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When busyness is worn as a badge of honor, biting off more than we can chew becomes habitual. The possibility of chocking out on our (over) commitments increases proportionately as we rush on the treadmill and convince ourselves we are making headway. Slowing down is seldom considered a solution, so we run faster and tell ourselves we are running better as we close our eyes to the treadmill beneath us. In his book Time Management: Proven Techniques for Making the Most of Your Valuable Time, Marshall Cook lists several symptoms of what he calls speed sickness:[1]

  • fatigue
  • nervousness
  • depression
  • appetite swings
  • compulsive behavior (repetitive actions that are difficult or even impossible to stop)
  • compulsive behavior (repetitive actions that are difficult or even impossible to stop)
  • compulsive behavior (repetitive actions that are difficult or even impossible to stop)
  • unwillingness or even inability to stop working
  • inability to relax even when you do stop working

Being fatigued is being exhausted, out of air—breathless.

Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. KJV

Breathing is life. The more breathless we become, the less living we are. We think a full life is one crammed with crushing activity. Fullness is a quality, not a quantity. A fast-paced life is a quick approach to the grave. Rushing through life suppresses the immune system, hampering the manufacture of white blood cells. This, in turn, makes us vulnerable to a variety of ills.[2]

The commitments of our modern lives nip at our heels like a pack of wolves driving us beyond ourselves. In the real wild, a wolf encounter would set off the body’s stress response system in correct context. The hypothalamus would sound the alarm and through a hormonal cascade, send the emergency signal to the adrenal glands which in turn would release a surge of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies.  Cortisol increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances the brain’s use of the glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.[3] God designed all this to set us of for fight or flight and keep us alive.

But fight-or-flight left unchecked turns into fatigued-and-failing. Along with enhancing the efficiency of glucose use in our brains, cortisol also alters immune system responses, suppresses the digestive system, and limits the reproductive system and growth processes. It impacts regions of the brain that control mood, motivation, and fear. In the wild, wolves eat you or you successfully escape. Either way, the threat is gone and hormone levels become inconsequential or return to normal. The demands of modern life, however, trick our bodies to keep the stress-response system turned on and put us at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:[4]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Stories of stress are legion. We have taken the adage “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” far too seriously! Time management trainer Dru Scott Decker comments:

“Busyness becomes the standard people use to measure their worth as human beings. They believe it’s the only way to justify their existence.”[5]

She goes on to say:

“Personal worth does not depend upon what you do. You have value as a human being regardless of your activities. The prestige or economic value of your work has no bearing on your worth or your right to human dignity.”[6]

I believe that the performance value trap is the biggest busyness trap many of us fall into. We commit to things because of the positive affirmation we receive for doing them. And women are even more at risk for this than are men in our culture.

As a culture, we do not esteem the work of the stay-at-home mom nearly enough. When these precious women take on a task outside of the home, be it work or a church function, they see accomplishment and get praise. This in turn encourages them to take on more tasks because they receive more positive feedback from them than they do for their labors of love at home. This cycle feeds itself to the point where the majority of church work is done on the slave labor of women, who in turn begin to bemoan the lack of involvement in church work by men!

Husbands can do much to short circuit this terrible cycle. First, we should be very intentional in showing our appreciation for our wives in both words and actions (this would include pitching in with the house work and child rearing). Secondly, we should assume our responsibilities within the church instead of relying on the women to do the lion’s share of the work.

All that being said, the major hedge we can raise against the performance trap is to have a correct value of ourselves.  How are we supposed to arrive at a correct value of ourselves? By using God’s standards.

Genesis 9:6
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

First, we need to recognize that every man, woman, and child has value because they are made in the image of God. This is the reason the Lord gives for carrying out capital punishment. Man has more value than things or animals because he has been stamped with God’s image.

1 Corinthians 6:20
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Our value is further enhanced by having accepted the payment of our purchase. In the Father’s eyes, we are worth the price He paid for us—the life of His only begotten Son. Next time you are attacked by Satan with regard to your worth, point him to the blood Jesus poured out for you in love!

With regard to our busyness and burnout, there are some questions we have to ask of ourselves and some solutions we need to implement. God willing, we will look at those in our next post.

[1]Marshall J. Cook, Time Management: Proven Techniques for Making the Most of Your Valuable Time, Adams Media Corporation, Holbrook, 1998, p. 5.
[2] ibid., p. 6.
[3] Mayo Clinic, “Chronic stress puts your heath at risk,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 (accessed February 23, 2019).
[4] ibid.
[5] Dru Scott Decker, Finding More Time in Your Life, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, 200, p. 73.
[6] ibid.