Battling Busyness

I hate the word “busy.”

For the last few weeks, and not getting any better in the near future, things have been pretty crazy. My shifts at work have been pushing 12.5 hours regularly. I have been doing some various fundraising for my trip to Uganda this summer. The work for church is, of course, never ending. Throw in there a funeral and almost a week of killer allergies to the point of losing my voice. Still to come is my brother’s wedding and a trip to Ohio on my next two weekends off. Needless to say, the word ‘busy’ absolutely describes my life right now. And it is also my most hated word in the English language.

It seems like not too long ago, the standard reply was “fine,” when people asked how you were, because you had to respond in such a way that would not be a burden to the one who asked, yet still convey that, despite minor frustrations, life is progressing as normal. But today, in most conversations, the expected response when asked how you are has changed to “busy.” Oftentimes even being said as a proud response, in such a way as to convey a certain level of importance. “Not only do I have a life, but I have so much of a life I can’t handle it all…”

After various mission trips to Mexico, Ukraine, and Uganda, I really had to let it soak into me that business is not something that should be sought after or valued because rather than proving you have a life, it usually means you are incapable of such a thing. And worst of all, when I get too busy it is often my relationships with God and with people that suffer the most.

In my relationship with God, what I have seen to be true over and over again, is that if I don’t intentionally make time to spend with Him, it won’t happen. Now, I know that you have heard that over and over, but let me add to it a little bit. Not only will I not take time to read the Bible and spend time in prayer and meditation, but my whole attitude changes from one in which I see myself first and foremost as a child of God, to an identity found in what I am doing, whether that is Pastor, Truck Driver, Missionary, or whatever. The thing that makes me busy, and leads to my frustrations begins to consume me to the point it become the way I identify myself. My success in those things begins to give me a sense of self-worth, and I begin to lose sight of God’s reality for my life.

It is at these times that I even begin to see a fundamental shift in the way my mind works, where instead of living in light of the Gospel, I functionally begin living as if it is within my own work ethic and morality where I am supposed to find my salvation or achieve my sanctification.

Typically I am a hard worker. I want to be the best at my job, so I try to learn quickly and then set myself about things at a strong pace. I want to do more than what is expected of me and I want to be able to help others in their jobs as well. A lot of this comes from the culture I was raised in, and these are good things. The problem is that I can then begin to look at those around me and begin to get arrogant about how good I am, and how hard I work in comparison to how lazy or incapable they are. This leads to a level of pride within me giving me a sense that I have achieved a level of worthiness and that I am somehow better than the others. This is a level of pride, I think, is inherent in us country folk, and it is something I continually have to battle to overcome.

Then, to make matters worse, in those times when I get overworked, frustrated, sick, or exhausted, I often find myself incapable or unwilling to keeping up the standards I set for myself. It is in those times I begin to feel condemnation or a feeling of not being good enough. These frustrations in turn, often lead to a further compromise in my morals – not doing a job right, leaving something for someone else to do, etc. If I can be blunt about it, it is a horrible downward spiral until I finally reach a “screw it” attitude. I get so agitated by the standards I know am not living up to, that in an effort to cast it all off, I quit trying, or even actively go the other way. Many times when this happens, this frustration will spill over into other areas of my life, and temptation starts to hit hard.

Although daily work and such are usually viewed separately from our ‘spiritual’ life, all of this undeniably has a major effect on my relationship to God. When I am not living up to whatever moral or ethical standards I know I should, it is sin and it separates me from the fellowship with Him.

(I am NOT saying that meeting those standards makes me acceptable to Him, it is Christ having met those standards that makes me acceptable. But my blatant rebellion against any effort to meet those standards makes fellowship with God difficult to maintain.)

To put it simply, it is easy for me to worship God and build on that relationship when things are easy and I am living right, but when things get busy and life hits, I cut myself off from Him in an effort to become my own savior. I will work harder and longer striving for success, until I am fully exhausted, spiritually worn down, and have to give up.

To make it simpler still, when things get to busy, I turn from Christ and look to my ability to be successful in all things to be my salvation. And it fails every time.

Busyness hurts my relationship with God because it undermines Christ’s role in my life and in a self-centered and self-seeking mode, I forfeit the help of the Holy Spirit in my sanctification.

Confessions

So, I confess that it is too easy for me to find my identity more in what I do than in Christ. I confess that when I successfully handle my busyness, I feel acceptable to God. I confess that when I fail at handling my busyness that I feel unworthy. And I confess that I know these are all false truths found in my sinful, prideful, idolatrous heart. The only fix is in the Gospel.

Lessons

1. I must battle my busyness.

Because our society values busyness, I must remind myself that busyness is not something to be desired or celebrated. Therefore, I must strive to manage my time well, so that times of busyness don’t creep up on me more than necessary. And, because occasional busyness is inescapable, I must continually prepare myself mentally and spiritually to handle them with the help of God’s Spirit in such a way that will not wreck my relationship with God.

2. I must preach the gospel to myself daily.

Busy or not, as a Christian the Gospel is where I must find my identity. Because it is so easy for other things to slip in and claim that role, I must daily remind myself of who I am in Christ because of what He had done on our behalf. I must seek God daily through spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and prayer. And most of all, I must remember that this is a relationship I am cultivating, not just another item on my to-do list.

This blog has been a very personal one because it is something I struggle with a lot. The question is, what about you? How does busyness affect your relationship with God? How do you handle those times? What are some other lessons that we as Christians must learn from all of this to defend ourselves from pride and false saviors? That’s what the comment link is for…