Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung tells of a woman visiting the United States from another culture. Soon she was introducing herself as "Busy." DeYoung says in his book "Crazy Busy," "It was, after all, the first thing she heard when meeting any American. Hello, I'm busy — she figured it was part of our traditional greeting, so she told everyone she met that's who she was."
Now that's a funny story, but as a card-carrying member of the "crazy busy" club, it hits far too close to home for me … and maybe for you. Scott Dannemiller, a former missionary who blogs at the Huffington Post, admits that "busy is a sickness," and that he's a sick man. Once Dannemiller told a friend at the gym that he was "crazy busy," and his friend asked what was on his schedule, so Scott listed all his planned activities — a church music rehearsal, a basketball game, fixing the kids' supper, a date night with his wife, and so on.
The friend said simply, "Sounds like a full day. Have fun!" Dannemiller resented the response. Didn't this guy understand just how harried and horrible his life was? The nerve!
But later, he started to think. "I wear busyness like a badge of honor. Most of the time, I manufacture urgency in hopes that it will create urgency in others. Instead, it only creates anxiety, resentment and spite." And he's not alone! The American Psychological Association's says that a majority of Americans acknowledge that their stress levels exceed what's necessary for good health. The number one reason they cite—you guessed it—they're too busy.
Now there are those seasons of life when busyness is beyond our control, such as having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet while taking care of our other life responsibilities. But far too often our busyness is chosen. It's a cultural habit that we've all acquired.
"In America, we are defined by what we do," Dannemiller says. "Our careers. What we produce. It's the first question we ask at parties, and often the first tidbit of information we share with strangers. The implication is if I'm not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something." That's a lie straight from hell, isn't it?
Friends, it is good to be diligent and productive, of course. But it's also necessary to rest. Think of Jesus. Sometimes He ministered late into the night, preaching and healing. His days were full. But other times, He withdrew, in order to pray and to rest.
Remember that story in which Mary was "wasting time" at the feet of Jesus instead of helping Martha? "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered the complaining sister, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—and indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
My colleague Stan Guthrie once attended InterVarsity's Urbana student missions conference where one of the speakers shared a very important lesson with these idealistic and eager college students: "Sleep is spiritual!" he said. And he was right; it is spiritual. Try serving the Lord without sleep.
Of course, it's more than just a physical issue. It's a worldview issue. We commonly suffer from this illusion that we are in control. We have a hard time putting our heads on the pillow when we forget that God is God and that we are not. As the Psalmist says, we need to be still and know that God is God. Do we trust Him enough to slow down?
So let's trade our busyness for fullness. As Paul said, let's abound in the Lord's work, knowing that our labor, and our rest, are not in vain.