My home is packed full to the brim with everyday life, often in a way that feels like it might be more than I can handle. Six little people depend on me for food, clean clothes, help with their homework, scheduling doctor’s appointments, filling out paperwork, and every skill needed to launch them into adulthood.
I have a list of tasks for the week in my bullet journal, and a daily checklist to track what’s most important that sometimes gets missed in the urgency of the moment. Chore charts hang on the command center near the kids’ backpacks, and we’re trying hard to maintain order and rhythm because things will inevitably fall through the cracks.
Life is busy. You don’t need a big family to know that. Talk with any one of your friends about your life and theirs, and nine times out of ten, before the conversation ends one of you will say, “I’m just so busy.” And then you sigh, worn out from the demands of life.
As Christians, we’re called to care for our families, to love our neighbors, serve the poor, be hospitable, and use our spiritual gifts within the church. People and service require commitment and action, but if the needs within my home keep me busy enough, how can I possibly have time for anything — or anyone — else?
When do we say no? How many times should our family have commitments during the week?
Are we serving enough? Is it possible we’re doing too much?
I’ve been wrestling with these questions lately, trying to discern realistic expectations for myself and my family as we seek to be involved in our church and community, and still keep up with the everyday demands of work and home. We’ve worked through some specifics for our family in this new school year, but our overall conclusion is this:
No matter how many children we have, the number of hours we work, our ministry involvement, or the number of friends in our lives, we will always feel busy.
How do we live well in the midst of unavoidable busyness? The Bible doesn’t give specifics on how to spend each hour of the day, but it does offer some insight into what is most important in the midst of a busy life.
Busyness that reflects Jesus
You don’t have to read very far into any of the four Gospel accounts to discover that Jesus was busy. He went from village to village teaching, proclaiming the gospel, and healing people’s diseases (Matthew 9:35). How did Jesus handle this busyness? In the midst of all his activity, he was busy in a way that glorified God.
Jesus spent time with his Father.
Busyness that reflects Jesus will be driven by a soul transformed through time with God.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, ESV)
Jesus prioritized time with God. Verses like the one above are scattered throughout the gospels. Jesus prayed with and for his disciples. He modeled a life that was characterized by seasons of prayer and moment-by-moment dependency upon God.
Are we creating space in the midst of a busy calendar to meet with God? Consistent and meaningful study of the Bible won’t happen by chance. Do we recognize the importance of fellowship with God through prayer and listening to him through his word?
Abiding in Christ is constant engagement with what we know to be true about God, who he has called us to be, and living within the realm of his authority and transforming power in our souls.
As we practice prioritizing prayer and Scripture reading, we can experience the kind of ongoing intimacy Jesus had with God the Father and pray for it to have a lasting effect on our souls. We can also experience time with God throughout the day, as we ask him for help in our moments of weakness. We can whisper prayers of thanksgiving as we wash the dishes, and intercede for the needs of our friends while we fold laundry. Our ordinary moments and daily tasks are full of opportunities to abide in Christ.
Jesus created space for rest.
Busyness that reflects Jesus will view rest as a means for spiritual and physical renewal.
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6:30-31 ESV)
Jesus invited his disciples to rest from their work and ministry and also modeled this for them by withdrawing from the crowds and going to a mountain or desolate place to be alone. Jesus didn’t always experience the rest he sought; the crowds often followed. But he looked for it and recognized its value in his life and ministry.
Resting sometimes feels like a worthless pursuit, and I fought against it for a long time. When I finally allowed myself to embrace my limitations, the need for rest became a gift, and I learned how to make it a priority.
Rest is not withdrawing from our work altogether. Rather, it enables us to be refreshed and renewed in our callings.
During the week, rest can look like setting your phone aside at certain times of the day or going to bed at a decent hour. Sometimes it’s sitting down to eat your lunch, or pausing for a few minutes to drink a glass of water, read a chapter of a book, or pray.
Over the past couple of years, practicing a once-a-week sabbath day has been such a gift for our family. We prepare for it on Saturday by catching up on the laundry, straightening up the house, and making a big meal that will provide leftovers for the next day.
On Sundays, I try not to cook, we mostly use paper plates, the kids have mandatory quiet hours in the afternoon, and my husband and I engage in hobbies that we typically don’t have time for during the week.
We tend to run ourselves ragged accomplishing all that needs to be done, and in the process, we often forget that we have physical limits. Creating space for rest can help to ensure that we are renewed for the tasks God has called us to do.
Jesus made time for people.
Busyness that reflects Jesus will include time with people who need the truth of the gospel.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV)
Jesus spent time by the sea, on the mountainside, in the villages, and in the synagogue, and everywhere he went he engaged with people. Whether with the crowds, his disciples, the Pharisees, the sick, individuals who came to him, or ones he sought out, he spent time with the lost people he came to save. He was intentional and purposeful in every interaction.
Take a minute to think about some of the people mentioned in the gospels: Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, the rich man, the woman at the well, the thief on the cross, little children. Each of these stories could be considered an inconvenience or an interruption, but not to Jesus. He pursued, responded, and spoke words of life to every single one.
Busyness often looks like juggling personal or family activities, and our tendency is to forget that we are called to live in community with others and to represent the gospel to a lost and broken world (2 Corinthians 5:20).
For us, time with people will include corporate gatherings at church or in a small group. Other days it might look like grabbing coffee or taking a walk with a friend. Some days, the only people you engage with will be your children or the clerk at the grocery store, but each encounter is an opportunity to speak and act in the love of Christ as his ambassador.
Do we see the people around us with compassion? Are we responding to the needs of others with gentleness and patience?
Are we leaving room for the unexpected neighbor who might pop over mid-morning for a cup of coffee? Who could we invite over for dinner or a play date this week? These are good questions to ask as we strive to model our lives after Jesus.
Jesus kept an eternal perspective.
Busyness that reflects Jesus will be marked by a mind set on God’s eternal glory.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 ESV)
Jesus was always moving toward the cross. His every decision, each conversation, the miracles, his teaching — all of it pointed to the suffering he would experience in order to accomplish redemption. He kept going, driven by the joy awaiting him, mindful that on the other side of his death was his resurrection and ascension back to heaven. Salvation from the bondage of sin and the gift of eternal life would be accomplished for those he died to save.
Jesus lived a busy life on earth, but he was always looking toward heaven.
I can get so wrapped up in the work before me, that my view of eternity becomes clouded. Changing a diaper doesn’t feel like it impacts eternity. But when we do an ordinary task with a cheerful spirit, we glorify God. When we take time to instruct our children instead of reacting to their disobedience, we’re making deposits of truth into their souls. When we go out of our way to encourage a stranger, we scatter seeds of Christ’s love that might open a door for the gospel.
Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (ESV).
We can’t escape busyness in this life, but we can embrace it with our hearts fixed on the glory of God and the hope of heaven. We can approach life with the perspective that in Jesus, a full life can be lived faithfully. So friend, as our schedules fill and our homes and checklists overflow with plans and activity, may we pursue the kind of busy life that reflects our Savior.