Friday, December 12, 2008

Beware of the Barrenness of a Busy Life


In all honesty, we probably find that both of these kinds of lifestyles are ours depending upon where we are and what we are doing on any particular day. But is there a quality of life difference between the two? I think there is. Throughout God’s Word, we are told to busy ourselves with good works however the business of busyness is to be done in a quietness of spirit that reflects dependence upon God to accomplish the tasks set before us. Isaiah 30:15 addresses this in stating to the very busy people of Judah that “. . . in repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength—but you were not willing.” What weren’t they willing to do? First of all, they were unwilling to slow down, take a breath, and spend time reflecting upon their own relationship or lack of a relationship with God. Second, they were not willing to step on the brakes and put a stop to the flurry of activities their lives were becoming overwhelmed with.

I think the reason for Judah’s problem with busyness is our problem. I also think we often stay busy for the same reasons they did. You see, they were unwilling to slow down because to slow down meant they would have time to think and then they would have to deal with their “issues”, whether those issues were with God or others. A lifestyle characterized by busyness and the constant “fluttering of wings” that must be involved in activity after activity and project upon project is often characteristic of a person who is afraid to allow time and space in their day to think because they have undealt with issues (read—sin) and/or guilt, fear, shame, insecurities, etc. that they are unwilling to face. The people of Judah would not slow down because they were unwilling to repent. Their hustle and bustle lifestyles in which they rushed about from place to place and activity to activity were indicators that they couldn’t stand the quietness of a life examined and in touch with God.

I realize that there will be people reading this that will argue, “busyness and activity are my personality—it’s the way I’m wired”. I don’t doubt that there are people who by nature are more prone to a busy lifestyle than others. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with occupying your life with productive and meaningful activities that God is leading you and energizing you to accomplish. I consider myself a busy person in these terms. However, I also realize that apart from time spent in quiet dependence upon God in which I stop, take a breath, and apply the brakes so that I can relate to Him and to my own family, I could never accomplish the tasks God has placed before me.

Years ago, I learned that the Bible does not teach that believers are to meet other people’s needs regardless of what they are. Yes, you read that right. I learned instead that we are to be busy engaging ourselves in meeting “pressing needs” (Titus 3:14). Everyone has needs. And if you believe it is your job to try and meet everyone’s needs you will live a frenzied, harried and really unproductive life for the Lord. Our responsibility is to meet “pressing” needs. Those are needs that are real. These kinds of needs as defined by the Greek word Paul uses in verse 14 have to do with the necessities of life rather than the comforts or conveniences of life. These are needs that if not met will radically affect a person’s ability to survive physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Now, to obey the Lord in this you must have and use great discernment in determining what is a pressing need and what is not. This, my friends, takes prayer and thought. And this requires a quiet heart.

The most productive Christian is usually not the busiest one. This is a hard lesson to learn, especially for the likes of me. But it is a necessary one to learn. Jesus taught it often and even made a point of letting us know which is the better way when it comes to a blustery busy spirit that is always trying to be “busy” for the Lord and a calm quiet spirit that desires to be with the Lord. You know the story. Its found in Luke 10:38-42. The main characters were two women, Mary and Martha. While Martha fluttered, fumed, and fussed—Mary sat and listened. In assessing whose activity was most valuable Jesus put it this way:

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, Which shall not be taken away from her.”

By the way, the Greek word used for “pressing needs” in Titus 3:14 and the word "necessary" above are one and the same.

Let’s not get caught in the trap of unbridled busyness. Let’s be busy but busy doing the right thing, which will inevitably lead us to accomplish the right things.


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