Archives For Finding God in a Busy Schedule

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the seriesFinding God in a Busy Schedule

We book ourselves too tight. Ask anyone how they’re doing and they’ll probably say one of two things: “Good, but busy” or just “Busy.” The only thing that keeps our frequent references to the fast pace of our modern lifestyle from being a tired cliché is the undeniable truth these references carry.

As Christians, we have all experienced what it’s like to get so caught up in the fast pace of life that our relationship with God shifts to the backburner.

Is it even possible to maintain a strong relationship with God in the midst of a busy schedule? I think it is. In this post and the next two, I want to share three simple insights that have helped me to think through this issue, which is something that I am constantly wrestling with.

One of the worst side effects of a busy lifestyle is the constant feeling that you’re letting people down. I often try to hide my stress and maintain my schedule without letting my busyness bother anyone else. But it’s only a matter of time until I start letting people down. I’m not spending enough time with my family. I’m not keeping up on my to do list. I’m not answering enough emails or returning enough phone calls. Worst of all, I’m not keeping up on my devotional life. In all of these areas I feel tremendous pressure—and often pain.

The feeling of letting people down is horrible. At one such low moment, my boss and friend (and Eternity’s president) Joshua Walker put everything in perspective for me. His advice has been priceless in helping me through the overwhelming times that have kept coming since our conversation.

Joshua told me to remember that God is the only one who knows everything I have on my plate. The people who aren’t getting an email response from me have no idea how much I have going, so they’re annoyed that I’m procrastinating. But God knows. Not only does He know every item on my schedule and to do list, He also knows what I’m capable of. I don’t even know what I’m capable of, but God does. And He knows all of the effort I’m putting into every area of my life.

My schedule does not belong in a separate sphere of life from my relationship with God. He knows everything that is listed there, and He knows what He intends for me to be and to do today. My schedule may be set up all wrong. God knows how He wants to use me, and if that means that I’ll be falling short on some goals, dropping some balls, and cutting corners on some of my relationships, I need to trust Him to work in that situation and cry out to Him to help me move forward in each of those areas in a way that glorifies Him. (It also probably means that I need to loosen up my schedule in the future, but more on that in part 3.)

Ultimately, God is the only one I need to please. I need to be faithful to everything He places before me, but He is the one who decides if I’m doing well or not. If I get a bad review at work, submit a less than perfect project, or receive a sarcastic comment about me not caring about people, it’s okay. I want to do well in each of those areas (more on that in part 2), but if I can only please one person, it has to be God. I can safely leave the stress behind, work hard and do the best I can, and trust Him to work in and through me in the ways that He knows are best.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the seriesFinding God in a Busy Schedule

When life gets so busy that my relationship with God begins to suffer, my first impulse is to become less busy. But I’m not sure that that’s always the right answer.

Every semester, I talk with students who find their schoolwork getting in the way of their spiritual life. “I’m forced to read the Bible as a textbook,” they explain, “and I have so much reading to do that I don’t have time to spend with God. Bible College is killing my soul.” I’m not sure if that sounds overly dramatic or not, but let me assure you that this is a real problem that students face when studying the Bible becomes a requirement.

My answer is that Bible College is doing no such thing. That deadness was in their soul from the beginning, and the hectic pace of schoolwork simply brought it to their attention.

My advice to these students is to find a way to fellowship with God in the midst of their schoolwork. You’re required to read the book of Isaiah in a week’s time? Well, you can choose to do that separate from your relationship with God, or you can choose to proceed prayerfully, asking God to be with you as you read a little faster than you’d like.

True spirituality is not about your ability to control your schedule and circumstances, it’s about fellowship with God in the midst of everything that confronts you day in and day out.

Even if you’re not being forced to read the Bible (as if that’s a bad thing!), I believe that you can use your busy schedule as a means of fellowshipping with God. During the middle ages, there was an emphasis on humble tasks being done skillfully to the glory of God. A blacksmith, for example, would have seen his trade as a God-given responsibility, and he would have pounded away on his anvil as a means of doing all things to God’s glory (see 1 Cor. 10:31). It wasn’t about finding some sort of spiritual significance behind forging metal, it was about taking an ordinary task and doing it skillfully before the Lord.

