The conversation happened years ago and yet I still remember it vividly. I sat in a circle of women gathered for a study. Before we began our leader asked, “How would you describe the way you’re feeling in one word?” I glanced at the faces, which varied from grandmas with lovely lines around their eyes to college students wearing hot pink lip-gloss. We looked like we had little in common and yet our answers to the leader’s question were exactly the same: “Tired.” Huh, I thought I was the only one.
Exhaustion is always a symptom of something deeper. And on that day I began to more clearly see the epidemic of busyness in our culture. We complain about it. We buy fancy calendars to contain it. We take vacations to escape it. And yet we also wear it like a badge of honor. Surely “busy” means we’re important. We’re wanted. We have places to go and people to see. And, for believers, “busy” can even mean we also must be especially spiritual.
Ali Worthington describes a season when she and her husband lived this way in her book, Breaking Busy, “We were exhausted. We said yes to every request that came our way, not out of enthusiasm and joy, but out of guilt. We thought that was the way life had to be, and being ‘good’ Christians meant we didn’t say no. I mean, heaven forbid anyone should say we were (big dramatic pause) selfish.”
Can you relate to her words? Oh, how I can. And that’s why these words from God’s heart stopped me in my tracks when I recently read them: “The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteous will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place in safe and secure dwellings” (Isaiah 32:17-18). I want to gently challenge us to consider the way our world tells us to see busyness. Let’s pause and ask, “Does the way I’m living lead to what God describes in these verses—peace, quiet, confidence and security?” If not, then perhaps it’s time to consider that all the striving we think is required may not be what God truly desires.
I’ll confess there have been many times when “no” would have been the wisest answer to an opportunity but instead I said a stubborn, exhausted “yes.” And those choices took a toll on my soul. So I can relate to these words God spoke in Isaiah as well, “You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing” (30:15). Lord, make us willing! Make me willing.
God has a totally different kind of invitation for us today. He longs to bring us not into more “busy” but into His very best. He wants to replace our hectic pace with heart-deep peace. He desires to free us from fear and give us true security. May we have the courage to slow down, let go and live in grace. We do not have to prove our worth by living “busy.” We only need to remember we are already beloved.
Holley Gerth is a girl who’s drawn to busy but is learning to live as God’s beloved instead. She helps other women do the same as an author of books like You’re Already Amazing and You’re Loved No Matter What. She would love to give you a moment to catch your breath and be encouraged at holleygerth.com.