We know you think you’re too busy to read this, so we’ll keep it brief.
Busyness seems to be a staple of modern life. Some people treat it like a badge of honor, boasting about how they get by on almost no sleep or joking about their hopelessly overflowing inbox. However, most of the time it is used as a complaint or an excuse: “I’m too busy” to help a neighbor, plan a date night, or take time off. We’re all exhausted and unable to do what we want to do, or in some cases should do.
How can you be a faithful Christian in a busy world?
Start with God
God gave us a fixed number of hours in a day and days in a week (Genesis 2:1-3). Our job is to steward those hours to God’s glory, prioritizing what we must accomplish and choosing which things don’t get done.
It’s tempting to start by cutting out time spent in Bible study and prayer. However, being rooted in Christ must be our top priority. When our relationship with God suffers, it affects everything else in our lives. Through Him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13); without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5)—or, at least, nothing good (Romans 7:18). We can do plenty of damage in our family and work relationships when we rely on our own efforts and do what seems right to us (Proverbs 14:12).
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visited the house of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said,” while “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She was too busy for Jesus. Instead of ordering Mary to get to work, Jesus surprised Martha by saying that “Mary has chosen what is better”—spending time with her Lord. And Jesus Himself, in His limited time on earth, made it a point to regularly spend that time alone in prayer to God (Luke 5:16). If He needed to do that, then surely we do.
Telling a very busy person to take time off seems counterintuitive. However, God commanded His people to rest (Exodus 20:8-11). And only people who feel too busy to take a day off need to be “commanded” to rest.
Part of resting well is trusting God (Matthew 11:28-30). Having a Sabbath day of rest means that you trust that things will be OK if you leave them in God’s hands (Psalm 127:1-2). It shows that you realize the world doesn’t revolve around your efforts, and that you can survive without striving all the time.
Taking the time to rest will probably mean saying “No” to doing other things—including, sometimes, saying “No” to good things. Again, trust God in that. Remember that you don’t have to work to earn His approval (Ephesians 2:8-9). If God has asked you to rest, you can rest in the knowledge that He’s OK with you not working or serving at those times. Trust that God has put enough hours in the day, and when you’ve been faithful in stewarding those hours, rest knowing that is enough.
Don’t Build Up Treasures on Earth
When you are too busy, it’s fair to consider why you are too busy. Is it because you’re working 90 hours a week in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder? Are you playing the comparison game, trying to make your life, your home, your accomplishments, and your kids’ accomplishments match up with what you see through the filters of social media? Are you focused on things that have eternal significance, or just what the culture around you says to do?
Jesus instructs us not to store up treasures on earth, specifically because those treasures won’t last (Matthew 6:19). Our lives on earth are temporary (James 4:14), as is the earth itself (Revelation 21:1). It’s a better investment to spend time on things that have an eternal impact, storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
Jesus also points out that it’s a heart issue (Matthew 6:21). We are called to work diligently to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8); we just shouldn’t foolishly accumulate riches for ourselves and not be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21). The key test is your motivation. Work hard, but trust God.
Make Good Use of the Time You Have
Take stock of how you are really spending your time. Perhaps even keep a detailed log listing how you spend each hour, or each quarter-hour, for a whole week, and calculate how much time is being spent on different kinds of activities. You might find that your way-too-busy schedule includes 15 hours of Netflix, or that you spend more time on your iPhone than you do in your Bible.
We all have a limited amount of time on this earth, and it is wise to make good use of that time (Ephesians 5:15-16). That does, obviously, include using time to rest, so not every moment has to be productive. But there are likely ways you can sharpen your schedule, making more time for prayer, sleep, service, or all those other things you wish you could get around to.
There is grace when you get it wrong; this isn’t a call to perfectionism. It is simply a call to faithfulness and putting things in their right priority, starting with Christ.