by Tammy Darling
When I was a child, running through the hallways of my house, my mother would often stop me and ask, “Where’s the fire?” Her attempt to get me to slow down lasted only a short while before I was off and running again. Although I’m no longer running through my house, I still haven’t slowed down.
“Multitasking” is my middle name. I amaze my husband with the multitude of things I am able to do at one time. This is not always a good thing.
Trying to do too many things at once is counter-productive. I can accomplish more in one continuous hour than in an entire day of start-and-stop activities. I’ve found that slowing down to focus on one task at a time is better for the body, mind, and soul.
Highly regarded in our society, busyness has become a way of life. Workaholic and Super Mom have become everyday terms. Christians, too, have hopped on the “busy bandwagon.”
Excessive busyness is a thief that steals precious time with our Lord. I don’t want to be so busy that I come to the end of my days only to wonder what God might have done in and through me.
Living in Overdrive
Our reluctance to slow down is a reflection of a society where busyness is revered. Sometimes it takes a life-changing event, such as a medical emergency, to make us see that we need to slow down. But why wait for a crisis? God wants us to experience his rest every day.
The problem is that when we find a few minutes to sit back and relax, we feel guilty. In our hectic world, if we’re not constantly on the move, we’re often considered lazy and unmotivated. Living in a noisy, fast-paced society, many people simply aren’t comfortable when faced with prolonged quiet or free time.
We’ve been led to believe we should never sit without making something happen. Contemplating a beautiful sunset, staring at a crackling fire, or pondering the complexity of the human body appears to be a lost art. Something in the human condition drives us to a lifestyle of doing as opposed to being.
Sometimes the sheer number of our responsibilities seems oppressive. We are over-committed, overactive, and overwhelmed. When we’re racing to a fire that doesn’t exist, we become easily distracted, easily confused, and easily led astray.
Timing Is Everything
Just because we can doesn’t mean we must. We cannot continue stuffing more activities and tasks into our already over-stuffed lives and expect to remain physically and spiritually healthy.
God doesn’t ask us to be successful, only faithful. In God’s economy, busier doesn’t necessarily mean more fruitful. And it is fruit God is looking for. Only when we busy ourselves with the tasks he has for us will our efforts have lasting value.
Ephesians 5:15, 16 (New King James Version) speaks of “redeeming the time.” The Greek word used here for time, kairos, means “opportunity” or “in due season.” There’s a big difference between efficiency and effectiveness. God doesn’t expect us to cram as many tasks into one day as possible; he’s more concerned that we do the right task at the right time. This is the difference between self-reliant multitasking and God-reliant prioritizing.
A calendar with no blank days or a day-planner with every hour penciled in doesn’t leave room for God to work, causing us to view interruptions as intrusions instead of opportunities.
The weight of excessive responsibilities and activities can have a crushing effect on our relationship with Christ. It ruins our taste for spiritual things and suffocates our passion for pursuing an intimate relationship with the Lord. Living in a fast-paced culture, we must be careful not to allow the blessings and joys of walking daily with Christ to be crowded out by a myriad of ordinary details.
But like a runaway train heading for a collision, we often don’t know how to stop. The key is to adopt a healthy attitude toward commitment while balancing that attitude with an awareness of our limitations.
Help Is on the Way
We’re afraid we’ll appear inept. We fear rejection. We’re concerned the help we receive won’t be quite what we’re looking for. And so we do it all—or at least attempt to, and then give God our leftovers.
To admit we can’t handle daily burdens on our own requires that we give up the appearance of control. If we don’t, we’re bound to end up feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Contrary to what the world would have us believe, we are not—nor should we be—self-sufficient. Shift your focus from self-reliance to God-reliance.
Jesus never meant for us to carry a heavy load of concern and busyness. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, New International Version). Intentional solitude and rest are crucial.
Focus plays a big role in learning to balance our priorities while avoiding stress. In the sport of race car driving, new drivers are taught how to focus when they go into a spin. If they focus on the wall because they are trying to avoid it, they usually hit it anyway. Instead, they are taught to focus on where they want to go. When we focus on all we have to do, we end up trying to do more yet accomplishing less—and eventually, we crash.
Busyness is not always a bad thing. We should welcome responsibility without being overwhelmed by it. If our current schedule doesn’t include time for building a deep relationship with the Lord, we need to make some changes.
Heed the warning signs that point to overload, such as physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, resentment, and compulsive behaviors. Learn to say “no” when the timing is not right.
Start the day in peace. Take time in the morning for prayer and meditation. Take a brisk walk outdoors, watch the sun rise, or pick some wildflowers. By nurturing your own needs, you’ll be better equipped to meet the needs of others.
Spend time in the Word. No matter how busy we are, we should always try to find time to read the Scriptures. When we’re too busy to read God’s Word, it’s easy to follow the flow of culture and find ourselves caught up in worthless pursuits.
Wait upon the Lord. Rushing ahead without clear direction puts us right back on the hamster wheel of life, going nowhere fast.
Live in the moment. We want our course laid out before us so we can proceed full throttle, but that’s not God’s way. His Word is a lamp for [our] feet (Psalm 119:105), not a searchlight illuminating the entire course. God wants us to trust him for every step of our journey.
Use technology wisely. Take advantage of your answering machine and voice mail; then answer and return calls when it’s convenient. Avoid checking your e-mail every hour. Limit your time on social networks. Technology used wisely is a blessing; used obsessively it creates bondage.
Realize that quiet time is not necessarily unproductive time. The Bible does not say, “He leads me in the path of astonishing productivity and mind-blowing accomplishment whereby he is exceedingly impressed.” No, God makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters so our souls may be refreshed.
We get excited about free refills at our favorite restaurants, but how excited do we get about the free refills God offers—the Sabbath, holidays, and daily time alone with him? Do we take advantage of them or are we too busy rushing to the next thing on our to-do list?
We cannot allow the world to dictate our schedules and enslave us to unfruitful busyness. We may feel trapped by the speed of life, but getting off the hamster wheel that keeps us spinning is possible as we rely on the Holy Spirit.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
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