Article by Scott Berry and Kristen Johnston.
How have you been lately? Keeping busy?
Such a strange turn of phrase, isn’t it? Is busyness our goal?
Our culture tends to link being busy with productivity and a sense of achievement, and in our search for meaning being busy is gratifying because we are doing something, earning something, working at something – but what for? It’s almost as if busyness has become a badge of honour for many of us – but it is to our own detriment.
Over a thousand years ago Socrates warned that people should “beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” I think he was on to something; our lives can definitely be full without necessarily being fulfilling. We can also be busy without actually achieving a whole lot.
Without a doubt life can be busy – there are many things that need to happen. Dropping kids at school, working, keeping the house in order, cooking dinner, maintaining relationships, study – there is plenty to do and all of these things have merit. But God encourages us to lead a life of balance. He created us as beings that not only need rest, but can take joy in being still in his presence.
So why is it that we strive to have our time taken by this monster called busyness?
Scott Berry is Pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Adelaide, and he lends some biblical insight.
Firstly, there are 3 things that we need to be aware of when it comes to evaluating our own time.
Busyness is often a cop-out. Life throws lots of different things at us – some we like, some we don’t – and it is natural for us to avoid those things that we don’t. Busyness is the perfect tool for this, especially if you’re wanting to distract yourself from thinking. Sir Joshua Reynold once said that “there are no lengths to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labour of thinking.” But we can’t run forever. So what is it that you may be avoiding? Risking having your feelings hurt again, working through a strained relationship, taking responsibility for your financial choices? Whatever it is we must not let busyness become our cop-out.
Busyness makes you the victim. The other convenient thing about busyness is that it is often perceived as something that happens to us rather than something we choose. Therefore, when those words slip out; “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m just so busy”; it’s not our fault, we are a slave to our own diary. But what if we weren’t the victim? What if we took charge of our time? What would that look like in your life?
Busyness is arrogant. The badge of pride that comes with busyness is probably its least attractive angle. Wearing it can make us feel important but it is dangerous – the more our identity is wrapped up in this idea that “I am busy, therefore I am” the less willing we will be to live deep, unhurried lives.
But what does Jesus say about our time?
Our time is a gift. Psalm 139:15, 16 tells us that our days are already laid out for us; “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Along with busyness comes a desire for control. We often believe that the more we do and the harder we work, the more control we have over our lives. But this is not at all true. God has our days laid out for us, so rather than asking, ‘how can I get ahead today?’ we need to be asking ‘what does God want from my day?’
God has given us our time as a gift, let us not squander it on the frantic activity of busyness (anymore than we would loathe to waste it in sloth).
There is enough time for everything. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
How often have you heard it said that, “there’s just not enough days in the week”? Well, it’s not true. If God has given us our purpose and direction, why would he not give us enough time to fulfil it? Time after time God shows us that His priority is refining hearts not perfecting our results. When we understand that God is enough, we will also understand that our time is enough also. If we can’t get everything done in a week then it’s likely that we have put things in our week that God did not intend for us to spend time on.
God calls us to rest. In Exodus 31:14-17 we are commanded about the Sabbath. God the creator of the universe put one day aside to enjoy his creation. He asks us to do the same. God did not need rest but he takes joy in his creation and wants us to do the same. He teaches us that solitude is precious and He wants us to know Him, enjoy Him and enjoy what he has given us. God takes the Sabbath seriously and even calls it Holy. When we take time to stop it is not laziness, rather it is participating in a Holy act that God commands us to partake in.
So how do we slow down our busy weeks? Here are a few things to keep in mind when conquering your calendar.
- More often than not, busyness is a choice
- Be mindful of your words – just saying you’re busy can put the weight of the world on your shoulders.
- Learn when to say yes and when to say no.
God desires more for our lives than for them to be full of commitments. Let us look to Him as we assess what is life-giving and what is wearing us thin. As we become more deliberate in the way we delegate our time, we will be able to live in service of Him as well as resting in Him.
This article was first published in the September 2013 glossy edition of RISE magazine. See back issues here.