matter how carefully you try to prioritize, there will come times when you can’t do everything. There are those days when you wake up and literally don’t stop moving until you lie down again that night (or, let’s be real here, sometime in the early morning), and you still didn’t fit it all in. Sometimes you will have to blow off your friends to study for a big test, or skip out on a big game or performance for a family event, or turn in haphazard homework because your best friend was having a breakdown and needed to talk. It’s ok. Even if some people give you a hard time, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for not achieving the impossible. Above all, don’t feel guilty for struggling to spend time with God. Satan loves to use this one against us, and it’s easy to become bitter about our faith when no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to “get it right.” God won’t be angry with you for falling asleep praying or doing your devos. He is perfect, we are not, and he loves us anyway. If you are striving to honor God with the way you spend your time, he will bless your efforts, even if they don’t always have the most ideal results.
As I mentioned, this isn’t a question with an easy answer. But these guidelines should help you as you decide how to prioritize your life in a way that is pleasing to God. You may also want to check out the Time Hot Topic Handout found in our Resources. You can print it out and work through it a little bit each day.
Linnea is experiencing the fullness of a Wheaton College, studying English Literature and French, including spending a summer abroad in England. She is originally from a small town in the Pocono Mountains, where her love of being outside and her desire to be active began. Linnea thoroughly enjoys having her nose in a book, and her favorites include, Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller and Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. She also enjoys, when the opportunity presents itself, a good time of swing dancing and playing the piano. Growing up as a comparatively quiet and well-behaved child amongst three very troubled siblings, Linea has always felt pressure to be the “tough girl” who takes care of herself. Over the last few years, God has been hammering home the need to open up and be vulnerable, not with everyone, but with close friends and mentors. She describes it as, “…a process, but I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to have problems.”