Series on Rest (pt. 2): Busyness

By: Brad Rogers

“I’m in a hurry to get things done, 

I rush and rush until life’s no fun

All I’ve got to do is live and die,

But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why”

This is the chorus to a song by one of my favorite bands from my younger years.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been frustrated by the slow driving of someone out for a Sunday drive on Thursday afternoon.  I also can’t tell you the number of times I have found myself apoplectic about a driver in the turn lane three cars ahead of me who doesn’t see the green turn arrow for the first 25 seconds after it turns green and only begins to turn as the light turns yellow.  I can recall many times after such incidences when after I have murdered their phone in my heart (I am certain they were checking Instagram), and I have started driving again, thanks to the following green arrow, I have thought, “now what was I in a hurry to get to?  Oh snap, I am not actually in a hurry.” The sad thing is that I am in a hurry so much that the times I am not in a hurry I am still in a hurry.  I can remember, more than once, something like the above scenario happening while the aforementioned song from Alabama was playing on the radio; and yet, I never seem to fully learn the lesson. All that anger and hate for no real reason.   

“Too much work, the British used to say, makes Jack a dull boy.  But it’s worse than that.  It numbs Jack, parches Jack, hardens Jack. It kills his heart. When we get too busy…We get bored with the familiar, threatened by the unfamiliar.  Our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrinks,” writes Mark Buchanan in his book, The Rest of God.  “The heart,” says Buchanan, “is the place the busy life exacts its steepest toll.”

When I was studying to be a pastor, I had the privilege of working in a cardiac rehab facility as an exercise physiologist in St. Louis, MO.  It was a place where any stereotypes you might have about driven, “type A” personalities, being the people most likely to have heart attacks, would find safe haven.  I remember one lady in her late 40’s who would zip into our facility, dance impatiently back and forth from her right foot to her left foot as we put her EKG leads in place, then erect a mobile office right on one of our treadmills. She worked on our laptop, loudly sorted through details of her next big deal on her phone and showed obvious disgust when we asked for one of her arms to take a required blood pressure as she walked on the treadmill. I often wondered if she realized that it’s difficult enough to take someone’s blood pressure while they are exercising even without them being on the phone.  Did it bother her that she was making my work harder?  More than one veteran cardiac rehab patient said of her, “Does she not realize that is how she got here in the first place?” To which we would reply, “Does it look like that would matter to her?” 

While acknowledging the effects of busyness on that which pumps out oxygen and vital nutrients to our bodies, Buchanan has much more in mind when he says that busyness exacts its steepest toll on our hearts.  He gives a helpful diagnostic question we can ask ourselves to discover if we are too busy.  “How much do we care about the things we care about?”  In this section of his book he goes on to describe a slew of possible scenarios which slay me. So, never being one who likes to metaphorically die alone, please allow me to pass them on to you here.

“When we lose concern for people, both the lost and the found, for the bride of Christ, for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness; when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quiet down) or weep when our spouses weep (and instead wish they didn’t get so emotional); when we hear news of trouble among our neighbors and our first thought is that we hope it isn’t going to involve us – when we stop caring about the things we care about -that’s a signal we’re too busy.”

How much time do you spend with the friends you care about? (Time spent arranging taxi services and checking on event times via text messaging not included.)  How touchy and irritable have you become in your state of busyness? 

Oh, but if this isn’t bad enough, for those who follow Christ, the affect busyness has on our relationship with God is truly devastating, yet we can hardly feel it for all the clutter and numbness shielding us from Him.  Mark Buchanan reminded me that while there are some aspects of God that we can only know through motion, there are other facets that come only in stillness.  The Bible tells us that when we wait on the Lord we will renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).  It is when we slow down and we call to mind the steadfast love of the Lord that we find his mercies never come to an end and that they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). The apostle Paul commands us to continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).  The apostle Peter tells us that because our adversary, the devil, prowls around liking a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, we ought to be sober-minded and watchful.   This kind of watchfulness calls for us to find ways to slow down amidst our busyness, to attend that which impacts our hearts before the Lord.  This we must do, we must keep our hearts with all vigilance for from it flows the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Is your busyness deadening your heart to that which matters most?  Is it keeping you from the Lord? If so, it is no small problem - your heart needs to find rest in God. 

When I slow down, I find a bigger problem….  I struggle to be alone with my thoughts. Worse than that, I struggle to be alone with God.  I find I actually want to be busy so I can avoid these realities about myself.  These are not things I like thinking about, so I go back to finding something to do, anything will do.  I am finding that I don’t want to stop and reflect and know who I am before God. This is the deeper problem with my busyness.  Some of us are in stages of life (I am thinking of you mothers of small children) where it is extremely difficult to slow down.  I get that.  Yet, I also know, you still need to find times before the Lord, however small they are and however creative you have to be. If we are not careful, our super busy times set patterns for us away from the Lord that take over the times when we are only mostly busy.  In such times we may find God to be a stranger and the uncomfortableness of these moments can lead us to find something else to busy ourselves whether it be a game online, reading about the perfect lives of others on social media, or just adding another activity (almost without realizing it) so we don’t have to contemplate our awkwardness with the Lord. 

Is. 30:15       This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:

                  “In repentance and rest is your salvation,

                    in quietness and trust is your strength,

                    but you would have none of it. 

Is. 30:16       You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’

                    Therefore you will flee!

Is this where the rat race started?  Some of us may need to ask ourselves if our busyness is about fleeing from the Lord. Others of us may just need to find how to rest in the Lord while we go about the business of our lives. Most of us will find something in our busyness for which we need to repent (something to turn away from) and trust in the Lord to accomplish what He wants with the time He has given us.  In repentance, in rest, in quietness, and trust.  If you are a follower of Christ, has your busyness eroded your trust and confidence in the Lord?  If so, why not make some time with the Lord to evaluate all that you are “gaining” from your busyness.  Then, in the words of Mark Buchanan’s book, you may find time for The Rest of God.* 

*Dan Seale, our Sr. Pastor here at Redeemer, is currently taking a Sabbatical.  Before he left, he invited us to read 3 books with him that he is planning to read this Summer. One of these books is The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan. It can be purchased here.