By Stefanie Boyles
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”? It sounds counterintuitive, right? Why would you intentionally add another task to someone’s to-do list that is already overflowing? And not only that, why would you have greater confidence that it’ll get accomplished as opposed to asking a not-so-busy person? Is this even true? Is this principle in the Bible?
On a purely practical sense, I found this concept to be true in my own life. I felt busy before I started working from home. I would keep the house tidy, but I found myself unable to deep clean the bathrooms even once a week. I would faithfully vacuum up crumbs everyday, but I would fail at mopping the hardwood floors on a weekly basis. Baskets of neatly folded laundry littered our living spaces (in close proximity to the baskets of dirty clothes, let’s be real). My deep cleaning schedule went out the window somewhere between kid #1 and kid #2 (it didn’t help that my husband was in Afghanistan during that year of transition). I realized very quickly that it was easy for stay-at-home moms to always feel “behind”, regardless of the number of kids in the home or a husband’s work schedule. There seems to be a countless number of things that could be tended to, time and energy permitting. Anyone else relate to this?
But then I started working from home. My seemingly packed weeks now needed to make room for 20+ hours of focused work every single week. Truthfully, my husband and I wondered out loud if the house was going to spiral out of control. Were our bathrooms and floors hopeless? Did we need to outsource and consider investing in a cleaning service? These were valid concerns and logical solutions to consider. But what happened blew me away. In the midst of an even more jam-packed schedule, a system developed! Being someone that is naturally bent toward orderly routines, I thought this could only be done with a thorough planning session – jotted down in detail with pen and paper prior to a pre-determined date of execution. But a plan was never written out – I didn’t even revive the PDF of my old deep cleaning schedule.
What happened was this: as I devoted blocks of time to focused work, I also naturally concentrated my time and energy to do other things. Can you believe the bathrooms have been deep cleaned every week (give or take a few weeks due to trips) the past few months? The quote was true! I found myself devoting a few hours every Saturday to thoroughly clean the house. And throughout the week, I found myself spending less time mindlessly browsing social media. I even engaged in less online shopping because I didn’t have time to look around! Now, if I analyzed this past week, I am absolutely certain that I can still identify many pockets of time that I wasted. Perfection is non-existent in our home. We still struggle with staying on top of the laundry, and dinner is not always ready and on the table at 5:30PM every night. But we have found that we have grown to become better stewards of our time and resources as we were entrusted with more things – and that, my friends, is God’s grace through and through.
But one Saturday morning as I was vacuuming, I found my mind considering the implications of our new routine. It’s true that investing this time was helpful for our family to function more comfortably during the week. It’s true that it set us up for “success” in meeting the demands of long school commutes, piano lessons, and t-ball practices during the week. But it’s also true that it’s an investment from the whole family. Saying “yes” to this task means we’re saying “no” to other things. We can’t do everything, and we can only do a certain number of things well. And if we lived for the weekend, this routine would be a huge disappointment. But that’s the key: we shouldn’t live for the weekend because the bulk of our lives happen during the week.
As I contemplated the sacrifices that we were making, my train of thought naturally went to the idea of date nights. My husband and I are busier than ever – three young children that are growing up and venturing into the world of organized sports and other activities. His current job has an unusual schedule that often requires him to often get up at 2:00AM or walk through the night on patrols. And now, we are making room for my job – something we haven’t had to do in 5 years! The world would say: “You guys need regular date nights!” And we absolutely do – we swap child care with our friends down the road once a month! But is that really the answer? Isn’t it ridiculous to look to a few hours out once a month to sustain a marriage? That’s too much pressure for date night! And that’s when I realized it. Our marriage has grown stronger in the last three months – in the midst of busier schedules and missed date nights! Why? How?
The reality is, this is life. Our story isn’t unique. Sure, no two families have identical circumstances. And every family has to make adjustments with the varying seasons of life and its corresponding demands. And yes, families in westernized countries wrestle with different needs and demands than families in non-westernized countries. But here’s the truth: each person is personally responsible for deciding how to live and meet his or her respective needs and demands. Each of us decides every day if we will die to self and work hard or if we’ll choose comfort and be lazy.
And the Bible speaks to that tension – the book of Proverbs has many applicable principles (which are not promises, by the way). Here are a few:
- Working hard and laziness are mindsets (Prov. 10:5).
- You need self-control to work hard (Prov. 16:32).
- Discipline yourself – wake up early (Prov. 20:13).
- Keep healthy boundaries to your work and guard against greed (Prov. 15:16).
- No matter how mundane your work feels, see the real value (Prov. 27:23-27).
(For more principles from the book of Proverbs on this topic, read this article by Pastor John Macarthur.)
There are many passages in the New Testament about working hard, as well. A verse that provides the framework for all of my work is Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) which reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” And when we fix our eyes on Christ, we can work with diligence. And we can work with integrity, knowing that He is omniscient and omnipresent. When we look to Jesus, we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1-2).
I believe this is the reasoning behind the original quote. Busy people tend to not be idle. And it is highly likely that they have developed the propensity to develop systems to accomplish more. So on a purely practical level, the quote rings true. But as believers, we need to be proceed with caution: we don’t ever want to glorify busyness. No, we want to be people of God who work hard, fully motivated by our love for Him. And this love is cultivated by daily making time to be still before Him and to study His Word. This is how we work hard out of the security of our union with Christ – the unchanging anchor where we fix our identities. Because if we’re not careful, busyness can lead to misplaced identities.
And ultimately, we want to heed to our calling of being “good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). And this stewardship extends to every single day – not just the weekend. Our lives are the accumulation of many more weekdays than weekends, and this was God’s good design. And personally, it was when I began working from home and started learning how to work really hard that I tasted the sweetness of Sabbath. You see, in our family, we try to work really hard six days a week. Then on the Lord’s day, we work really hard to not work hard. We prioritize worship and fellowship with our local body of believers. We prioritize rest. We don’t live for the Sabbath where we create more margin to be lazy – no, we enjoy the gift of the Sabbath to rest so that we can work hard for the glory of God the coming week. We live, not for the weekend or the Sabbath. No, we simply live for the glory of God.