Written by Stephen Cox
“How are you going? Busy?
“It is like a relentless spur we use to urge each other on, creating a personal version of the old Cold War promise of ‘mutually assured destruction’: if we all stay busy – if we cling to each other in this desperate, dizzy dance – none of us will notice what’s actually happening to us and we’ll all be dead before we realise it.”Hugh Mackay
The above might sound a little bit dramatic, but I wonder how may of you have felt too busy in the last year, the last month, the last week?
Here are some comments that may be familiar to you:
“I always seem to take on too much.”
“Please clear my diary!”
“I feel guilty about the tensions between work, family and church.”
“I just don’t want to be busy all the time.”
We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. All too often, busyness gets the best of us.
What is the balance between work and rest?
The first thing to say is that work is good and rest is good. We have in our culture two competing ethics: a work-centred ethic and a rest-centred ethic. In contrast to both, the Bible presents us with a liberating God-centred ethic in which we work for the glory of God and we rest for the glory of God. The goal is more than just a work life balance. Neither work nor rest is ultimate – God is ultimate. He gives value to both work and rest. Both are to be relished, enjoyed and used for God’s glory.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Most of us enjoy doing lots of things. And as hectic and frustrating as modern life can be, the biggest dangers are not material or temporary inconveniences. The most serious threats are spiritual. The challenge is not merely to make a few bad habits go away. The challenge is to not let our spiritual lives slip away. The dangers are serious and are growing.
The first danger is that busyness can ruin our joy.
As Christians, our lives should be marked by joy. Busyness attacks that. When our lives are frantic and frenzied, we are most prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience and irritability.
The second danger is that busyness can rob our hearts
For most of us, it isn’t heresy or rank apostasy that will derail our faith. It’s all the worries of life and the desire for other things. John Calvin said that the human heart is ”a thick forest of thorns” – if the worries of life don’t swamp us, the upkeep will.
The third danger is that busyness can cover up the rot in our souls
The hectic pace of life can make us physically and spiritually sick. Our crazy schedules are often signals that the sickness has already set in. The presence of extreme busyness in our lives may point to deeper problems – a pervasive people-pleasing, relentless ambition, desire to prove ourselves.
Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls.
If only we would make time for an appointment.
The ancient Latin poet Ovid may have got it right: “You who seek an end of love, love will yield to business: be busy and you will be safe.” In other words, if you stay busy enough, you’ll be protected from the demands of love. One of the the dangers we face as Christians is that if we keep ourselves busy, we’ll keep ourselves from the love of God. We see this in the account of Mary and Martha in
Luke 10:38 – 42.
Jesus is at Martha’s house and as she is distracted with much serving, her sister Mary is at the Lord’s feet listening to his teaching. Martha implores Jesus to do something. She thinks, “Surely Jesus will see what is going on here. Surely the one who came to serve others will see all the trouble Mary is causing me. Surely Jesus will have my back.”
But he doesn’t.
The crux of the story is, ‘Martha, you are freaking out, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good portion. She is sitting at my feet to learn and to worship. I’m not going to take that away from her. Your busyness is not wrong. But it is not
best.” The best, from Jesus’ point of view is to devote yourself to the Word of God and to prayer.
It is not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully unavoidable -is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.
Two good books on busyness:
The Busy Christians Guide to Busyness – Tim Chester
Crazy Busy – A (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem – Kevin DeYoung