Have you ever procrastinated? Have you ever known that something needed to get done, but you really didn’t want to do it, so you just kept putting it off?
That is the position that Jacob is in as we read today’s passage. He knows that Benjamin must go down with his brothers in order for them to get food from Egypt. But he is so worried about losing Benjamin that he refuses to let him go… until their situation gets so bad that he is forced to do that which he should have done voluntarily in the beginning.
Please read Genesis 43:1-15.
Jacob is so worried about losing Benjamin that he resists with all of his might when his children insist Benjamin must go down to Egypt. Deep down, he probably knows that Benjamin will have to leave, but that just feels too painful to think about. So, day after day, Jacob ignores this reality and focuses on his work. Day after day, he checks on their stores of grain and sees them getting smaller and smaller. Day after day, he goes about his daily activities, all the while worrying about that heart-wrenching pain of losing Benjamin that he knows will eventually come.
Jacob’s sons are exasperated by his procrastination. Judah rudely accuses his father, saying “if we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice!” But that’s what procrastination does: it causes us to put off something that we don’t want to do. While we are putting it off, we are miserable with dread, knowing that we eventually will have to do it. When all along, if we had just done it in the first place, it could have been over with and we could have moved on.
I experienced my worst bought of procrastination in college. I had to write a paper much larger than I had ever written before, and I didn’t really know where to start. So I didn’t start. I spent my free time playing with my friends, watching movies, working on easier assignments, and all along I knew that I would have to write that paper. It was like a cloud that was hanging over my head. As the deadline drew nearer, I started getting nervous and anxious, but I kept putting it off.
As the final week before the deadline came, I actually made myself physically sick with worry. In seeking company for my misery, I reached out to another classmate about his progress on his paper, but he said he had finished! He was so happy to be done with it that he was going out to celebrate! Ugh.
I buckled down and finally wrote the paper--completely isolating myself from the world for a week so I could get it done. The final product wasn't bad, but it wasn't my best work either. If I had just started my paper when I first got the assignment, then I wouldn’t have had those weeks of anxiety. I could have given my best effort and then went out to celebrate with my friends.
You don’t have to enjoy those difficult tasks that are set before you. Like Jacob, you can go into it reluctantly, saying, “if it must be so…” But trust me: if you will just get it over with, then you will feel much better. Don’t let procrastination transform what could be momentary suffering into an extended period of anxiety.
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