Busyness is a common trait that a lot of us share. Many times over the years I’ve been accused of being a “workaholic”. It started when I was a teenager and continued through much of my adult life. While I generally denied the accusations, they were not without merit.
My senior year in high school, I worked three jobs in addition to maintaining straight A’s in school. While completing my degrees in accounting (BS and MS), I worked full-time, had a family, and went to school in the evenings. As a CPA, it was common for me to clock 2400 to 2600 hours per year with tax season being 60 to 80 hours per week. Many of those years, I was also pastoring a church or working in some other ministry role. I generally have not shied away from hard work and long hours.
A Pandemic of Busyness
I’m not the only one who has a tendency to stay busy. As we talk with people around the world, it is exceedingly common for them to be too busy to keep up with everything they have to do. I’m guessing that many of you can relate to this feeling. We are a busy world.
And if you are waiting for retirement to not be busy, you may be disappointed. A large percentage of retired people that I meet are just as busy, or busier, than when they worked regular jobs. A common saying is, “I don’t know how I had time for a job.”
It’s interesting to me that we have all kinds of technology that was supposed to give us more time, and yet, we seem to be busier than ever before. With each new invention, instead of slowing down, we keep speeding up. Expecting more and more productivity.
We work from home, or the car, or the beach while supposedly on vacation. We’re so plugged in that we are frying our circuits.
The perceived benefits of busyness
There are some benefits to being busy. We get things done, producing and earning a living. There may be a sense of accomplishment, and yet, many people are less satisfied with what they’ve accomplished.
We appear to be important because we do so many things. This is especially true in the church. We can be so busy serving God that we fail to have a relationship with Him.
Some of us stay busy to avoid things such as hurts or difficult situations. This really is not a benefit but rather a detriment of busyness. I was really good at this tactic. As a teenager, it was better to be working than to face the imperfections of my family life. I found my value in work and good grades. I continued this pattern well into adulthood.
It is easier to stay busy than to face our emotions. If I ask a guy how he is doing with the emotional turmoil of a difficult situation, it is common to get a response along the lines of, “I’m staying busy.” In other words, “I’m avoiding facing those feelings by working or keeping occupied all of the time.” Unfortunately, the situations that are being avoided do not just go away. Sweep enough stuff under the rug, and eventually you will be tripping on the mountainous rug.
Busy with the right things
Laziness is not the antidote to busyness. In fact, there are several Proverbs that speak against slothfulness (A few references are Proverbs 10:26, 15:19, 18:9, 19:15). It is important that we work and are productive. We need to be doing the things that we are supposed to be doing and not the other things that just keep us busy.
Scott Fravel, our first board member, said, “There are a lot of good things. You are not called to all of them.” This has been a valuable reminder for us the past five plus years. Just because something is good, does not mean that I am the one who is supposed to be doing it. In fact, we may be stealing from others if we do what they are called to do instead of stepping back and allowing them to step up.
Many of us struggle with a certain two letter word. “No” is so hard to say when we have a person in need or we’re asked to help with this or that. There’s a common saying about staying in our lanes. We need to be doing our stuff, not other people’s. Sometimes we have to say “No” to the good things so that we can say “Yes” to the best things.
Be still and know God
How do we know what the right things are for us to be doing? We have to slow down enough to spend time with the Lord and hear from Him what is ours to do. For us workaholics, slowing down is a lot harder to do than we may want to admit. Sitting in silence is akin to torture for many of us. And yet, that is what is required.
The reward for adjusting our life to align with the Lord’s instructions for us is priceless. Many think that we went off the rails and have lost our minds with the shift we made to follow God. Yes, there are some things that I miss about the old ways. I also have to face my emotions and struggles head on instead of burying myself in work.
Regardless of what we’ve given up, I don’t ever want to go back. A weekly Sabbath is a necessity in life now, and it is good. I’m closer to Dallas and the Lord. You can’t put a value on what I have today that I was missing because I was busy.
Be still. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Are you willing to stop long enough to truly listen? When the Lord tells you what you should and shouldn’t be doing, are you willing to make the changes in life? If you will, I promise it will be worth it.
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