The Joy of Getting Unstuck
By Brandon Smith
Like you, I’ve got a hundred things going on between family and church and work and all the in between. Let me be the first to say that all of these things are absolute gifts from God. He has been amazingly kind to me and I’m genuinely thankful.
But I get tired.
Plain and simple, sometimes I just get tired. In the fast-paced world we live in, I think we can all get over-extended and under-rested at times. Technology allows us to get things done quicker but also gives us more reasons to get distracted. In some ways, it’s a vicious cycle.
The question I had to ask myself was, why am I doing all these things I do and where are my priorities?
More importantly, what is the underlying motivation for my busyness and why does it sometimes sap my joy? Here’s a simple attempt to answer this question from a recent experience, and hopefully it will direct you away from getting stuck like I did.
When I got stuck
Earlier this year, I ran headfirst into a wall. With all of the busyness of life, I nearly locked myself in a closet and tried to disappear. I felt overwhelmed and driven into the ground. I was an old pickup truck with a busted engine and four flat tires. I was stuck.
Truthfully, I had taken my eyes off of God and put them on myself. I put the duties of family life, work, school, and ministry ahead of glorifying God with my heart. I had forgotten, somehow, that I was created by God to be conformed to the image of Jesus.1 I lost sight that this was the real reason behind everything he calls me to.
Remember, though we’re all busy, busyness by itself is neither godly nor sinful. Busyness doesn’t make you a super Christian and it doesn’t make you a wretch. It only reveals sin or temptation bubbling beneath the surface.
Many of us treat time as a commodity to be recycled rather than a gift to be appreciated. We act like we own time rather than realizing that we’ve been given time. For me, this plays itself out in working my fingers to the bone. I want to do everything excellently and I want to be known as a hard worker, a guy who can get things done quickly and efficiently.
My motivation is prideful and selfish, of course. And this is why I want to lock myself in a closet sometimes. It’s draining to take busyness in our own hands. We weren’t created to be autonomous beings. We were created to rely on and trust in the grace and glory of God. We were created to be about his business, not our busyness. His purposes, not our prerogatives.
Being busy certainly led to physical and emotional exhaustion, but I really needed spiritual rest. I needed to stop trying to impress God with my work and instead glorify him with my service. I needed to remember that he is provident, that he is good, and that he’s equipped me to serve him without the chains of white-knuckled duty.
Christ has freed me from self-reliance and bound me to his grace. I’m not doing God a favor; he’s giving me a mission. My life, my family, my work—it’s all from him and for him. I can rest in this. And I don’t have to be perfect; I can be obedient to my calling with the expectation that God’s glory will overcome my failures.
The kind of release
In the end, my struggles had more to do with my outlook than with my busyness. Instead of looking for a closet to hide in, I should’ve been looking to the only one who can give me rest. And when I cried out to him in despair and fatigue, he reminded me that he’s given me responsibilities for a reason. His glory and my good are always his aim. I had forgotten that. He graciously answered my prayer for rest not with affirmation, but with correction. Rest wasn’t release from responsibilities; rest was release from self-gratification. There is great joy in this.
Scripture does not discourage us from work or even dictate how many hours in a day we should work, but instead aims for our hearts. Though most of us may not be considered “bondservants,” Paul’s words are instructive to us:
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.2
How do we get unstuck when our joy is fractured? Or better yet, how do we avoid getting stuck in the first place?
First, remember that God is in control. He will not leave you, and he is not surprised by your struggles.
Second, pray for a heart that desires God’s glory, not your own. This is constantly the hardest but most rewarding step.
Third, prioritize your time. Do not let work get in the way of your devotion to Christ and family. Find creative ways to manage your time or destroy things that cut into serving God and those he’s put in your life. It’s worth it.
Brandon Smith is the Editor of Project TGM, Pastoral Resident at CityView Church, and a freelance writer.