If I asked a room full of contemporary Americans what plagues them most, I imagine many would identify busyness and worry as major culprits. Demanding schedules and the stress of daily life are common contemporary burdens. At some point, we all fall victim to their debilitating effects.
Socrates wrote: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Another wise man – Jesus – taught: “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life?” (Mt. 6:27)
Of course, sometimes it is good to be busy. We may be helping others, or working to make a living, or busily but happily fulfilling family responsibilities. But being busy becomes a barren enterprise when our schedules are so full that we lose ourselves, we forget about God, and we miss the whole point of life. We are totally disoriented but too busy to realize it! When this happens, our lives become barren because we are running in circles but getting nowhere. We are checking things off long lists, but deep inside ourselves, we are accomplishing nothing.
Like busyness, worry can have a valid role in our lives. Sometimes worrying motivates us to care for others or accomplish something. But worrying becomes fruitless when it paralyzes us, when it becomes all-consuming and prevents us from living, loving and growing. When this happens, we begin to sink deeper and deeper into fears and “what-ifs.” We move farther and farther away from the simplicity of the love commands, the comfort of trusting God, and the serenity of the peaceful life we all long for.
It is hard – perhaps impossible – to simply tell ourselves to stop worrying and then do it. It is almost as hard to just stop being busy. But if we feel that worry and busyness are getting the upper hand in our lives, perhaps it is time to have a conversation with God. It is time to ask him: “Am I too busy? Is my family too busy? What are we missing? How is my worry affecting others? How is it preventing me from being the person you want me to be? How are my busyness and worry preventing me from loving you and others?”
If we take these questions to prayer with open minds and hearts, we may be surprised by how God asks us to change our lives and by the peace he wishes to give us. We may find ourselves reassessing our priorities and trusting God with our futures a bit more than we have in the past. We may remember that prayer, in and of itself, is a simple antidote to a hectic, anxious life.
Busyness leads to barrenness, and worry to waste. Instead, Jesus is always urging us to a fruitful life. Let’s talk to him about it.