Busyness and Rest
One of the greatest of ironies in my life, I’ve noticed, is just how much I need to work at rest! And I find this is true as I am far too busy! So how do I change this?
Well, we can talk about good time-management, excellent diary handling, good future planning and strict timetabling, and as much as all that is good and in many ways necessary for organising our time better, it can be a little bit like papering over the cracks of an incredibly busy life. We look serene on the outside, but we’re in turmoil on the inside! Much like the proverbial kicking swan…
So what’s really going on in a life that is too busy to rest? A few thoughts:
1) We are too busy because we want to prove ourselves to God
I like it when a week of mission has gone well and I’m punching above my weight, running round feeding people, flyering people, meeting people, charming people and running-rings around people. And once the week is done, I get back to my flat at the end of my third service on a Sunday and collapse in an exhausted heap on the floor, a broken and tired little man punching my fists in the air and groaning, ‘what a week for the Lord, I nailed it!’
And if I don’t have a week like the above? Then I’ve simply failed my Saviour. It’s a lie! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ‘for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – so that no-one can boast.’
I am justified before a God who loves me without me having done anything for my salvation! What makes me think I can make him love me more by working myself in to the ground? I can’t, and so I am free not to have to prove myself to a God who already loves me enough to die for me. But that’s not all:
2) We are too busy because we want to prove ourselves to others
You know how this feels. Playing over conversations in our heads thinking we’ve said something wrong, desperate to be seen doing more than the other person on committee, never saying no to things for fear we’ll look weak. Sound familiar? Lying about how that particular task is really going, constantly feeling under pressure and second guessing every decision that is made worrying about the consequences if it all goes wrong? The cry of my heart is, ‘What will people think?!’
We all fear man. But Proverbs 1:7 tells us that ‘the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom!’ We don’t need to worry about what people think of us as my fear for man is driven out by a greater fear, the fear of the one who already sustains me by his grace. And lastly, and perhaps counter intuitively:
3) We are too busy because we are too lazy
Go figure! How does this work?!
Very simply, I leave everything to the last minute. Projections such as, ‘I’m a perfectionist!’ and ‘I work better under pressure!’ ring out from my lips as I try to make NOT working hard look commendable. Essays at two in the morning and whole afternoons on Facebook; Mornings watching iPlayer and sleepless nights hammering out deadlines…
I look exceedingly busy when, hand on heart, I could have saved myself a lot of bother by being diligent in my work. And how do I get out of this? Being propelled by grace again!
Titus 2: 11-12 ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…’
I am free under God’s grace to live a self-controlled life knowing that I am already rooted in salvation.
But what about actual rest?
Quite often, when we get to a place, finally, when we have five minutes to ourselves, we find that we simply don’t have the energy to rest. How ironic. We have binged work so badly that we binge rest in equal measure; wallowing in front of the TV, incapable of moving and quite often feeling just shattered and ever so slightly ill.
From Genesis 2:2-3 where God rested on the seventh day and ordained rest as a creation ordinance, to Exodus 23.12 where the law ordained rest in a fallen world, to Hebrews 4:10 where we are welcomed in an eternal Sabbath, God’s rest, we see that rest is good, should be sought after and should be enjoyed! It is the natural order of being in God’s world and something that we will gain fully when we are with Him in eternity.
And this is perfectly shown in the person of Jesus where in Matthew 11.28 he hits on the resonation of every human heart when he says simply this:
‘Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.
Sam Orr is a Christian Union Staff Worker in Edinburgh