The "Busy" Problem

The holiday season is here, and for many of us, this time of year only further exacerbates our already busy and too-full lives. So in the spirit of slowing down, pause, take a few seconds and ask yourself, “What is my current pace of life? Is my pace slow, hectic, challenging, life-giving or sustainable? Am I tired, busy, fulfilled, or bored?”

According to the Barna Research Group, 59% of all women are dissatisfied with work/ home balance, 72% are stressed out, 58% are tired, and 48% are overcommitted. If you’ve ever thought, “Time is getting away. There isn’t enough of it. I must pedal faster and faster to keep up,” then you have what Larry Dossey, a medical doctor, calls time-sickness. And quite frankly, many of us, myself included, are guilty of time-sickness all year-round. We live at a frantic pace and strive to accomplish much more than we physically have the time, energy, and ability to do.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because as Tim Keller says, “All of us look to something to assure ourselves we have spent out lives well.” After all, no one wants to waste her life. Each of us wants our life to count, to have significance, and to matter.

Jon Bloom adds, “Busyness is a statement of self-importance. We use busyness as a way of telling ourselves and, maybe more importantly, others how essential we are. Busyness is a way of posturing our significance.”

At first glance Bloom’s quote may seem a bit harsh, but think about this. When you ask a friend how she is doing, how often does she respond, “Busy, but good,” or  “I’m tired, but I’m doing okay”? And how often do you respond that way? I am probably guilty of saying something to that effect multiple times a day, and I’m not even aware of it. The person responding probably doesn’t even think about her answer, but unconsciously and subtly she is trying to convey to you her worth. She’s busy. She’s producing. She’s achieving. Or perhaps she’s trying to convince herself of her worth.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I fall into that category. You see, the default way I measure the worth of my life is by what I’ve produced. By what I’ve accomplished and achieved. And achievement and busyness often go hand in hand.

Ever since I was little, my default pace of life has been busy. I busied myself with homework. It earned me straight A’s. I busied myself with volunteer activities. It earned me a college scholarship. I busied myself with being liked. It earned me friends. I busied myself with producing successful events at a former job. It earned me another job. And on and on it goes.

For much of my life, being busy and achieving has directly equated with my sense of self-worth. And I’ll tell you where that hyper-productivity got me. It took me directly to a state of anxiety, depression, and to many counselors’ offices. I constantly felt exhausted and self-defeated because my work was never good enough and my work was never done. There was always more that I could have done and another goal to realize. There was no end in sight, and my sense of self-worth yo-yoed up and down constantly.

As Carl Honore reveals, “The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in a less and less time, has gone too far; it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry.” And what is at the center of that idolatry? A need to make a name for myself. A need to be esteemed for what I produce and accomplish. A need to achieve despite all else.

And obviously, this insatiable desire to achieve and produce is not a wise or God-honoring way to live my life. Because I’m often consumed with producing, I sometimes fail to take the time to listen to God and to discern where he is calling me. And if I’m not listening to God, then I’m going to have a difficult time living my life in a way that honors him. I’m going to push myself to achieve things that God hasn’t called me to do. I’m going to try to work in my own strength rather than in the strength of the Lord. I’m going to be distracted and very likely, burn out.

And herein lies the fundamental problem of a life characterized by busyness and hyper-productivity. Everyday I must ask myself, “Who am I choosing to honor with my actions? Myself or God?”

Scripture tells us that there is only one who is worthy of our worship and of our life, and that is God alone.

Paul instructs us in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

Did you catch that? In everything, in the laundry, in the budget meeting, and in the car pool line we are to live our life as though we are serving God, no one and nothing else.

As we go about this busy holiday season, may God alone be the one we seek, the one we trust, and the one we honor with our life.

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