Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Every Tuesday, as I come into my office to begin my week, I review my calendar. As a part of our weekly staff meeting, I prepare a report that reviews things I did last week and things that are on my schedule this week. Today, as I put my report together, I recognized that we are entering into the season of busyness. The holidays and the end of the year come together to make for a perfect storm of activity. This week I have several extra activities to add to my regular agenda. As we enter fully into the holidays, that will only increase. All of these activities are good things, but the cumulative effect can be a little overwhelming.
The Gospels tell us that as Jesus’ public presence increased, so did the demands upon his time. When the word got out that Jesus had healed a leper, people swamped Jesus. Mark tells us that it got so bad that Jesus had to stay out of towns and villages. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:45b) Wherever Jesus went, the crowds followed. At times the demands on Him were so great that he didn’t even have time to stop and eat. Jesus’ disciples were worn out and so was Jesus. They all needed some rest.
In our world today we have made busyness a virtue. People love to brag about how busy their lives are. We have confused busyness with productivity and purpose. They are not the same. Busyness is just as prevalent in the Church as it is in the secular world. Many Christians measure their spiritual health by how busy they are, yet that is a false measuring stick. Someone has rightly said, If Satan can’t make believers sinful, he will make them busy.
We all know that busyness can actually rob us of the joy of the holiday season that is before us. I cringe every time I hear someone say, “I can hardly wait until the holidays are over. I just want to be done with them.” This is one of those times of the year when we should be filled with joy, excitement and anticipation, not dread. We should be enthusiastically giving thanks to God for all that He has blessed us with. We should be wholeheartedly celebrating the truth that Immanuel has arrived. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
What can we do to enter into the season of busyness without being overwhelmed and losing our joy? The key is what Dr. Richard Swenson calls “margin.” In order to fully enjoy this season, we need to intentionally make some space in our lives. Throughout the Gospels we are told that Jesus regularly slipped away, by himself, to pray. Jesus intentionally created space in His life so that He could handle to enormous pressure that was placed upon Him. As we enter into the season of busyness, let me suggest a few things we can do to keep from being overwhelmed.
- Intentionally plan down times.
A wise man once told me, Dave, if you don’t take control of your schedule, everyone else will. We cannot blame our busyness on anyone else but ourselves. If you don’t plan in time to recharge your batteries, you will run out of energy long before the season is over. Jesus regularly slipped away from the crowds to recharge His batteries. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
- Be selective.
You do not have to say yes to everything. Choose to give priority to those activities that bring you the most joy. Try not to over-book your schedule. Even Jesus did not do everything. He was willing to leave some things undone, in order to accomplish what was most important. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.(John 17:4) There will always be activities that we are obligated to attend, but there are many more that are optional. Be wise about what you say yes to.
- Be fully present where you are.
One of the major dangers of the season of busyness is to always be looking beyond where you are to the next thing. When we do this we live anxious lives and we lose the joy of what we are experiencing in the present. Jesus was always fully present wherever He was. The story of Jairus and the woman with the bleeding disorder highlights this in His life. (Mark 5:21-43)
- Choose to embrace the joy of the season.
Our attitude makes all the difference in the world. No matter what façade we put up, our attitude will show through. The Bible tells us to choose to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
There is no real escape from the season of busyness, but we can manage it well. This should be a season of great joy and delight; a season of thankfulness and anticipation. Embrace the season, and let Jesus surprise you with His joy.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.