Life is busy. Especially as a mom–whether you work, stay at home, homeschool. No matter how you spend your days, it’s busy.

Being busy in itself isn’t bad. But the way we approach it can twist it into something harmful for our families and our souls.

I recently finished reading a really helpful quick read: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. In it, DeYoung pointed out three dangers of being busy.

Danger 1: Being Busy Can Ruin Our Joy

God wants us to be joyful, no matter what else is going on in our lives.

James 1:2-3

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

John 15:11

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

But on page 26 of his book, DeYoung pointed out that when our lives are too busy and frantic, we’re more likely to feel anxious, resentful, impatient, and irritable. In fact, he cited a study that found commuters experience more stress than fighter pilots and riot police! 

I don’t know about you, but my job and education haven’t provided any training for that kind of stress. So how do we build room in our busyness for joy?

Create Margin

DeYoung introduced Richard Swenson’s concept of margin: the space between our load and our limits (page 27). 

The idea is that we plan for the unplannable. We understand and accept that as finite creatures we have limits, so we schedule for less than our capacity, giving us room for the things that pop up.

This is huge for me. Given my ever-optimistic nature, I have a tendency to overschedule my time, believing I can do more in the finite amount of time I have, or believing that a bunch of small tasks will take no time at all. So I end up overscheduled, with no margin to absorb surprises that pop up.

Since reading this, I’ve been attempting to build margin into my schedule. Rather than trying to do it all, I’m trying to set more realistic plans and keep extra time for whatever pops up: my kids taking longer to get ready than I expect, plans changing, unexpected calls or texts I need to respond to right away, etc.

Stressful busyness is like hurry

When it comes down to it, this overscheduled, stressful busyness is a lot like hurrying. It affects the way we interact with others, damaging relationships and making it impossible for us to be joyful in the Lord.

I like how DeYoung wrote it on page 28:

We start to get overwhelmed by one or two big projects. Then we feel crushed by the daily grind. Then we despair of ever feeling at peace again and swear that something has to change. Then two weeks later life is more bearable, and we forget about our oath until the cycle starts all over again. What we don’t realize is that all the while we’ve been a joyless wretch, snapping like a turtle and as personally engaging as a cat. When busyness goes after joy, it goes after everyone’s joy. 

Danger 2: Being Busy Can Rob Our Hearts

Another danger DeYoung pointed out is that when we’re busy, it affects our hearts. It shifts our focus off God and onto the cares of the world or desire for other things. These are two things Jesus specifically told us to watch out for in Mark 4:19, when He explained the parable of the sower to the disciples.

but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

The world will always have new things popping up in front of us: bills to pay, deadlines to meet, meals to cook, housework to do, kids’ activities. Thinking about and planning for these things isn’t bad, but when we let the busyness surrounding them overwhelm us and distract us from God, it shifts our perspective off of God’s will and onto the world’s.

The same thing happens when we get distracted by our stuff. As DeYoung wrote on page 29:

It’s not that possessions themselves are to blame. The problem is with everything we do to take care of them and everything we do to get more of them. Is it any wonder that the most stressed out people on the planet live in the most affluent countries?

We get so caught up in acquiring new things, and then focusing on taking care of them, that our hearts can turn to them instead of God. It’s okay to enjoy the blessings God has given you, but don’t get so busy enjoying them that your focus shifts off of God!

Danger 3: Being Busy Can Cover Up Rot in Our Souls

As I wrote earlier, being busy in itself isn’t a bad thing. But the reason behind our busyness can be a problem. Is it pointing to something deeper you may be struggling with, such as people-pleasing, restlessness, or feelings of meaninglessness you’re trying to ignore or cover up?

I liked the quote DeYoung included from Tim Kreider on page 30:

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness… obviously your life cannot be possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you’re so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

It’s good to consider as you think about your schedule. Why are you so busy? Are you making yourself more busy than you need to be to cover up something else going on? It’s a good question to think about as you talk to God!

Life is Just Busy

Being busy is a fact of life. But it’s important to think about how you’re approaching your busyness. Is it stealing your joy, robbing your heart, or covering up something deeper in your soul? 

Reading this part of DeYoung’s book helped me reflect on my own busyness and ways I can make sure I’m prioritizing God and building more margin into my life. I hope it gives you some helpful things to think about in your own life, too!

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