Busyness Is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

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Many successful Americans do not talk about resting. College students certainly don’t. On campus, I find myself stuffing my days with numerous activities back to back, or doing my homework while shoveling down my lunch so as not to waste a moment of time, or lying in bed after a long day rehearsing my to-do list for the next day.

Rest? No, that’s a sign of defeat. We keep going.

We even pride ourselves in our busyness. If you’re constantly busy, you’re going somewhere — and if you aren’t busy, you’ll never make it in the real world. Success only waits for those who never stop — or at least, that’s the lie that we believe. That is why we overbook ourselves with leadership positions, various clubs, volunteering, jobs, special projects, and of course, an active social life. We just can’t say no.

Our constant busyness is not really about productivity or high aspirations. It’s about control. It’s about the lie that we run our lives, not God.

Pride Dressed as Planning

Many sins stem from our desire to have control: we’re anxious, we crave others’ affirmation of our success, we look down on ourselves when we mess up, we’re jealous of those who appear to have it together, we don’t trust God. We suffer from a pitiable fear that things will go wrong if we’re not in control, but it is also a high-handed, prideful claim that things will go better if we can plan our lives instead of God.

God did not spare his own Son to save us (Romans 8:32) — and we think that he can’t be trusted with the career we choose, or the classes we take, or who we eat with? He cares about even the smallest details of our lives because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Why would we need to take anything into our own hands when he offers to carry our burdens and lead us into a future that he has already ordained (Matthew 11:30; Proverbs 16:3)?

Pride says that I have earned greatness by what I’ve achieved. The gospel says that all we’ve ever earned is the wrath of God (Colossians 3:6), but because of Jesus’s humble submission to the point of death on a cross, we are able to share in his great glory, provided we suffer with him now (Philippians 2:8; Romans 8:17).

Grab Control from God?

God is sovereign over the earth and orchestrates all things to work together to his own ultimate glory (Psalm 115:1, 3). And he is sovereign over our lives, our hearts, our desires, and our circumstances so that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Yet our Enemy wants us to believe the lie that God doesn’t want what’s best for us, or he can’t actually come through for us. Instead, we have to take it all into our hands. We need to map out our days to the last millisecond. We want control. We get busy.

It was the same lie that Adam and Eve believed: God is withholding something good from us. If we want to be wise, we need to grasp it ourselves. They wanted control, they grabbed for control, and it ended in a cosmic tragedy that we still feel today.

Bought with a Price

The problem is that our lives are never ours to control. Like Adam and Eve, we try to grasp for ourselves the life that should be received as a gift. We’re created by God to glorify him and walk with him in the works prepared by him (Ephesians 2:10). We are emphatically not our own, but purchased by the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). That means we don’t get to control how everything plays out in our lives — and it also means that God’s plan will be better than the plans we’d like to insist upon.

He’s worthy to trust with our schedule. He’s worthy to trust when we don’t accomplish our daily tasks. He’s worthy to provide exactly what we need. We must stop obsessing over planning our lives to the fullest and start obsessing over our Savior who brings with him all fullness.

Take Up the Easy Burden

While it is good to take the initiative and work hard to achieve our goals, there should never be stress when we don’t accomplish our exact idea of the future. If you are caught up in the anxieties of moving up the ladder at your job or making sure you are the most qualified in your class, or finding the perfect spouse, what makes you different from those who don’t place their trust in Christ?

All of our labors and planning should be done for this reason alone: that Christ would be made magnified, whether in my success or in my failure (see Philippians 1:20). Those who are lost rely on shining resumés, hard work, and good looks. We rely on the God who promises us “all things” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23), even every bad circumstance turned to good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28), if we would just receive it as a gift.

Faith is an easy burden (Matthew 11:30). It goes against everything in our burnout culture and every “earn-your-keep” impulse in our hearts. But when we lay down the burden of control, we take up the “burden” of faith, the promises of God, which can never fail — we finally find rest in the kindness and goodness of our heavenly Father’s arms.

Without faith, we will continually burst under the pressure to have our lives figured out. Instead, let us rest in God. Above all our planning and all our faithful work, ultimately, God will get us where we need to go.

is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a discipleship leader for Summit Church’s campus ministry. She writes online at Grace So Good.