I couldn’t decide if I should call this Blossom Tip “How to Stop Wasting Your Life Doing Meaningless Things” or “How I Wasted a Day With the Devil.” As you can see, old Scratch won. Which title would you have chosen? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below! Do you prefer 1 (How to Stop Wasting Your Life Doing Meaningless Things) or 2 (How I Wasted a Day With the Devil)?
Sometimes it’s easy to see what a waste of time some things are (like dusting — the dirt always comes back!). Most of the time, however, it’s really hard to notice when you’re wasting your life. Meaningless things don’t seem meaningless at the time, do they?
In What to Do When You Lose Your Life Purpose I describe how I lost myself for three years. I was living in Africa, teaching grade 8 and high school journalism at an American school for missionaries’ and ex-pats’ kids. I was out of my depth as a teacher, scared as a single Canadian woman in Nairobi, disconnected to the community around me. I was in the wilderness spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially. I felt like I lost my life purpose and I didn’t know what to do. I was wasting my life on meaningless things, destructive emotions, unhealthy and even soul-sucking activities.
When I discovered that the school offered free counseling for teachers, I started seeing a Christian psychologist. Painful, but effective! Nancy and I discovered what was keeping me stuck and how to renew my purpose and move forward in life.
Not everyone wants or needs counseling to stop wasting time on meaningless things, but we all need someone to help us see our lives clearly and objectively. Who are your kindred spirits, fellow believers, life companions? While you’re mentally scrolling through the family and friends you’re closest to, remember the power of spiritual warfare.
The devil wants you to waste your life on meaningless things.
How I Wasted a Day of My Life With the Devil
I didn’t dream this up while reading The Screwtape Letters, but this hellish experience would’ve fit neatly between the pages of C.S. Lewis’ book! (The Screwtape Letters is a fictional story from the perspective of senior devil Screwtape; he’s teaching a junior devil – Wormwood – how to distract and tempt humans to waste their lives doing meaningless things so they don’t experience the presence of God).
Alone in a waiting room, clutching God’s key, I prepared for Screwtape to appear and attack me. I knew God’s key wouldn’t just defeat him, it would make the devil explode into a million fiery pieces that would burn in hell forever. I was ready for battle!
I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I carefully tucked God’s key into my pocket so I wouldn’t lose it. I started to get a little bored (I’m impatient at the best of times). I yawned, stretched, jogged in place, shook out my arms like a boxer. Then — finally! — the door opened and a pleasant young man stepped into the room. At the same time a long, skinny poisonous green snake entered and slithered toward me.
The young man politely greeted me and leaned lightly against the wall. God’s key wasn’t necessary yet; neither of these guys was Screwtape. Still, I had to deal with the pretty poisonous green snake, pronto. I quickly picked it up and tossed it toward the door. It rolled to a stop, righted itself, and promptly headed back in my direction. I asked the lovely young man where Screwtape was, but he knew even less than I did. He was just there to keep me company.
Both the young man and I were scared of the snake, but it never went near him. Only me.
Not wanting to leave because Screwtape might appear any minute, I waited. The snake kept slithering towards me; I kept picking it up and tossing it toward the door. I started planning how I’d throw God’s key at Screwtape. Perhaps I’d lob it underhand like a softball, or forcefully pitch it like a fastball. Did the key have to hit the devil’s heart or head, or just make contact with any body part? I played out a million different scenarios in my mind — which took a surprising amount of time and energy — while playing “toss the snake” and keeping a close eye on the young man. He seemed nice, but you never know.
After several hours of waiting, planning, and tossing the snake it finally dawned on me: Screwtape wasn’t coming. He never intended to show up. He didn’t need to! The snake and the young man were distracting me, which gave the head devil Screwtape exactly what he wanted. Me.
I’d wasted my whole day with the devil, doing meaningless things.
3 Ways to Stop Wasting Your Life Doing Meaningless Things
The problem with almost all meaningless thoughts, tasks, activities and other things is that we don’t notice at the time. We think we’re just sitting in a boring waiting room with a poisonous snake and a pleasant young man…but we’re wasting our lives.
Maybe that’s a version of hell on earth: being distracted by the devil’s meaningless tricks, threats, frustrations and irritations so we don’t pay attention to the real reason God put us on this planet, in this world, at this time.
1. Remember that the most dangerous thing is not realizing we’re being distracted by meaningless activities, trivial problems, minor details and superficial disagreements. Things that won’t matter tomorrow, much less a month or year from now. And it’s not just the little annoyances; sometimes we’re distracted by good things that become too important, such as our families, relationships, jobs, homes, appearance, vacations, hopes, dreams and plans for the future.
2. How you define a “meaningless thing” depends on your calling, vocation, and life purpose. What do you believe in your heart of hearts that you should be doing with your one wild and precious life? Here’s an easier question: what are you curious about? Pursue that thing. Learn more about it. Follow it forward – perhaps not as a paid job, but as your life work or vocation.
3. Pay attention to how you spend your minutes, hours and days — because that is how you’re spending your life. Stay focused on why God created you! The Holy Spirit is here to help you get home, where you belong. Fix your eyes on the truth, beauty, joy, peace, freedom and wonder of Jesus Christ.
Don’t get distracted. Don’t waste your life. Don’t let the devil trick you into spending your life doing meaningless things. Remember — as Annie Dillard said — that how you spend your days is how you spend your life.
New on She Blossoms
When the Past Keeps Returning to Haunt You – Perfect timing: today I hoped to write about sending past regrets, mistakes and failures off into the wilderness to be forgotten forever, but I couldn’t find the right hook. Then a She Blossoms reader asked what to do when the past keeps returning to haunt you — and bingo! The path became clear.
Coming Clean About Your Past – Whatever your story — whether you want to learn how to tell your boyfriend the truth, how to forgive yourself for something you did, or how to stop living a lie — you’re ready to come clean. Your past has haunted you for long enough. You know telling the truth is the right thing to do. Even more importantly, you believe coming clean has the power to help you heal from the guilt and shame. You know that telling the truth won’t be easy because it’ll hurt people you love…but you also know that you have to come clean about your past because you can’t carry the weight any longer.
When “I Don’t Want to Be a Burden” Backfires – You don’t want to burden others with your problems, but you’re struggling to cope. When does “I don’t want to be a burden” become unhealthy? At some point, your desire to protect your family and friends doesn’t just backfire, it creates serious problems in your relationships.