The Burden of Being Too Busy
I am far too busy these days. The reasons are compelling, convoluted, and complex. Perhaps you also feel caught on the spinning merry-go-round of overcommitment and don’t know how to get off without some major damage.
It’s been said that “he who burns the candle at both ends isn’t as bright as he thinks he is.” When we get so many irons in the fire that none of them gets hot, we need a radical reevaluation and clear recalibration of our lives. Sometimes we know we have bitten off more than we can chew but don’t know how to spit it out and start over.
It’s been said that “he who burns the candle at both ends isn’t as bright as he thinks he is.” When we get so many irons in the fire that none of them gets hot, we need a radical reevaluation and clear recalibration of our lives.
Like the overly-industrious and distracted sister Martha, we can get to the point where we hear the Lord calling our name with correction and concern, “You are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). This is not how it is supposed to work, but we are so worked up about our work that we’ve lost a sense of how it can all work out.
What is Busyness?
Busyness is not always bad. Work is a good and necessary thing. Passion is vital to accomplishment. Discipline and industry are essential to meaningful achievement and providing for the basic needs of a home and family. However, when our obligations and tasks begin to undermine well-being, we are probably overly busy. One definition of busyness is “engaging in meaningless action.” Sometimes our busyness is fueled by frivolous pursuits that drain our primary energy, especially in today’s world of incessant distractions through entertainment and social media.
What’s Dangerous About Busyness?
- Busyness destroys relationships – We all know that quality relationships take time. Overload affects the quantity and quality of our moments with family, friends, and (most importantly) the Lord. When we compromise our communication with the most important people in our lives, we become isolated, subjective, and vulnerable to a relational blowout. When we compromise our communication with the Lord, we start down the slippery slope of spiritual demise.
- Busyness undermines health – An abundant number of studies demonstrate the health risks of a stress-intensive lifestyle and overloaded life. Beyond this, one of the first things that we can neglect in the midst of an excessively busy schedule is the necessity of healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Busyness fuels discouragement – I have often defined discouragement as “a temporary loss of perspective.” When the mountain of things we have to get done looms too high, we cannot see much else. A needful appreciation of the simple pleasures of life, the blessings of God, and the treasure of relationships is often eclipsed by the “to do” list.
- Busyness steals memories – Busyness may provide more money to buy things, but it takes away the necessary margin we need to enjoy experiences. These experiences with family and friends, whether special events, time spent in nature, or necessary leisure are the timeless moments that matter at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives.
- Busyness dilutes our values – The chronic drive to get things done can soon fuel a pace that causes us to lose sight of the core principles that guide a meaningful life. Ghandi noted, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” We can move so fast that even our time in God’s word becomes a blur of information rather than feeding our convictions for a fruitful existence. I once read that “he who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.”
A needful appreciation of the simple pleasures of life, the blessings of God, and the treasure of relationships is often eclipsed by the “to do” list.
He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.
Why Are We So Busy?
Our busy lives can be motivated by a variety of good and not-so-good issues. The societal and economic upheavals in recent times have forced many to work harder than usual just to keep up with basic obligations. The “start-up” phase of a new endeavor can demand unusual commitment, hopefully only for a season. A long-term lifestyle of busyness can be fueled by a need to achieve, rooted in insecurity or a flawed definition of personal significance. Sometimes busyness is a tactic to keep our mind and emotions occupied so we do not have to deal with deeper or difficult issues in our lives.
How to Handle Busyness
- Recognize – Step one is to recognize the problem in honesty and humility. Clear, compassionate input from the people around us will help us assess the level of our overload. More importantly, time with the Lord, surrendered to His word and Spirit, will give us a sense of our real needs in the midst of the fray.
- Reassess – If busyness has been chronic over many years it is probably time to realize that something unhealthy is driving this dilemma. If the pride of accomplishment is behind the intense activity then we need to do some spiritual realignment. If the season is only temporarily out of control, some wise and tenacious changes of schedule and commitment are necessary.
- Reaffirm – Clear priorities help us put primary values first while placing the frivolous on the back burner. Since we cannot do it all and cannot please everyone, we must spell out our primary commitments and subjugate other things. As I often say, “the power of ‘no’ is in a stronger ‘yes’.” Priorities free us to focus on the best things.
- Request – Sometimes our overload can be remedied with the help of others who can take on part of the load. It is better to let ten men do the work of one rather than continue to try and do the work of ten.
- Recommit – Ultimately, we must tap into the rest and renewal that is ours in Christ regardless of our load. His appeal in Matthew 11:28-30 must resonate in our soul: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We must regularly respond to His call, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” This is true even, and especially, when the demands are so great that we do not even “have time to eat” (Mark 6:31). When Jesus calls to our hearts we do not want Him to get a “busy signal.”
As I often say, “the power of ‘no’ is in a stronger ‘yes’.” Priorities free us to focus on the best things.
It is better to let ten men do the work of one rather than continue to try and do the work of ten.
When Jesus calls to our hearts we do not want Him to get a “busy signal.”
From Busy to Rest
In counseling Martha, Jesus pointed to her sister Mary, resting at His feet in focused communion, listening to His word. He said, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). May the Lord give us grace to lay aside earthly busyness for the sake of rest in His presence. Let us make the daily exchange of temporal effort for eternal reward and realize that Jesus does not need our frenetic busyness to build His kingdom. Rather, He wants to live His life through us to manifest His peace, grace, and fruitful influence. I need to be reminded of this today and I suppose you do, too!
Jesus does not need our frenetic busyness to build His kingdom. Rather, He wants to live His life through us to manifest His peace, grace, and fruitful influence.
Copyright © 2021 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
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