Life is busy. Honestly, in a given week or day, there is more stuff flowing at us (in the form of information and opportunities) than we can possibly comprehend, much less accept. Doing the right things in life means saying “no” to a lot more than you could ever say “yes” to. The challenge of the 21st century is saying “yes” to the right things, and accepting the built in limitations of the human condition. We just can’t do it all—though we often wish we could.
I’ve noticed something. Busyness is like a snowball. It’s size and magnitude grows simply by the motion of life, and it sort of sneaks up on you. We don’t realize we’re TOO busy until something starts to breakdown—and even then, we don’t always connect the symptoms with the real cause. For instance, fractured and stressed relationships sometimes have nothing to do with the heart or intent of the individuals, and everything to do with their schedules or level of fatigue.
Most everybody I know has a tendency to become too busy over time. And busyness is cyclical and seasonal—once you get everything back in balance, it seems it’s only a matter of time before your calendar is filled once again. Bad stuff happens when we get too busy and over-extended. Here’s a short list:
Our Walk with God Diminishes—it’s easy to negotiate this way— “I’m so busy doing things for God, that He will just have to understand why I don’t have much time to be with Him.” Somehow, I don’t think He’s holding a gun to our head either way. Yes, He desires that we serve Him with our lives. But He also desires that we walk with Him personally. Being too busy too walk with God is like poking a hole in your gas tank—you’re journey will be MUCH shorter for certain!
Our Physical Fatigue Increases—I know—DUH! Yet, I love the quote from Vince Lombardi: ““I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious” In fact, for a long time I had that quote hanging on my office wall. But I also love another quote from Lombardi: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all!” Funny that these both came from the same man, and they usually happen in that order! Sure—exhaust yourself in a good cause, but then catch up, rest, and restore. Don’t live in an extended state of fatigue unless you want to make some really bad decisions and have some very damaged relationships.
Our Relationships are Stretched—I really believe that the vast majority of marital/family stress and distress that Dana and I have ever experienced was more related to our schedules and fatigue than anything else. Now, before you get too “Utopian” on me—some stretching is simply unavoidable and even necessary—growth oriented. A young family, a growing ministry, and the regular pressures of a normal life bring with it a tension that stretches a marriage and forces needful growth on many levels. These are good things. Hard things, yes, but still very good and needful for long term strength and blessing.
But there is a line that can be crossed, and being TOO busy for TOO long only increases family frustration and emotional edginess exponentially. And it’s not only family relationships that are impacted. Co-laborers, friends, and ministry relationships can be hurt too. It’s simple. Being too busy means I’m mentally and emotionally “on thin ice”—edgy, tense, and stretched to my limits. It’s hard to have compassion, patience, and sensitivity towards people when my own emotional and spiritual “condition” is so fragile. Everybody pays when I’m too busy—especially those closest to me.
Our Health Suffers—When nearing the end of chemo, I asked my doctor what he would recommend I change about my life regarding the possible recurrence of cancer. While he couldn’t give me a “cause” or a “prevention,” he did say, “This cancer is an immune system illness. So do whatever it takes not to stress out your immune system. Eat well, rest properly, and recover when you’re sick.” Cancer taught me a lot, but one HUGE lesson was that I’m expendable in pretty much every area of my life, except to my wife and kids. The ministry doesn’t need me—I need the ministry. God’s work went along just perfectly without me. (Bummer.) Honestly, that wasn’t news, but it was a very real reminder that serving God is a privilege.
The other day my wife was asking me to “hurry” for some reason. I looked at her and jokingly said, “You’re stressing out my lymph nodes.” We both laughed. Simply put, nothing is more restorative to your health and productivity than rest, and nothing will enable you to have a long and fruitful family life and ministry more than being healthy—well rested and able to function optimally. It is possible to push yourself to a point where, for short-term gain, you ultimately cheat your family and ministry of long-term contribution.
Our Long-Term Viability is Threatened—We’ve all heard too many stories of people, who in short-term, low moments—moments of temptation, depletion, fatigue, or spiritual fog—made decisions that wrecked their family and ministry for the long term. Call it burn out, call it mid-life crisis, call is depression—there are a thousand causes and a thousand terms to describe or define conditions that bring us to poor decision-making. Over extending my life to get ahead for the short-term only threatens my effectiveness for the long-term. Some refer to this as “sustainable pace.” In other words, knowing that I must possibly faithfully run this race for forty more years, I’d better set a pace that will keep me running that long. You’ve heard it before—the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re sprinting, you are not setting a sustainable pace, and it will eventually catch up with you—unless you are Superman. You are trading your long-term viability for short-term gain. Bad trade.
In my experience in life and ministry, the things worth doing take time—a lot of time—in other words, patience. Pushing myself to “get it all done now” is a dead end—there’s always more to do, and what was done “faster” wasn’t usually done well. Doing less and doing it well requires patience and persistence. Someone working more and faster than you may get more done this week, but working with sustainable pace will accomplish much more over time. It’s like the difference between a sparkler and a slow, deep-burning bed of coals. One is more impressive, but the other burns hotter for a lot longer.
Being too busy tends to feeds pride and ego—it feels valuable. Being rushed and in a constant state of urgency can be validating in our search for significance.
Being balanced feeds your heart for God, helps you nurture healthy relationships, and makes you stronger and more effective on every level of life.
Being too busy, you may get more done this week and people may applaud you for it. But being balanced, you will get more done in your life time, and God will applaud you for it.
Funny thing is—what I’ve said in 1,200 words, God said seventeen— “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” (Ecc. 4:6)
Now it’s your turn to choose. How will you live this year—busy or balanced?