Ask anyone how they are doing, and you’ll undoubtedly get the ‘busy’ reply. Being busy is seen as a virtue in today’s society when in reality being busy is nothing new, nor impressive. Anyone can fill up a schedule. Previous generations likewise had much on their plate. The Bible affirms we should active and not passive. We were made to work. Work is not part of the fallen curse. Adam and Eve were given the commission to work in the garden (Gen. 1:28-29; 2:15) well before sin entered into the story (Gen. 3). The busyness of family, work, church, friendships etc. is not a fall problem. The effect of sin entering into our story is the lack of joy we experience in our activity, not necessarily the demand for it.
What leads to this lack of joy?
Let me propose to you two problems, two solutions each with an example.
Distracted Busyness: You busy yourself with matters of less importance that therefore leads to you being less effective with what matters most. You might be busy. But busy doing what exactly? Your joy is not solely attached to your doing; it’s connected to your effectiveness.
Busy Yourself With What MATTERS – Big Rocks First
Here’s how the principle works. Imagine you have a large bucket, which you are trying to fill with different sized rocks, stones, and sand. How do you get everything in the bucket? If you put the sand in first, you leave no room for the rocks and maybe a little room for a few stones. If you put the stones in first, you might have space for the sand, but most of the rocks won’t fit.
The only way to fit everything in the bucket is to put the big rocks in first, then the stones. Then, you can pour the sand into the bucket, and it will fill all the spaces in between. The big idea – prioritise the most important!
Before you begin to map out 2019 take time to consider what your big rocks are. Put them into your bucket first and build your schedule appropriately. Don’t let the smaller, less important take precedence over the most important.
But isn’t my bucket still going to be full? How does this simplify my life when there is no space left in my bucket?
Make sure one of your big rocks is rest and recovery. Most people treat rest like sand. Don’t! Make rest a priority. Schedule it in – daily, weekly, yearly.
One of my big rocks is my own personal and families relational, mental, emotional and spiritual health. These were at one point greatly neglected but are now of utmost importance, thanks to consistent encouragement from an Elder in my church. For me to be productive and energised, I need my family to be healthy. Regular holidays are scheduled in even before the new year rolls around. Why? Because one of our big rocks got put in.
Disconnected Busyness: you focus primarily on the temporal benefits rather than the eternal purpose of why you do what you do.
One of the highest selling books in history is titled, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Pastor Rick Warren. This book was published in 2002 and was a reflection our cultures desperate need to find purpose in life. More recently the Jordan Peterson phenomenon confirms this deep longing for meaning and purpose in life. His book, ’12 Rules for Life: The Antidote to Chaos’ is also a best seller and his speaking tour all over the world is filled with men and women being inspired to take responsibility and pursue something deeper. What is particularly interesting is that this desperate longing for purpose comes in the age agnosticism and naturalism, where there is no God. If you take away the transcendent purposeful creator however you strip the human soul of the very thing it longs for.
If you find your life rarely categorised by joy then maybe you need to re-calibrate. Perhaps your joy has diminished because you’ve lost sight of why you do what you do. Or maybe your priorities are just out of whack, and now you’re stuck in a dangerous rhythm — either way, you need to establish what matters most in life and point your life in that direction. This Advent and Christmas season you have a prime opportunity to take time, reflect and make the necessary adjustments to get your life back on point.
Busy Yourself With What LASTS – Connect the Eternal to the Temporal
It’s very common for people to be active in good things, without connecting these to the eternal purposes of God. For example, many people work extremely hard in their vocation, but they do so with the goal of acquiring possessions or gaining greater prestige. The working hard is a good thing. But the underlying motivation is temporal. And temporal will never lead to true and lasting joy. That new house, new car, new shoes will undoubtedly produce a little satisfaction. But it won’t last. You’ll be eyeing off the new and better in no time.
What if you could connect what you do to an eternal purpose?
I worked a job in a retail outlet for many years and didn’t enjoy it. I had become a Christian about a year into the role and increasingly became confronted with matters of integrity and conscience. I regularly considered quitting my job but had this deep sense that God wanted me there. I couldn’t shrug the feeling, and so I stay. But I did not want to remain frustrated. I shared my struggle with a more mature Christian, and they asked me some questions around the eternal purposes of God and whether I believed God was doing something through my working at this company. I soon came to learn that one of the eternal purposes of God is to build my character. Could God’s plan in my remaining in the retail job be to conform me to Christ increasingly? The answer was yes, and as I began to connect my temporary situation with God’s eternal plan, the joy began to return. The temporal had reconnected to the eternal. My role may not last, but my character would.
Whatever it is you busy yourself with, learn how to connect that activity to eternity.
So stay at home mum; disgruntled employee; tired employer; bored student – How can you re-calibrate this summer? How can you identify and move your life towards what matters most and lasts eternally thus living a life you enjoy?