Too busy to listen to God

October 23rd, 2015

“You can rest when you retire!” someone once said to me.

I'm starting to doubt that statement is true. I serve at a church with a lot of retirees. They seem to be just as busy as I am.

I have a confession to make: I don't like being busy. I just don't. I don't think I function well when I have too much on my plate. But on flip side of the coin, I don't like being completely idle and unproductive, either. I like to be Goldilocks when it comes to being busy: not too much, not too little, but just … right.

It's surprising how easy it is for life to get away from us when we're busy. The world has a tendency to move rather quickly and we're often left trying to play catch-up from the breakneck pace. So many things to do. So many deadlines to beat and people to meet. Errands to run. Meetings to attend. We move, move, move and do, do, do.

During my devotionals recently, I read a passage in Exodus. Moses and Aaron had just confronted Pharaoh, but instead of Pharaoh listening to them, he increased the workload of the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh ordered a stop in supply of straw to the slaves, but still expected the Israelites to make the same quota of bricks. God reassured Moses, promising to bring him and the Israelites to the land that God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses told all this to the Israelites, “But they didn't listen to Moses, because of their complete exhaustion and their hard labor.” (Exodus 6:9 CEB).

Sometimes we're just so busy and exhausted from life that it's hard to listen to the voice of God.

God commanded his people to take a Sabbath — to take time to rest from our labors so that we can commune with God. So that we can remind ourselves that we are first and foremost children of God. That’s where our identity begins. Not with what we can produce; not with what we can offer; not with what we bring.

Sabbath reminds us that there’s more to life than work and busyness. It reminds us that the days of producing brick after brick after brick are long gone. That we were created to be human beings, not human doings.

Yes, our culture values busyness. The busier you are the more important you are, the more value you bring and the more successful you appear to be.

But constant busyness has a way of putting a chokehold on our souls.

Our spirit longs to commune with God. We need a Sabbath. In fact, not only is it important to have a Sabbath day, we should also look for Sabbath moments, time to give ourselves permission to stop what we're doing and just … be with God.

So, today (and every day) I urge you to take a moment to smell a flower, watch an animal enjoy its surroundings, take in more than a couple of deep breaths — anything that makes you pause to remind yourself of how holy God is and how loved you are.

Joseph Yoo is pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, California. He is the author of Practical Prayer and Encountering Grace. He blogs at

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