“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
For the past couple years, I took pride in being overly busy. Between the needs of work, friends, home and church my days were filled to overflowing. Although my schedule felt chaotic and I felt like I was going crazy, I preferred to think of myself as a “highly productive person.”
Friends and coworkers would ask, “How do you manage all you do?” And I’d respond “I guess I’m just wired that way.” I know, it’s a humble brag- not something I am proud of. But I honestly thought it to be true. Maybe I was wired differently. Maybe I could handle more than others. Sadly, my heart enjoyed the recognition of all the work I was able to accomplish and I hungered for that type of response; it fueled me to keep pressing on.
But, at the end of the day when it was time to relax, my to-do list whispered another truth. The truth that I haven’t done it all, that there was more to do. My friends don’t see that side of me. They have the advantage of seeing all the things that I am able to accomplish; not all the things left undone. But I do. Its there staring me in the face.
Perhaps I’m not alone in this feeling. Perhaps you feel it too? That no matter how much you accomplish, what bothers you most is that you weren’t able to finish all the tasks. That long to-do list keeps you up at night. You sit there thinking of all the things yet to accomplish and mark off the to-do list.
It’s not all the undone work, but those everyday tasks like cleaning the house, laundry, making a menu for the week, and paying bills. But there’s even more. There are the dreams that seem too far out of reach. Like taking a vacation. Or making the time we want to be intentional with those we love, including God, but can’t seem to manage.
Recently my ulcers started to act up more often than usual, and I slipped back into losing large amounts of sleep each night. A couple weeks ago, as I was sitting on the couch, I found it hard to breathe and anxiety arose, but there was no apparent threat- just a lot of stress. The looming deadlines, the demanding work load, and mounting emails beckoned. My life felt completely out-of-control. I was burned out from having too much to do, and always feeling behind.
The fear of disappointing someone chased me constantly. I was busy, but simply didn’t know how to stop the endless cycle. Turns out I didn’t have an anxiety problem. I had an over-commitment problem. I committed to almost everyone and everything.
In order to start making changes, I had to honestly face some hard things about myself. My hunger for significance drove me to take on more than I could handle. Before I could live the less hectic life that I desperately longed for, I had to address the root issue of my heart’s need. And part of that was identifying the lie that drove me to overwork myself.
Jesus promised an abundant life, but also told us there is an enemy plotting our downfall. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Our enemy, “the thief,” is also a liar, always twisting the truth. So while Jesus promised an abundant life, Satan spins it so we think that life is found in an abundance of activity and commitments. And before we realize it, life has stolen from us what’s best…room to breathe, time to focus, and space in our schedules to fulfill our God-given priorities. The abundant life Jesus offers isn’t filled with to-do’s (even though I believed that to be the case for far too long). Tasks and commitments only satisfy us from the outside in, never reaching the core of who we are. However, Jesus’ satisfies us from the inside out, as we experience the depth of His love, His purpose and His peace.
This is no easy change- and I know it won’t just happen overnight. But each day I am learning to trim my responsibilities so I can experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Jesus promises a less hectic life, and it’s a promise He can fulfill when we look to Him to fill our days, instead of an endless to-do list.
“May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” Psalm 29:11