Have you ever turned to a time management book to nourish your soul? I haven't. But that is what I found happening with this unexpected gem that tackled difficult questions like "How can you trust in God when there is so much suffering?" and "How should a Christian interpret failure when he believes he is doing God's will"?
Divine Time Management: The Joy of Trusting God's Loving Plans for You by Elizabeth Grace Saunders (Faith Words, November 7) is a therapeutic experience and written in a tone and language that would be most familiar to committed Christians.
Within the first 20 pages, Saunders astounds readers expecting a normal time management book by declaring: "The ultimate goal of time management should not be achievement or getting things done. Instead, it should be about creating the freedom to do the Lord's will and in turn receive God's best."
Saunders, who wrote two time management books without any faith element before this one, told ChristianWeek, "It was such a humbling book to write and the biggest lesson I learned is how much I had to grow.
"The experience of writing Divine Time Management was entirely different than the experience of writing my first two books. In my first book, The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, and my second book, How to Invest Your Time Like Money, I was the expert. I was the — I know this sounds kinda bad — but the know-it-all. 'I know what I'm talking about and this is how you can improve yourself.' It was very much about helping Type B people to be Type A.
"This book Divine Time Management was the exact opposite experience. It was very much about helping Type A people become more Type B. And I literally had to change in the process of writing this book. In the process of writing it, I changed. I was deeply convicted in areas of my life that I wasn't honoring the Lord. Literally, every time we went through the editing process, and I read the words I had written, I would be convicted once more about something I needed to work on. It was so humbling for me and I realized how much I had to grow. I think that was such a valuable lesson ... and put me in a place to recognize my need for God and His transformation in a much deeper way."
Going in, I had expected Divine Time Management to be a cerebral experience, but like the author, many Type A readers will feel convicted about the real and often ungodly reasons why we work hard.
"Instead of receiving God's unconditional love, you turn life into a performance," Saunders writes in one piercing line in the book.
"It's also problematic when you use the need to 'get work done' as a form of hiding," she also writes. "But it's worth noting here that sometimes we want to accomplish more tasks because checklists feel safer than relationships. If you're hiding behind your to-do list, ask God to help you to have the courage to start to peek out from behind your laptop enough to connect with Him and others."
Yes. This is not your typical time management book.
Repeatedly, Saunders reminds the Type A's that all our strategies should be aimed at freeing "up our time so that we have enough space in our lives to love God, hear His voice, and stay connected with Him."
"Focusing on trusting God with all of our time and time management decisions opens up space for prayer and for rest. When we genuinely seek His will, God typically asks us to do less than we think we need to do and rely on Him more," the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching and Speaking writes.
One of the three key goals of divine time management is trust in God at the center (the other two are: love for your true identity and alignment with God). Saunders — who has been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, Fast Company, NBC, and more — says that if nothing else, she hopes readers of her book will trust in God more than their own abilities to manage their time, which will lead to God's best for them.
But that is easier said than done. How can someone that has experienced great tragedy, disappointment or injustice overcome that hurt to trust in God? Saunders pointed to the Bible. Abraham waited 25 years, until he was 100 years old, for the fulfillment of God's promise in the birth of Isaac. And King David endured 15 years of hardship from when he was anointed king to when he actually became king.
"He (God) is not necessarily Speedy Gonzales!" Saunders wisely observed. "Even with total trust in Him, things won't necessarily happen as we think they should ... We have to trust God with a perspective that spans longer-term than the bounds of our time on earth."
Essentially, there is no "text message" answer to this question, she said.
"We look to the Bible to understand God's character ... and one of the benefits of the Bible is we can see the big picture all laid out. That is one of the things that really help us trust in God," she said. "We can see that even though sometimes things don't make sense in the short term, in the long term, He keeps all His promises and He's faithful in all His ways."
But what if a Christian trusted in God and still faced failure in his or her ministry. How should that believer interpret this failure? Saunders pointed to the third section of her book: Alignment with God.
"We have to understand that God doesn't view success in the same way this world views success," Saunders said.
She pointed to Bible verses like Matthew 6:19-21:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"Just in this one verse we see that the way God defines success can be very different than in the world where you should get as much money as possible," Saunders explained. She also noted that when we look at God's commandments, what He views as most important is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.
"It doesn't mean that you failed in God's eyes if your focus was loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself," said the young author.
She shared that in her own life, she was laid off from her dream job early in her career, which the world would perceive as a failure. But God used that initially bad event to change Saunders' perspective from believing that working for a big company provides security to believing that security is being in Christ and following His will.
"That is what gave me the courage to start a business later," she said. "In God's eyes, that is exactly what He wanted to happen in my life to teach me a lesson I needed to learn. ... For ministry, things that don't go out as we expected that was part of our character development and our humility before the Lord."
"The point behind things I talked in the book ... is not about more performance. It is about a deeper level of trust and rest in the Lord and the work He wants to do for you and how much easier your life can be when you trust Him. I would just encourage readers to not approach this as a test but approach it as an invitation to a better level of freedom in the Lord."
For more information about Divine Management, click here.