The 1990 Chicago Bears had an interesting tradition between the huge defensive linemen and the smaller defensive backs. If the defensive linemen could catch the smaller and quicker backs (which was rare), they would pile up, with the smaller defensive back underneath the heavy pile of massive humanity.
David Tate, a 180 pound defensive back experienced the pain of this pile-up. William “Refrigerator” Perry at 270 pounds collapsed on Tate, then Richard Dent at 275 pounds, then Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael both at 270 pounds each. All total, Tate was beneath the painful load of 1,135 pounds.
That is what a life without wise, Biblical margins is like. It is living day-to-day under a heavy, sometimes painful, load that we have taken on by our lack of margins. There are two significant problems with having no or little established margins in your life.
1) No Margins Leads You to Overload (Proverbs 12:25a; 14:12)
King Solomon is recognized as perhaps the wisest person to have lived on earth. In all the wisdom he left behind, he points out one result of a life of constant overload. “An anxious heart weighs a man down,” (Proverbs 12:25a). His statement of “a man” is referring to mankind (not just men), and “an anxious heart” refers to someone who lives in a constant state of anxiety as a norm. Living with overload and no margins to break from that load “weighs a man (a person) down”. The root of the phrase “weighs down” means to depress. Our culture today has a growing number of people who are high achievers, constantly pushing on to the next hill to conquer, but at what price? We are a stressed-out and in some ways a miserable culture because we have not established wise, Biblical margins in life. More is not always better. In fact, often it is worse.
Solomon also points out that living on overload can be destructive to life. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). When you have no wise margins in life, rushing from one activity to another with no thought to whether you should, it may “seem right”. However, this way of life is not life-giving – “in the end it leads to death.”
2) No Margins Robs You of Peace (Philippians 4:4-7)
The apostle Paul, speaking to the believers in Philippi who were experiencing some challenging circumstances, said (v. 6a): “Do not be anxious about anything”. One can conclude he wouldn’t have told them this if they weren’t struggling with anxiety. Paul also gave them a solution to their anxiety (v. 6b): “but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
1) “Prayer” – worship or acknowledge who God is in the midst of your anxiety. Choose to feed your faith instead of your anxiety.
2) “Petition” – speaking to God in honest detail about what you’re anxious about — acknowledge what He can do.
3) “With thanksgiving” – have a grateful heart and remember what God has done in your life in the past.
When you feel stressed, you can either talk to yourself internally, feeding your anxiety, or you can talk to God and resist the anxiety. What you feed grows.
The promise is not the removal of anxiety-triggering circumstances, but rather, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (v.7). The point? Without margins in your life, you cannot live such a Christ-reflective life. You do not have the time or space to. Your only option without establishing margin is to be robbed of the very peace that Christ makes possible.
Dr. Richard Swenson wrote: “For if today margin is useful, tomorrow it will be urgent. If today it is valuable, tomorrow it will be essential.” Over the next several weeks, we will look at Biblical insight on how to establish wise, healthy margin in life. But, none of that will matter until you first see your need for it. Do you see your actual need for wise margin in life?