Are You Fruitful or Just Busy?
Would you say that you are a multi-tasker?
Would you declare that “There just isn’t enough time to do all that I need to do?”
Do you feel more productive and satisfied when you have gotten a lot of things done?
Have you been in a tough season emotionally and said, “I just need to keep busy”?
Well, none of those statements or approaches are inherently wrong. Shucks, I’ve said and operated that way myself at one time or another. But as a rule, those ways of thinking and approaching life can lack wisdom, and often, they simply don’t work.
I preface all of this by saying that I am not writing this from a place of perfection. I write this in the spirit of “not having already attained” (Phil. 3:12). I, too, am still pressing toward the goal of better stewarding the time that the Lord gives me. I also know that there are people reading who are already doing this well. Praise God for you! Either way, as I share a little bit on those common ways of thinking I opened up with, prayerfully we can all be helped.
Thinking about how we steward “God’s” time is something we should do in every season, but as we approach one of the busiest times of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is a perfect time to think deeply and prepare ourselves to go into the new year bearing fruit.
So, let’s examine ourselves here.
To the One Who’s a Proud Multitasker
“I’m good at multitasking.” I hear that all the time, and I’ve even said it. I don’t know if that’s really true. Sure, there may be times when we are forced to have a bunch of irons in the fire, but that as a way of living is not healthy nor sustainable.
Undoubtedly, there are moms reading this saying, That’s actually my life! I get that, but even a busy mom’s way of life can (and should) have some balance as well. I know there will be times when you may just have to juggle, but my sense is that most people think that being able to multitask is a spiritual gift or a skill that is to be embraced and sharpened—and can even be a source of pride.
My friends, I promise you that even if you manage to actually get it all done, more likely than not, it’s not all going to be done well.
You’re right, Deb. It was done, but not all done so great. But the bills are paid, the blog is written, the house is clean, the kids all ate and napped, my workout was great, I had a good lunch with my discipleship group, and at the end of the day, everybody is alive.
Okay, but what kind of shape are you in when it’s all done? What’s your spiritual condition at the end of that crazy day, crazy week, crazy month, crazy year—crazy life? We don’t have to have both hands full and our pockets stuffed too in order to be (or feel) productive. Busy isn’t necessarily fruitful or spiritual.
It might be better to commit to being consistent with one thing at a time, getting what the Lord allows done well. Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything and “better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” (3:1, 4:6).
To the One Saying, I Need More Time
Nope, you got the same twenty-four hours as everyone else.
Could it be that what we actually need is not more time, but rather to prayerfully plan our schedules, asking the Lord what He would have us do? Because we know that He will give us what we need to complete what He has called us to, right? Honestly, how often, while planning your day, week, or month, do you actually pray and then pause for guidance and wisdom?
And if you are like me— prone to just be “doing too much”—have you ever sought help from others to discern what God would have you do? That part of you that just said, I’m a grown up. I don’t need help with planning my time, resist that! Resist that pride so that God doesn’t resist you (James 4:6). Rather, question your heart on this.
And again, if you are someone who does well in this area, praise God. But to the rest of us, I think the root of the issue is that we are simply trying to do too much, and it has become a bad habit—maybe even a stronghold. We need help stopping and operating differently. I had a recent conversation with my pastor about this as it relates to a particular area in my own life. I was in a bit of a frenzy! He used the Word of God to stabilize me, but then gave me some practical wisdom for going forward.
If you can’t seem to get off the struggle bus in this area, be wise and get some help! Consider the words of Proverbs 12:15:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
To the One Who’s Happily Productive
If you do an inventory at the end of a busy day and you were able to get a whole lot done, do you feel very satisfied and fulfilled? If you do not get it all done or manage to put a big dent in it, do you feel the opposite?
Indeed, God has given us stuff to do, so getting things done is really important. But there’s a danger in measuring fruitfulness by how many tasks we complete. Some days, we are going to have a long list of important things that need to be done and will only be completed if we stay focused and work diligently. But there are some days when we would serve God more faithfully by leaving some things on our to-do lists undone and focusing on more important things, or maybe just one thing.
In Luke 10:39–41, Jesus’ rebuke to busy Martha was not because her desire to be hospitable and get food and the house ready was a bad thing. No, her desire to serve him well was a good thing, but it wasn’t the best thing. Martha was busy with legitimate stuff, but the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet to learn and worship was “now,” and Mary chose the better portion.
Likewise, you may have a day mapped out to tend to important things, and the Lord may send someone or something to you that will require you to abandon your agenda and get on His. You might not get any of those tasks you had planned done, but you may use your time better by tending to the need of a sister in distress or by helping a neighbor you’ve been trying to evangelize to get some things done in their home. Or consider this: some days you may need to just stop and spend a couple of hours praying and singing and reading God’s Word.
We are to make plans, but hold them lightly. Use pencil, not pen, and be open to the Lord editing your to-do list, so that your work can bring Him the most glory. Here’s a word that might help you. Proverbs 19:21 says,
Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
To the One Saying, I Just Need to Keep Busy
Certain situations and seasons in our life, like going through a break-up, facing a big personal disappointment or losing someone we love, can leave us feeling discontent, restless, and lonely, which are totally natural responses to any of those scenarios.
During these times, our tendency might be to just try and stay busy. Loved one, being busy is not the cure for sadness, discontentment, or loneliness. As painful as it may feel to sit still, that’s what we need to do first in these situations and seasons. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be doing anything, but the comfort, wholeness, purpose, and direction we need starts at the feet of Jesus!
No matter how busy we are, eventually we will have to stop, and if we aren’t anchored in the Lord, that stopping moment will be even more painful, empty, and lonely. Lamentations 3:24–26 reminds us that our “portion” has to be the Lord and our hope must be built on Him. He is the solid rock, the One who knows what we need before we ask, the One who cares for us and has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and the One who has a purpose for our lives.
Seek this God first and allow Him to stabilize and steady you. Allow Him to ease your pain and heal your heart; allow Him to order your steps. Here is a good reminder and promise from Proverbs 3:5–6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
To All of Us Trying to Serve Fruitfully
Beloved, as Christians, we don’t want to be about our Father’s business without seeking our Father’s will. We are so blessed to have His Word to instruct us in all things that pertain to living a fruitful life. We have His very own Spirit that will help us discern and empower us to do. And we have His Body—the Church—to spiritually and practically help us carry it all out.
Our goal is faithfulness and fruitfulness, and that simply can’t be measured by how busy we are. What I know for sure is that God does not desire for us to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I also know that if we have a pattern of just not being able to “get it all done,” there are probably some things that we are trying to do that the Lord has not given us to do.
Loved ones, He has not ordained work with no rest or results apart from his will. Instead, God has said that His desire for us is that we would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).
Sisters, as we prepare for the holidays, the new year, and all of the days that the Lord gives us, my prayer is that we may we spend our time and energy wisely, working and serving in a way that honors the Lord. For this we will need to have discernment and be led by the Spirit, which means we need to prepare ourselves with much prayer and by searching His Word to know what God has already told us about His will for our lives.
Let’s seek to be about our Father’s business, working and serving in a way that actually blesses us, encourages others, and brings glory to our God.