I recently felt convicted after a conversation with a friend. She’s very busy at work and explained how she cannot possibly survive without working 60+ hour work weeks.
“Do you think you’ve turned your job into an idol?” I asked, hesitantly.
“That’s a good question,” she responded. “But I don’t think so. This is just my work season for right now, and there’s no other way around it.”
I sighed. Not because of her answer, but because of my question. I should’ve known better. Christians who work long hours (sometimes) get too much criticism. Do you expect a surgeon to work 32 hours a week?
Most Christians I know are busy. And the Christian publishers have taken notice. With helpful books like Crazy Busy and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World and a host of others, the books and resources on dealing with busyness are in full-swing. And this, to be sure, is something we need.
But . . . wait.
Is busyness always a bad thing?
Like every time?
Busy Versus Hurry
I think we can nuance this better.
See, there’s a difference between busy and hurry. Busy is when you have a lot on your plate. Hurry is when you have too much on your plate.
Hurry looks like this:
- You’re way too busy for devotions.
- You’re way too busy for family and friends.
- You’re so stressed at work that you’re about to quit.
Busy looks like this:
- You’re busy, but you intentionally rise early to pray and read.
- You make time for family and close friends, but say “no” to the rest.
- You occasionally work longer hours at work because you flat-out have to.
Hurry is always bad, but what about busyness?
I think many people define busyness in terms of activity. This is misleading. It’s misleading because it assumes that all activity is good. You can have a schedule filled with activities, but be doing all the wrong things. Your goal should not just be efficiency (getting a lot done), but effectiveness (getting the right things done).
Our question remains: Is busyness always a problem?
I don’t think so. While busyness can be a problem — namely, if it leads to hurry, or meaningless activity — I think busyness can actually be a blessing.
Four quick ones come to mind.
4 Blessings of Busyness
1) Busyness helps fight sexual temptation.
John Piper says that busyness is one way single Christians should fight sexual temptation. He’s right. When Piper mentions “busyness,” he doesn’t have in mind distractions like video games and social media (though those things aren’t necessarily bad). What he has in mind is Christian service: keeping your life busy by serving others to the glory of God.
The Bible explicitly rebukes idleness (2 Thessalonians 3:11, among other places). To live in idleness is to live in sin. Almost every Christian I know who (consistently) struggles with sexual sin of some sort also struggles with the sin of boredom and idleness.
2) Busyness sparks innovation.
In his excellent book, What’s Best Next, author Matt Perman describes a time in his life where he was overwhelmingly busy. At one point, he pulled three all-nighters to work on projects. Perman recognizes that this was a mistake. But out of this very busy season, he created productivity systems and personal development skills that changed his life. He even turned it into a book and a website, and now, this content is helping others. His busyness helped spark his ideas.
I find this true in my own life. I’ve read plenty of books and blogs that suggest I take a vacation or travel to a unique destination to help my creativity. But this never works for me. Instead, my best ideas come at random, odd times during the mundane, busyness of life.
3) Busyness increases self-awareness.
You have to know yourself if you’re going to lead others.
“When should you say yes?”
“What about no?”
“How much can you handle?”
These questions can only be answered through trial and error. And usually, only with getting really busy, figuring out your capacity, and then making the proper life adjustments. But you’ll never really know until you get your hands dirty. Busyness, as they say, reveals your true character.
4) Busyness identifies with Jesus.
The word “immediately” appears over 40 times in the Gospel of Mark. Clearly, Jesus was no idle man. He was busy serving others, doing the work the Father gave him — securing the salvation of God’s elect through his perfect life, death, and resurrection.
Yes, Jesus was busy. No, he was not incessantly busy, as the Gospel writers often mention his rising early to pray and escape the crowds. But his life was not characterized by inactivity.
When you’re busy to the glory of God, you can identify with Jesus, and he can emphasize with you.
Life is Meant to Be Spent
The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there’s a time and place for everything. There’s a time of rest, and a time of work; a time to play, and a time to create. Life is not always the same. And if you believe the gospel, you’ll never overwork, but you’ll never underwork, either. Your life will have just the right balance.
So, friend, take your vacations. Rest a lot. Do your devotions. And get plenty of sleep. But don’t let anyone make you feel bad for being busy, if your busyness, of course, is done for the glory of God. As N.D. Wilson says, “Life is meant to be spent.”
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