The Remedy for an Addiction to Busyness
Editor’s Note: This article is a part of our annual Rooted Student Series, where high school, college, and graduate students share their voices, wisdom, and experiences in learning to be disciples of Jesus. This entire week (and a few more times though the month of August), we will share articles from students to encourage parents, youth pastors, and fellow students in their own walks with Christ.
For several years now, I have been addicted to busyness. As odd as it sounds, I have found myself creating work in order to stay busy. I joined more organizations, participated in more events, made more friends, and worked longer days only to find myself more exhausted and frustrated.
As a college student, I cannot walk across campus without hearing someone ask their friend how they are doing only to hear the infamous words, “I’m good, but just really busy.” It’s almost as if busyness quantifies value and serves as a way to communicate to the world that we are important. If you have yet to experience the addiction and idolatry of busyness, it can be easy to underestimate its increasing power in our lives.
My guess, though, is that you have probably experienced a similar feeling. If only you had an extra two hours a day, you could get everything done and have time to rest. If only you had an extra day in the week, and so on it goes, but the truth is more time won’t alleviate this feeling. The problem we have goes much deeper.
The Source of Our Value
For so many of us, we are addicted to busyness because we misunderstand the source of our value. We think that if we are busier, we are valuable. Catholic writer Henri Nouwen put it well when he said:
We are not what we do, we are not what we have, we are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth. I am the beloved child of a loving creator.
If Nouwen is right, then we need to be careful about drawing a connection between who we are and what we do. The Bible is clear that our dignity and worth are rooted in how God created us as His image-bearers. Yet, sometimes we live as if our dignity and worth are rooted in the way that we create. We forget the very design that made us valuable. Our value is inextricably tied to Genesis 1:27, which reads:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Our value is not in what we do, what we own, or the perception of others. Our value is found in our resemblance to the God who created us and said His creation was very good. Our value is not tied to the creation that we produce, but the creation of us. When we live with a right view of the source of our value, we can rest.
How to View Work
In order to walk in freedom from the addiction of busyness, we must have a correct view of work. If we view work as a way to make ourselves happy, then we will be left empty. Instead, we must rightly understand our work as an offering to God, as an act of worship.
In Colossians 3:23, Paul challenged the Colossian believers when he wrote, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” We see here that work is not an inherently evil burden, but rather a good and right fulfillment of what God has called us to. Viewing our work rightly means working hard when we’re at work and resting well when we’re not. Our homework, sports, and internships should all be done with a heavenly mindset, for the Lord and not for ourselves.
With this understanding, work is not primarily about money, status, or power, but about worship. If work is first and foremost an act of worship, then all work that is morally permissible under the governance of God’s law is equally valuable.
Martin Luther understood this well when he vehemently opposed the medieval Catholic sentiment towards work and presented the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The work of a priest is no more an act of worship than the work of the plumber. When we view our work as worship to God, we are released from the anxiety of approval and freed to rest in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Finding Freedom through Sabbath
If you flip your Bible open, you can hardly make it through the second page before you find the first reference to Sabbath, but unless you are a Seventh-Day Adventist, I would guess that you didn’t grow up practicing Sabbath. In Genesis 2, we find:
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
There are many reasons why churches today often ignore the Sabbath, but Jesus is clear in that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This is incredibly important. God made the Sabbath for our good and flourishing.
The Sabbath was not created to hinder us from accomplishing greatness, but to allow us to recognize His greatness. In a 2018 Anchored Passion article, my friend Graham Seymour defined greatness as “taking the spotlight off of our services and talents and aiming it right to the work of Christ on the cross.” The Sabbath reminds us that we are not God and teaches us to trust God enough to take a break. It allows us to recognize greatness because greatness is not valued by what we do, but what Christ has done.
In The Christian Sabbath, Arthur W. Pink concludes with the short poem that reads:
A Sabbath well spent,
Brings a week of content,
And strength for the toils of the morrow.
But a Sabbath profaned,
Whate’er may be gained,
Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.
What a beautiful poem with a simple truth: the Sabbath is for our good. When I want to skip Sabbath in order to work, these words remind me that God has created Sabbath that we might be strengthened.
What Does a Sabbath Look Like?
If I had to guess, you probably feel overwhelmed and stuck in your addiction to busyness. I hope that by this point, you see the value of practicing a Sabbath.
When it comes to implementing this practice, I’m using the term Sabbath pretty loosely. I’m not suggesting and do not hold to all of the requirements of the Old Testament ceremonial law, but am using the term more generally to denote a day dedicated to intentional worship and rest.
In The Christian Sabbath, Pink suggests that a Christian’s practice of Sabbath is not so much constrained to one particular day each week, but a day of rest at the end of six days of labor.
Currently, my practice of Sabbath includes elements of fasting, prayer, extra sleep, walks, enjoying the outdoors, reading, and spending time with my closest friends and family. You may object and say that you simply don’t have time for resting; that’s what I said.
Yet, every Friday night when I put my phone away for the next 24 hours and eat my last meal, I feel a burden lifted off my shoulders. The entirety of Saturday is spent reminding myself that the world goes on without me and that it is God who sustains all things. If this sounds overwhelming, let me encourage you by reminding you that I’m not perfect at this, but God is always gracious.
A Challenge to Rest
Consider setting aside a day each week to simply rest. Rather than continuing to create, spend a day and enjoy what God has created. Rather than modeling our life after the Bon Jovi song, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” let’s model our life after the pattern that God has provided for us in the Scriptures. So when you’re tempted to join yet another club you don’t have time for or pull your third all-nighter of the week, I hope this can be a reminder in the back of your head: your worth is in God’s work, not your own, and He invites you to rest in what He has already done.
For Christians, Sabbath is not a legalistic practice that earns God’s love, but a joyful gift that teaches us to trust God’s power. It allows us to rely upon the work of God rather than the work of man. By intentionally setting aside a day to rest, let’s remind ourselves who is God and who is not.
Follow Rooted’s annual student series on the blog this week and throughout the month of August, and check out all our student series articles from over the years here.