You’ve heard the phrase “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools.” While that’s true, I think that in today’s hectic culture, many people have too much to do rather than too little.

Busyness can be just as damaging to our spirits (and hearts, minds, and bodies) as idleness. The implied danger of “idle hands” is that idle hands will seek for something to do, and when they find something, it may likely be something they shouldn’t be doing, especially since “idle hands” come from an idle and undiscerning mind and heart. On the other hand, the danger of busyness is that we can have our hands, minds, and hearts so occupied that God, or other people to whom God desires us to give, only receive our leftovers, if they receive anything at all.

I am currently in one of the most busy periods I’ve been in for a long while (I complained about this in an earlier post), having been handed a very large project, and I feel it slowly draining the life out of me.  Because I still have my regular workload, this extra project has meant much longer hours.  When I’m not working on this project or my other responsibilities, I’m drained, and therefore have little mental or emotional energy to invest in my family, or even in prayer.  I just want to shut everything off.

It is true that prayer can be restful and restorative, but it is also true that we are finite creatures with finite minds, hearts, and bodies, and too much work – even “good” work – will eventually burn you out.  This is one of the reasons that God tells us to take a sabbath.  It’s interesting that we treat the commandment regarding the sabbath as though it were no longer in effect, while we would all agree that the others still are.  If we do choose to honor the sabbath, then we decide that we don’t really need to honor it for a full day.  Just go to church in the morning and you’re good.

Jesus regularly took time alone to pray.  During those times, there were people who were getting sick and dying, people who He could have been healing.  We might say that it would have been good for Jesus to be healing those people, that He could have kept going, plugging away, visiting every sick person He could possibly have visited, staying up for many long nights, traveling as fast as He could.  Jesus, however, knew that since He was human (fully human – and yet also fully God), He needed rest for his body, mind, heart, and spirit.

So even when there are lots of good things still to be done, we need a break.  You can’t keep giving, to God or to anyone else, when you’re sucked dry.  You have to keep on getting filled in order to to pour out.  Busy hands that give all that they have to work have nothing left to give to God (who we are to love with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength) or people (who we are called to love as we love ourselves).

Have you found that you can be so busy that you don’t even want to pray?

Have you ever burned yourself out doing “good” work?