Being a pre-med student is time-consuming, to say the least. If you’re not studying, you’re working. If you’re not working, you’re volunteering. If you’re not volunteering, you’re in a lab. If you’re not in a lab, you’re in clinic. And if you’re not in any of the above, you’re freaking out about your career. And if you have a type A personality, you most likely work all throughout the week and probably serve in church too, on the worship team or as greeter or a small group leader, or all of the above. AND on top of that, you have to stay on top of your social media because who doesn’t. It’s a lot of work. But that’s exactly why it’s an issue.
Everyone is always busy with something or someone. Especially in the college and post-grad realm, it’s easy to have an overfilled planner, too many reminder post-its, and not enough sleep. I’ve noticed that generally folks are busy in three ways: personal – doing individual projects, social media, blogging; vocational – crafting a career, being in a career, studying for a career; and spiritual – serving in church, being part of a community group, etc. (This isn’t to say that this is the say all and end all.) Ultimately it comes down to two big questions: why does the average Christian seem like they are so busy all the time, and is that bad?
For starters, I’m probably the worst person to be talking about being too busy because I am exactly that guy who does way too much all the time. For most people definitely including myself, we’re busy because that’s what we tie our identity to. If you’ve been to any social gathering you know exactly what I’m talking about. The first thing that anyone ever asks you is “What do you do?” We feel the need to give an adequate answer to feel accepted and to fit in. If we don’t have an adequate answer, we tend to feel insecure, then overwork ourselves to try and prove a point that we are someone worthwhile talking to and/or someone to respect. And being busy provides us just that. It always seems like we’re working for some noble cause, so that people can look at us and say “Wow so and so are not wasting their life and doing so much…” It makes people think that we have our lives put together, that we’re relevant and important. We see this play out in the three places where people are the most busy. We’re either grinding to get the best job, or we’re trying to post as many Instagram posts of us working and or studying, or we’re trying to be the best servant at church by trying to do anything and everything. Again, this isn’t to say that doing any of the above is bad; in fact trying to land the best job and to serve as faithfully as possible in church are things that we ought to strive for. But again the question stands: why?
I think one sad, but possible reality of being too busy or trying to look really busy is to fill an empty void in our souls. Like mentioned before, it ties in so closely with our identity; we want to fill our desire to be loved and be seen as someone who is put together, while our true nature of brokenness and in need of a Savior is neatly tucked away in our perfectly outlined bullet journals. If you’re a type A personality like myself, you have an innate desire to get things done but often times we’re busy because it’s the easiest way to show off and hide our insecurities. Or maybe we’re always comparing, “Only if I did this, this and this, then this person will respect me, or these people will treat me differently, or I will finally feel like I’m doing something with my life”. It’s a sad reality and we drown ourselves to avoid confronting this broken and dark abyss. We hide behind our schedules, hoping that others won’t read between the lines.
I think Kevin DeYoung illustrates this perfectly in his book Crazy Busy when he says “For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is too big that nothing but God can fill it”. Perhaps we keep ourselves busy in our work, in social media, or even doing acts of service in church because we want to fill this void, not with God but with our works. Again, rather than looking to the great Father to find affirmation, we surmise perhaps the affirmation of our peers will fulfill us. Or even worse, we just don’t want God to fill this void because He’s not all that worth it. It’s just quite possible that we desire what people think about us rather than what God thinks about us. It’s a sad but frank reality and many of us fall into this never-ending vicious circle. We realize that it’s only God that can fill us, but compliments are real nice, but God, but people, but God, but people. And we continue to get busier and busier until we burn out. And only then in our lowest place we see Him, who comes to us in our utter brokenness, all the more clearly.
This isn’t a call to leave your job, drop all your studies, and become a monk or nun. In fact, it’s not even a call to stop being busy because the truth of the matter is, we’re always going to be busy, whether we like it or not. Life is only going to get harder with more responsibilities and more consequences. But rather than being busy for busy sake, I think it’s time to pause, reflect and reset. Rather than trying to fill our void with meaningless and futile worldly pursuits, we should look towards Jesus, the one who fills our wretched, sinful abyss. He is Hope, and He shows that we do not have to toil away to shape our own identity with people or even ourselves because He gives us a new name and new identity before the God of all creation. And because of this truth, we don’t have to be busy for busy’s sake, and have purpose in our work to steward whatever He’s given us to the best of our ability. To me, that’s far better and easier than trying to win the hearts of man. I want to end this the same way DeYoung ends his book, with arguably the best paragraph I’ve read in awhile, “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness that we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”
Hansoo (Hans) Kim is a recent graduate from UCSD with a degree in biochemistry, studying to go to medical school. He is passionate about pursing the Lord in all aspects of life, from personal leisure to professional work. On his free time he enjoys playing sports, meeting up with the boys, eating Thrifty ice cream, and writing in his blog: thecoinmachine.blogspot.com