I hate naps.
Don’t get me wrong; I love sleeping. I’ve told people before if there’s one thing I’m good at in life, it’s sleeping. But, I hate naps.
I like efficiency too much. I like to be productive and get things done off the to-do list (even if that list was created on the spot and only exists in my mind). So, when I compare all that could be done during a one- to two-hour nap with what won’t get accomplished while I drool on my pillow, sleep loses every time.
Listen, I’m not here to condemn naps. In fact, I’m writing this with the opposite intention.
I’ve realized that even though my mind is always running, always thinking, and always wanting to do stuff, this isn’t always the healthiest thing for me. And, wouldn’t you know it, this is also a repeated truth in Scripture.
There’s a single verse in the story of Exodus that talks about this very thing. You’ve probably overlooked it as you’ve read this story. I have, too. But this one verse has been rewiring my mind for months and is the inspiration behind this blog.
In Exodus 5, Moses shows up on the scene to deliver God’s people, Israel, from slavery in Egypt. In verse 1, Moses approaches Pharaoh to begin this conversation and delivers the famous “let my people go” line. He’s quickly denied, and in the chapters that follow, the story moves on to miracles, plagues, the release of God’s people, and eventual freedom.
But wait. Let’s back up to the conversation with Pharaoh after he tells Moses “no”. Pharaoh is now mad because his slaves aren’t working hard enough; they’re distracted with the hope of freedom. But he needs them to keep working and producing:
“Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies” (Exodus 5:9).
The impact of this verse didn’t dawn on me at first. But after reading through the chapter a second time, it jumped off the page and screamed at me. Make the people work harder. Work them more hours and longer days. Keep God’s people busy. Make sure their busyness completely kills the idea of freedom. Don’t let them pay attention to the “lies”.
Wait, what lies? These “lies” Pharaoh was talking about were from Moses – a message from God that was for Pharaoh to free His people. Were these actually lies? Of course not! But to the enemy of God’s people, they absolutely were! To God’s enemy, words of truth, freedom, hope, and purpose are always lies.
And this was when it hit me: Busyness will keep you from hearing from God.
It’s as simple as that. This truth rings true for everyone:
A family with any number of kids
A college student with a part-time job
A business owner with big dreams
Someone working a second job to pay off debt
Really, any person who has ever lived
We’re all busy! It’s a different version of busyness depending on your season, work, family situation, interests, and so on, but we’re all experiencing it.
Here’s the catch. Some things that keep us busy are important.
Kids will play sports. Community group night is here again. There’s always another birthday party. We’re serving in the church. Lawns have to be mowed. Budgets need to be planned, and date nights must be held sacred. But even important things should not take the place of sitting still, being quiet, and spending time with God.
The problem for me is that slowing down to read, listen, and pray can feel unproductive at times. It’s slow. I’m not doing anything with my hands or producing in-the-moment results. But the truth is this slow time spent with God pays off exponentially in the long run. Even though it feels inefficient, it’s actually the most productive thing I can ever do in a day.
Our enemy is strategic and smart. He knows busyness is an illusion. It’s a trap that produces little to no fruit. It keeps people stuck, drains marriages, and can derail futures. It keeps us from hearing the voice of God.
So, we must learn to be okay with the slow. It’s okay to say no to things. It’s actually powerful. We don’t always have to be working or going somewhere. Let’s use our calendars to block off time slots for a meeting alone with God. This isn’t silly; it’s necessary. Prioritize what matters most.
Staying busy isn’t always an indicator of health. Bring your “busyness” to light and exchange it for the powerful slow with God.