Crazy Busy

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Most of us have experienced moments in life where it seemed as if 24 hours were not enough time to accomplish the tasks before us. Often you and I feel as if we are at war with the clock fighting an enemy who maintains a consistent barrage of military attacks in the form of one more task to do. Perhaps you have wondered if there is any way to get a handle on the busyness of life.

There are many times when the responsibilities and tasks of the day seem to be more than I can handle. After all, “The only people busier than single grad students are people who aren’t single and aren’t grad students.” [1] I have often wondered, “When do I get to stop and take a nap? Why did I agree to do this project/activity? Can I maintain this pace long term? Also, when do we get to take a nap? Will I ever get caught up?”

At times I have turned in perfunctory work to professors because I didn’t have time to offer them excellence. I have forgotten about appointments (most recently a chiropractor appointment) and double booked events. I have passed up opportunities to serve because I felt as if I were too busy. I have been blinded to the needs of people around me because my own needs seemed more important at the time. I have overlooked time in God’s word and opted for assigned homework instead. In short, I have used business as an excuse to avoid godliness. Can you relate?

Now, admittedly, I don’t know the specifics of your busy life. But there came a point when I realized that life wasn’t going to slow down and wait for me. If I was going to pursue godliness it was going to take place in the context of a busy schedule. I don’t claim to have mastered these things. But, here are a few principles that have helped me gain a better grasp on the busyness of life.

  1. JESUS WAS BUSY

No doubt, you can think of times in your life when you were busy. In Mark 1:21-34 we get a glimpse into the ministry of Jesus and find that he had moments of intense business as well. Jesus begins his day teaching in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28). While he was teaching a man with an unclean spirit cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Jesus responded by rebuking the unclean spirit and commanding it to come out of the man. When he was done teaching, immediately he went to the house of Simon and Andrew. There he healed Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever. That same evening they brought men, women, and children to Jesus so he could heal them.

“And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:33-34)

Clearly, this was an extremely busy day for the Son of God. Yet we read that, “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” This verse stands in amazing contrast to the busyness of the previous day and the busyness that would follow that week. Often times we enter into the busyness of life with grand ideas of how we “make it work.” Jesus, on the other hand, enters into the busyness of life prayerfully. He still found moments of quiet; moments to be alone with his Father. If Jesus valued moments alone with the Father we should value the same thing. Often busy times in life cause us to neglect moments of prayer but these are precisely the times we most need to carve out moments of quiet. Martin Luther is credited with saying, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” This statement seems so paradoxical yet it has deep roots in Scriptural truths. When things get crazy, enter into the busyness of life prayerfully. Listen to what Zach Eswine says about this.

“Let us now make it clear that preachers who move in missional ways will require greater monastic cultivation. Missional movement requires greater, not lesser, piety. We recognize the dangers of a retreat from culture. But let us also affirm the danger of trying to move into culture without strategic retreating.” [2]

Eswine specifically is addressing preachers in his book but the concept applies to everyone. The more intentional you are about moving into the world in a missional way, the more intentional you must be at finding moments of solitude. Jesus is an excellent example of this (Mark 1:35).

  1. WE MAKE TIME FOR WHAT IS IMPORTANT

You have heard it said that we make time for what is important, but have you ever considered that busyness is the fastest way to expose idols in your heart? How many times have you said (or thought), “I have no time,” yet somehow we are very good at staying connected via social media? I am not saying that social media is inherently sinful. But I do know that if something is important to you, you will make time for that thing. For this reason, busyness can actually be a blessing because it reveals our hearts. The next time you have a crazy busy day ask yourself, “What did I find time to do today?” Chances are this will expose your priorities and will allow you to determine if you are valuing the best things. I would encourage you to be intentional about prioritizing the most important things. Perhaps this means writing out a list of everything on your mind and separating the list into “urgent” and “important” tasks. This takes discipline but will guard you against the ternary of the urgent.

  1. BUSYNESS IS NOT A VIRTUE

In saying that busyness is not a virtue, it’s important to clarify between a busy life and a busy mentality. No doubt, a life on mission is going to be busy to a degree. After all, the people who have most impacted the world didn’t do it by binge-watching Netflix and playing Super Mario World 3. The people who have had the greatest impact in this world are the ones who poured their lives and energy into people. They were busy!

There are two extremes we must avoid here. On the one hand, we must understand that to live on mission means we will have seasons of business — our schedules will likely be full. On the other hand, you and I are not God. We are finite beings in need of rest. If your theology doesn’t allow you to plant flowers, watch Netflix, or go for a walk, you have poor theology.

But there is a difference between diligence, which leads to a busy schedule and a “woe is me” mentality which always complains about being busy. One is sinful the other is missional. The goal for believers should be to stay busy doing good works toward those in need. But this is fundamentally different than running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Yet too often we feel significance in the busyness. We like being busy because it makes us feel important. But our significance is not found in how busy we are; significance is found in Jesus. He alone can provide rest in the midst of a crazy busy life.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank my friends Joey Freeland and Josh Smith for offering helpful feedback on this article. If you were helped by something you read, please share it with your sphere of influence. Thanks! 

[1] Crazy Busy, pp. 13.

[2] Preaching to a Post-everything World, pp. 260-26.