By Jimmy R. Lewis
Fighting for joy in the midst of a busy schedule is sometimes difficult even for strong, mature Christians. As a young professional in Washington, D.C., I have experienced and struggled with some of the pitfalls surrounding busyness. In a city and society that views busyness as a badge of honor, these struggles are inevitable, but succumbing to them doesn’t have to be.
Whether you’re a soccer mom with a full-time job or a day trader on Wall Street, I know that busyness can easily steal your joy, if you aren’t vigilantly fighting for joy in Christ and striving to glorify him in all that you do.
Disclaimer to Busy People
First, allow me to state that being busy and productive are not sins. On the contrary, these things can be sanctifying works for the Christian. Proverbs is full of commands for God’s people to be diligent, hard-working, and not lazy (Prov. 6:9, 10:4 14:23, 20:13, 21:5). Likewise, a major theme of Ecclesiastes is to find joy in one’s work (Eccles. 2:10, 24, 3:22, 5:18-20, 9:9-10). However, busyness can have many negative effects on your spiritual life. Here are four:
Compromising Quality for Quantity
We are called to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31) and to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). If busyness causes you to compromise the quality of your work, then you’re likely unhealthily busy and something needs to change. Anyone can be involved in and signed up for multiple clubs, jobs, events, internships, and classes, but not everyone can perform well in all of them. If you don’t know your limit and consistently stretch yourself too thin, causing a lack of quality in your work, then God is not being maximally glorified through your schedule or your work. There may be a great quantity of work in your life, but if the quality is compromised then the impact of the work is limited, counterproductive, and potentially self-destructive.
If God is the center of your life and the source of your joy, then your schedule ought to reflect it. We must take time for ourselves to be led and fed spiritually (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16). Allow nothing to creep into the times in your day and week that are protected for Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers—to allow this is spiritual sabotage. Time spent with God ought to be a treasure nothing else eclipses. Often times, once the day begins it is difficult to find moments (much less minutes or hours) of solitude, especially for busy people, so scheduling and protecting time early in the morning before the day begins is often our best chance to set the tone for the day and set our minds on Christ.
Non-Holistic Living/Tunnel Vision
I’ve found that people often make themselves busy with things in one area of their lives (e.g. they focus on their intellectual life and spend all of their time reading and doing little else, or they focus on their physical life at the gym and their diet, or even busy themselves with their spiritual life and fill their schedule with nothing but church events and volunteering). The problem with each of these is that we aren’t merely intellectual beings, or physical beings, or even spiritual beings. As C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than He is of any other slacker.”
Our greatest commandment is to love God with all we have; with our heart (emotions), soul (spirit), mind (intellect), and strength (body and wealth/resources). To neglect any of these capacities which God has given us is half-hearted Christianity and won’t do.
Blind to Our Spiritual Needs
Finally, busyness can also blind us from recognizing what we desperately need spiritually. We can be on spiritual autopilot for days, weeks, even months, or years; just coasting through life, accomplishing things in our professional and personal lives, without focusing on Christ and without hungering and thirsting for him whatsoever. Busyness steals joy from us by distracting us from the most important aspect of our lives—our reliance on Christ. We need Christ in order to have true joy, comfort, satisfaction, and a myriad of other spiritual blessings, but the busier we become, we often feel more self-sufficient and are blinded to our need for Christ.
Good time management is understanding how to orient and structure your time in such a way that enables you to serve God and others well. Time management can be an act of worship toward God, if you allow it to be. Finally, as Christians, everything we do should be for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31); this includes the way we arrange our schedules. Billy Graham once said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” I will be so bold as to say the same about a person’s calendar. Time is the greatest gift we can give, because it’s the only thing we’ll never get back. Let us be a people who live in light of this and devote our time to God and to the task of making him known to those around us.