As all homeowners know, home improvement projects never end. I initially saw these tasks as a burden that I had to push through so I could spend time with God. But during a recent drywall and stucco project, I consciously decided to fellowship with God through the craftsmanship that the project called for. It was great.

Shouldn’t every aspect of our lives be consciously lived in God’s presence? If that’s the case, then we will always be “spending time with God”—regardless of how busy our schedule is. I’m not saying it’s easy, but there’s got to be a way to approach your meetings prayerfully. Your commute could easily be transformed into a time of worship. Your emailing and report writing could be reframed as acts of faithfulness to the responsibilities that God has given you.

John 15 is the classic call to “abide” in Christ. I recommend reading through it with your schedule in mind. Notice that Jesus never mentions the hectic pace of our modern lifestyles. Instead, He simply calls us to abide in Him—this means in the midst of whatever we encounter. It’s possible, and it’s important.

Having said all of that, however, I do think that there is a time to let go of those things that make us unnecessarily busy. That will be the subject of my next post.

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the seriesFinding God in a Busy Schedule

While we need to give the anxiety we feel over our busy schedules to God, and while we should enjoy a certain fellowship with God in the midst of the activities that keep us busy, very often our schedules are busy because we are idolatrous.

It’s very likely that you are not experiencing God right now because your life is devoted to pursuing an idol.

What is your definition of success? Finish this sentence: I will know that my life has been a success when _________________ . Be honest here. You might be tempted to say “when I have spent lots of time with my family” or “when God has been glorified,” but are those realities reflected in your schedule? I would say that most Western Christians are as driven by material success as the non-Christians around them. You’re busy because you have a corporate ladder to climb, because you have a name to make for yourself, because you find significance in productivity, because you are defined by your accomplishments.

Office Deity by John Feodorov

John Feodorov created a painting entitled Office Deity that exposes this mentality for what it really is. The painting is intentionally modeled after a medieval icon. Seated on the throne, where the Christ figure would typically be seated, is the CEO. His fingers are held in a blessing pose, but instead of offering a blessing the CEO is holding a cigar. Surrounding the throne are the rank and file employees that serve the CEO. They clearly parallel angels, and they hold all of the means and the symbols of the CEO’s success.

Feodorov is not a Christian, but he has cut to the heart of our workaholic idolatry. Amazingly, he made this painting so that it could be hung in an actual corporate office! Can you imagine having to walk past such a reminder as you work on building your corporate empire? This would probably be healthy for all of us.

Whether we are worshipping the material goods that a busy schedule can bring us or the prestige that comes from great accomplishments, the idolatry inherent in our busy schedules is pulling us away from God.

But what about those who are busy in ministry? Surely this is not an idolatrous pursuit. Is it? Every contemplative minister will tell you that ministry can easily become an idol. For a few (think health/wealth gospel preachers), ministry is about striking it rich. For many, ministry is about the prestige of speaking for God or fixing broken people or the illusion of hyper-spirituality. For all of us, if we don’t already have a messiah complex, such a delusion could develop at any moment.

The messiah complex comes when you believe that you must save the people around you through your own efforts. No doubt there are huge needs all around you, and God does want to use you to spread His kingdom. But believe it or not, you are not the only person that God is using to reach the world. He hasn’t placed the weight of the world on your shoulders alone. He has a role for you to play, but yours is not the only role.

Maybe your busyness comes from a fear of being a nominal Christian—if you aren’t working like crazy for the kingdom, can you really consider yourself a genuine follower of Jesus? Laziness is bad, but so is an anxious, insecure, wrongly motivated flurry of activity.

Don’t get me wrong, following Jesus isn’t about living a leisurely life. We need to make sacrifices for the kingdom, and this will include our schedules. But we also need to realize that God’s plans for us are bigger than our to-do lists.

Before I end this series of posts, I want to reiterate that we shouldn’t necessarily run from our busy schedules—we can and should find ways to draw closer to God in the midst of every circumstance. But if an honest look at our schedules reveals even a hint of idolatry or self-messianism, then we have some significant changes to make. At the end of the day, anything—whether on our calendars or not—that we are not willing to give up for the sake of God’s kingdom is an idol.

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