Outside of my 89 year old gramma, it seems everyone I talk to is either tired, stressed, or busy. In most cases it is all three. Ask someone how they are doing and you could nearly bet your dog that the answer will be one of, what I call, the Big 3 – busy, stressed, and/or tired. If they are not, they just well may receive looks of indifference. Granted, the jobs and activities that we and our families are involved in as followers of Christ are not in themselves evil, but the trend or pace we are on is concerning.
America is the land of the free, but somehow along the way, we have become the land of the busy-body. Somewhere along the way we have missed the warning signs of this incredible pace and instead have held it up in honor. The soccer-mom mentality is admired. You are busy and tired and stressed? Wow, you are really living life! There has become a heavy dependance on drive thru’s to feed us, caffeine to sustain us, and coaches to raise our children. Certainly we have those weeks and days that a Hot-N-Ready may be in order. Further, evening church, youth sports, serving on a community board, etc. are good things. I am not saying Eating a Whopper or drinking a Starbuck’s caramel frap will send you to hell. However, it is the composition of all these activities and the “conforming to the patterns of this world” that put us in a dangerous and precarious position that opens us up to the subtle but effective attack of the enemy. The exception has become the norm.
I am convinced if Paul was writing a letter to the American church he would be addressing the Big 3 of busyness, stress, and tiredness. In fact, I am not sure most of us know how to rest and play in a way that honors God. I am also not sure most of us don’t know how to stop this rapid pace and its accompanying avalanche of stress, fatigue, and busyness. Lastly, I am not sure we really see the grave problem with it?
As a follower of Jesus Christ I find all of this quite disturbing. As a minister to adolescents the last 18 years I find this alarming. I’m not sure we even know how to really play and rest in a way that brings glory to God. There was a time I use to think only adults were too busy, but sadly I’ve come to realize that the Big 3 is out to kill everyone, not just adults. And by kill, I mean destroy us. And by destroy us, I mean steal us. I believe there is someone behind the Big 3 and he doesn’t live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington D.C. Jesus warns us about him and calls him a thief who only comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is the enemy of God. His name is Satan.
His attack is subtle but intentional, strategic, and exacting. As the brain behind the Big 3, he has quietly and deceptively worked into the fiber of our lives. He doesn’t show up at our door wearing horns and holding a pitch fork. Therefore, we have fallen blind to his attack. Could we fathom the thought of wickedness and evil being clothed in our fast-paced life? Or does this idea seem absurd and ludicrous. Could the thief be grinning as we find ourselves too busy to sit down and read our bibles? Or too tired to get on our knees to pray. Or too stressed to find time during our day to commune with God – the very One who can alleviate our stress and calm the storms of busyness in our lives. What follows next? A diminishing intimacy with the One who loves us the most. The thief slowly and methodically destroys our relationship with God. We find ourselves with no time for Him nor ministry. And before we know it, our faith is stolen right beneath our nose. And we seem perfectly intent with it!
All this has hit hard in my own life as of late. I am proud to say no one has ever called me a workaholic. I manage my time well and teach time management. I have rules in place for how many evening per week I am out. I wake up most morning before dawn and spend time with Jesus. Yet, as my children have grown older and the responsibilities of my job increased I found myself face to face more frequently with the Big 3. I found myself fighting hard to not to be stressed, tired, and busy. I found myself losing this fight more than winning. What was I losing? Intimacy! Intimacy with Christ Jesus. Intimacy with my wife. Intimacy with my children. And even intimacy with my dog. The most important things in my life are these relationships and losing these, frankly, is unacceptable. My fight or flight instincts kicked in, so I fought. I am still fighting.
How do we fight against the Big 3? Paul tells us that our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).” In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul warns us about not allowing Satan to outwit us. He victoriously pronounces that “we are not unaware of his schemes.” Our greatest weapon is not energy drinks, fast food, sleeping aids, or smartphones, but rather in Jesus. Need rest? Jesus. Need peace? Jesus. Need perspective? Jesus. Need order? Jesus. You name it – Jesus. It is through Jesus that we can punch back at the Big 3 and our foe behind them.
The following blogs I will look at two practical ways to counter the Big 3 – a daily non-negotiable time with Jesus and in stealing moments with Jesus throughout our day. They are simple, easy, and effective. They will set us up to live the abundant life God has called us to live despite living in such an increasingly fast and demanding culture that seems unwilling to relent.
I am still deep in the battle, but I am finding these two practicals are winning back my pace, my focus, and most importantly, my intimacy with Jesus, my wife and my children.