godliness, cleanliness and…busyness

Has anyone else noticed that busyness is right up there with godliness and cleanliness these days? It’s as if busyness is a virtue. A mark of spiritual maturity. Ask people how they are and they roll their eyes and sigh, “I’m fine, but busy.” Now, to be honest, I must admit that I do this too. A lot. Because, well, I’m busy.

We are reassured by our busyness and strangely comforted by it, even as it saps us of all strength and keeps us from feeling as if we are succeeding at even one of our responsibilities.

-Tim Challies, “I’m Not Busy

Why are we busy? There are a lot of reasons why people are busy. The reasons are as diverse as the people concerned. Especially if the people concerned are women. We’re good at thinking we’re called to do everything and feeling guilty and miserable if we say no to something. I don’t know why you’re busy, but some of the common reasons why I’m busy are:

  • I succumb to peer pressure. It’s fashionable to be busy. Busy means “productive” and “responsible”, right? If I’m not perceived to be busy, I’m embarrassed. I worry that people will think I’m lazy or irresponsible if they don’t know that I’m as busy as they are…or busier.
  • I’m proud of being busy. I’m tempted to stay busy with study and work and ministry because everyone I know and respect is busy too. We grumble about how busy we are together. I don’t want to be left out of “the busyness club”.
  • I’d rather be busy — and exhausted — than miserable. In periods of pain and stress, busyness keeps my emotions and tears under control. I’m tempted to get busier when life gets harder. If my head hits the pillow as soon as I collapse into bed then I don’t have to worry about my family or my future.

And so I’m godly and clean and busy. I’m busy-busy-busy. I’m too busy. I live in a whirlwind of activity and noise. I’m exhausted. And God, although He’s gracious and generous with His blessing and favour, has a different, eternal perspective: “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing…” (Isaiah 30:15)

I love the idea of being quiet and trusting, but I’m usually better described by the end of the verse: not willing to be quiet and trusting. God, however, is serious. It is in quietness and trust in Him that we are saved and strengthened — not in noise and worry, activity and busyness. Elsewhere in the Bible God says:

  • “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
  • “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)
  • “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

Stopping and hushing in this world of ours is hard. It’s harder than running and shouting — embracing the activity and noise — with the crowd. Deciding not to be busy is radical. It’s almost revolutionary. I haven’t figured out how to do it consistently. I’m not telling you how to do it consistently.

Today, however, I’m encouraging you to find a moment to stop. Hush. Breathe. Think about how you can be less busy. Start by realising that …

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But He never asks me to do it all!”

-Holley Gerth, “Are You in the Guilt Cycle or the Grace Cycle?


  1. Oh, what a timely post! I am back to visit at the moment at a place where I was quiet and non-busy. One of the richest growth periods of my life. I am currently back, eager to see if I can refind some of the lessons I learned and learn again to be un-busy AND productive again… 😉

  2. Oh, Elisabeth, this made me sit up and take notice! Especially since it’s the final two weeks of the semester–crunch time–and *everyone* around me is super-busy! Thanks for this encouragement and that amazing verse…

    1. I hear you, Rachelle, I really do. This is definitely crunch time for students. I’m in the middle of an essay at the moment and constantly thinking, “Hurry, hurry, hurry …” when I’m torn between studying and work and family. I’m trying to remember to take deep breaths and hush … just stop being busied and hurried … when I can! Praying for grace for you as you do everything you need to do at the end of this semester …

  3. I agree this is so encouraging! I am currently at the opposite end where I’m not very busy, but I feel guilty because everyone else is. It’s hard sometimes to trust God that this is right where I am supposed to be. But God has been using the time to teach me surrender of the ‘small’ things in my life & it has been wonderful 🙂

    1. Hi Laura! I can understand feeling guilty because everyone else is busy. I sometimes wonder how I’d feel if I wasn’t, for some reason, busy. I imagine, however, that God has something special to teach you in this season of comparative quietness and stillness. I remember that I had a VERY quiet, still year in my early twenties and wondered what God was doing. I know now that what He taught me then – and the time that I had to breathe and BE – was foundational to what He’s doing in my life NOW. I hope and pray that this season in your life continues to be wonderful!

  4. Wonderful article, Elisabeth! I really appreciate the encouragement to slow down and be still. “Be still and know that I am God…” I know I need to this more in my life. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Melinda! 🙂 I need to know the reality of being still and knowing that God is God more in my life too. I’m glad we can share encouragement along the way!

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