You’re busy. I’m busy. Your busyness may be forced on you by your life circumstances. Or you may bring your busyness on yourself. After all, we live in a culture in which busyness can be a mark of your importance.
But at some point, many of us find ourselves busier than we want to be.
And then we start to lose our way.
Personally, it’s not that my calendar is always full. But I have many responsibilities, and my mind is always burdened. I feel the pressure of my imagined to-do list: things I want to do, things I have to do, things I wish I didn’t have to do so I could do the things I want to do.
Making an actual, physical to-do list sometimes helps (yes, I know, some of you are thinking, “What? You mean you don’t write these things down???”). Checking things off the list helps me feel that I’m getting somewhere.
But then I find myself adding things to the list that I’ve already done, just to have the satisfaction of checking them off. I’m not saying that’s grossly immoral. It just makes me wonder: why am I tempted, even if just a teeny bit, to add inane things to the list? Brush teeth. Done. Check. Woo-hoo for me.
The list will never end. There’s always the next thing. And the next, and the next.
Here’s the challenge, I think, for us who call ourselves Christians. Even in the midst of our busyness, even as we tackle the next thing on the list, can we live as people who really and truly believe that our destiny is secure?
We believe in heaven and eternal life. The number of years of toil that we will live between now and the day we die are but a blip compared to that. But these are the years that dominate our attention. We bustle about, trying to make things happen, as if the fate of the world (not to mention our sense of self-worth!) were to rest on what we do or don’t accomplish.
I get it. We have responsibilities, sometimes enormous ones. I think of single moms juggling work and home, trying to care for their children as best they can with too little income and not enough sleep. I think of solo pastors trying to figure out how to be available to both the flock and their families. And so on. There are days in which all you can do is put one foot in front of the other, until you can turn off the light and drop into bed, exhausted.
And yet. Even when — perhaps especially when — the pressures of the day occupy all of our energies, it helps to have an eternal perspective. Jesus taught us to seek God’s kingdom. This much we remember. But that command was immediately followed by this one: “Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34, CEB, italics added). Apparently, Jesus seemed to think that these commands had something to do with each other.
Is it the busyness that wears us down, or the anxiety that so often goes with it? Do we worry about tomorrow in a way that prevents us from being fully present today, here, now, in this task or with that person?
Seeking the kingdom isn’t about looking forward to going to heaven after we die. It’s about looking for signs of God’s sovereign presence now, even in the midst of our busyness. It’s about being such signs ourselves, being people who can throw ourselves into our to-do lists with the freedom of spirit that comes from hope and a robust confidence in God.
Give your to-do list to God. And let God hand it back to you with the sure knowledge that all of your tomorrows belong to him.