Recently, a friend wrote to me about being too busy. I don’t think she was serious when she said, “How about addressing that in a MEW!!” but I decided to take it on anyway, partly because I like her and respect her ideas, and partly in hopes that it will also be relevant and helpful to many more of you. It is my absolute goal here to encourage your hearts in the areas of life that matter the most to you. Not that I claim expertise or exclusive wisdom on the subjects I discuss! Perish the thought! I fervently hope I never come across as talking down, but rather, building up.
The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12, NIV) I, like Paul--and you--am still a work in progress. At any rate, I hope in my writing to remind you of things you may already know, or to present things from a slightly different angle. Our perspectives determine our responses, so an altered point of view can have far-reaching effects.
So, here are my thoughts on busyness--or more specifically, chronic over-busyness, since there’s nothing wrong with being busy, in moderation. It’s when we regularly feel overwhelmed and our health, state of mind, or relationships suffer that we ought to pause and consider a few questions, namely “Why?” “What?” and “When?”
Before you can effectively tackle a symptom, it’s instructive to consider the root of the problem. In other words, why are you so busy? What purpose does it serve? Is it bringing you closer to your goals or is it possible that it is taking you further away? For example, some wives are so busy with their children that they end up neglecting their husbands. Obviously, much of this busyness is necessary; children take time. But could it be that some of the busyness is just filler that serves to avoid conflict? Or even intimacy? Marriage is the basis of a family--it was the beginning and, if not nurtured, could be the end. Study after study shows that children from stable homes perform better and are happier than those from broken homes. Therefore, our overarching goal should be to protect and preserve our marriages. That’s just one example, but the point is to honestly evaluate the necessity and purpose of our busyness. For other people, staying busy is a way to avoid loneliness, provide a sense of purpose, or distract them from some internal struggle. In these cases, while it may be less comfortable because it feels like we’re not “doing” anything, it would likely be more productive to fill that time with prayer than with distraction. In truth, much of our busyness can be traced back to a simple lack of trust in God and His provision. We stay busy because we think it’s all up to us. How difficult it is to heed God’s urging to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV) The New American Standard Bible actually says, "Cease striving, and know that I am God.” Jesus knew firsthand that God was almighty. Because He understood the true Source of power, He paused regularly to devote Himself to prayer. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV) And ”since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith,” (Romans 5:1, CEB), that power is available to us!
The second question to ask ourselves is “what?” What are the things in your calendar consuming your time and what is the inherent value in each? Which yield the highest returns and in what way (financial, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc.)? We have many categories of needs and desires. Choosing which ones to feed can be challenging. Some activities are more obvious than others. For example, there is value in work, as it provides a financial return for your time that helps to cover your physical and material needs. There is value in teaching and learning, in serving others, in maintaining a household, and so much more. However, there are some time-consumers that require a little extra discernment: you know, those little things you do to reward yourself because you “need it” or “deserve it.” First, be honest about its necessity and whether you truly did earn it; then be clear about how much it fills you up versus just filling your time up. Television, gaming, and the Internet may provide a needed break, but may not refresh, rejuvenate or replenish you. Instead, it is often wiser to favor things like spending time outdoors, playing music, creating art, exercising, or laughing with friends. One more caution, however, is that while it is important to have an escape, all too often, we fail to put appropriate controls on how long or how often we spend on our diversions. Before we know it, hours have gone by and we have forfeited either the satisfaction of productivity or the joy of doing something more fulfilling.
This leads to our third, and related question: “when?” How long do you spend “being busy?” While there is certainly merit in “doing” because…well, things gotta get done, there is also value in setting limits and taking breaks--for allocating time for simply “being.” We derive satisfaction from producing or contributing, but we are often more effective in our pursuits when we pause occasionally to refuel our tanks. Typically, this is done through rest, recreation, and relationships--most significantly those with God, family, and friends, (in order of importance). A good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap, a fun outing or movie night, connecting with God through prayer or worship, and laughter or a good heart-to-heart with someone you love can all give you an added boost you may need.
Yesterday morning, just as I was waking up, I “heard” the following phrase: “You are in control of how much water goes in your tub.” When really random thoughts come to mind, I usually consider that God might be trying to tell me something. I wrote it down and pondered it a while. Although I’m not sure I really get it all yet, my best idea at this point is that the water in the tub represents the things that take up our lives. Since no one wants to sit in an empty tub, we begin to fill it. It’s comforting at first, but we have to remain mindful not to overfill it so that we splash water over the edges or even drown ourselves. Maybe there’s more I will discover later, but for now, I’ll take it as a reminder that I have choices. I can’t make my tub any bigger, but I can control how much water goes in. God wants me to live a full life, cleansed and pure, but I have to be watchful to steward my time in such a way that I can keep my eyes above the water. I pray you are blessed and have occasional rest, in His name.