We live in a world of hurry. Have you noticed?
We’re constantly on the go. Messages coming at us from the moment we open our eyes. The compelling drive to rush at everything in the vain attempt to chip something off the mountain of things we still need to do. So many people to catch up with. Life has moved into the fast lane like never before. It almost feels as if we’re getting news before it’s even happened. Everyone hurrying. Incredibly busy. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Our world encourages this kind of lifestyle more than ever. Once you’re on the rollercoaster it’s hard to get off. But here’s the kicker – it’s ruining our walk with the Lord.
I must admit, the ever present hurry in my own life has crept up, almost unnoticed. Yes, I’ve had plenty of wake-up calls, but busy seems to be my default mode and I’m quickly discovering that I’m far from alone.
If, by now, you’ve already decided you’ve not got the time to read on, then this is almost certainly an issue for you too. If not, and you are happily free from the insatiable habit of hurry then please do keep reading. This will give you insight into one of the most pressing needs of our time and God may well be preparing you to model the blessings of your unhurried life to the rest of us.
Sometimes the little things can have a big impact. Isn’t it true? A couple of weeks ago a friend messaged me. ‘A book’s arriving for you from Amazon. Don’t get rid of it – it’s from me!’
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
I was intrigued. ‘How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world.’ John Mark Comer. 1
Now I was really interested. This book had blessed and challenged him, and he thought I’d enjoy it too. He wasn’t wrong. I couldn’t put it down!
It struck a deep chord with me. I want to share something of the helpful insights and profound challenges I’ve gleaned. That’s my aim in this blog post. Even in putting pen to paper here (or finger to key) I realise that those who need this most are least likely to find the time in the business to read it. Some may not even have made it this far. For this reason I’m going to limit myself here. Keep it short. And hopefully encourage you to give a bit more time to stop and think about this. Read the book yourself. And maybe make some changes!
As with everything we read, we won’t agree with it all, and certainly there are one or two things in this book I would want to gently question, but there is enough genuine treasure here for anyone feeling the burn of unending busyness and the burden of hurry for me to heartily recommend it.
Is hurry such a big deal?
If you were to look in on our lives and our modern world you would surely conclude so. We do so much in a rush, so driven to be busy, that you could argue it’s one of the defining characteristics of our age. Whether we realise it or not, we have probably made hurry a bigger deal than we would like to think. Certainly, I’ve been shocked at how much I seem to prize that simple desire to be busy.
When I was very young I can remember being ‘tucked in’ at night, lamenting with my mother that I hadn’t done much that day. If only I’d had a bit more time. If only I’d crammed a bit more into the time I did have. Don’t get me wrong. It can be a very good thing to want to make the most of all the opportunities that we have before us. And laziness and sloth are no less enemies to our own health (physically, emotionally and spiritually). But, in some ways this desperate longing for more has characterised much of my life. And as I look around whether at the supermarket, on the road, outside the school, through all the adverts, in the office or on the street it seems as if everyone is being driven in a similar way.
We prize ‘hurry’ and despise ‘slow’
Have you noticed that too? Everyone wants to be busy. It’s like a badge of honour. Everyone seems tired. Rushed. In a constant battle with time and wanting everyone to know it. I’ve come to dread the questions ‘How has today gone?’ or ‘Have you had a good week?’. Will I be able to say enough to show that I’ve been really productive? And so we rush from one thing to the next. We stay up late to cram a but more in. Sleep poorly. Wake tired. Pick up the phone again to take up where we left off and before we are ever fully conscious we are already beginning to think we’ve missed out on something. Desperate to catch up and make better use of our time. Now of course, this is not going to be the same for everyone and I know that certain personality types will be more drawn to this than others but, though we may express it in vastly different ways, it does seem to me that we have come to prize this more than we might think.
‘What do people normally answer when you ask the customary question, “How are you?” “Oh good – just busy.” Pay attention and you’ll find this everywhere – across ethnicity, gender, stage of life, even class… we’re all busy.’ 1
That resonated with me. You? Comer continued…
‘Granted, there is a healthy kind of busyness where your life is full with things that matter, not wasted on empty leisure or trivial pursuits. By that definition Jesus himself was busy. The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do and the only way to keep up the quota is to hurry.’ 1
Hurry is everywhere. Busyness is boss – certainly. But what reveals it with greater clarity is our revulsion of slowness. Have you noticed that too?
‘In our culture slow is pejorative. When somebody has a low IQ, we dub him or her slow. When the service at a restaurant is lousy, we call it slow. When a movie is boring, again, we complain that it’s slow. Case in point, Merriam-Webster: “mentally dull: stupid: naturally inert or sluggish: lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness.” The message is clear: slow is bad; fast is good.’ 1
An issue of today like never before
The title of Comer’s chapter ‘A brief history of speed’ says it all. Certainly, he has convinced me that we are living in a time of hurry like never before. Before 1879 people worked when the sun was up and slept at night. Big generalisation I know, but largely true. What happened? Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. And you’ll never believe the average amount of time we spent asleep before then – 11 hours!
And do you know what really kicked this pursuit of speed into overdrive? The date – 2007. Perhaps a year that changed as much as 1440 with the invention of the printing press. What am I talking about? The Iphone! Around the same time Facebook stepped onto the stage, closely followed by Twitter and the modern world put its foot to the floor. ‘The official start date of the digital age.’ 1
The internet introduced us to more information than we ever could have imagined. Greater connections, in less time. And the smart phone brought this right in front of our eyes!
Comer quotes a recent study suggesting that average Iphone users touch their phones ‘2,617 times a day’ for ‘2½ hrs over seventy-six sessions.’ 1 Reducing the average attention span and drawing us in to a scary cycle of dependency. Quoting Tony Shwartz in the New York Times…
‘Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the internet.’ 2
Hurry is hurting us
By any accounting this freneticism is hurting us. Problems with mental ill-health now impact at least 1-in-4. The drive to keep up – stay busy – is doing more than damaging our health. It’s impacting our relationships, our home life, the way we relate to our neighbours in community and most worrying of all it’s incompatible with a healthy spiritual life. God, who is over all, in all and who sustains all is never described as being busy. Yes, we do hear of him resting, but never hurried. Just think for a moment about the nature of God himself and those aspects most central in the Bible. God is… go on…
Love. Patient. Compassionate. Merciful. Good. Kind. Just. Faithful.
Busy? Hurried? Irritated? Defensive? Short-tempered? Stressed?
Which of those two lists more closely describes you and me? It’s self-evident isn’t it? Hurry really is hurting us. And it’s doing so where it causes most damage. Our hearts. In the soul. Intense communion with God through faith in Jesus by the agency of his Spirit is not something that is most keenly enjoyed from a state of hurry. Just think about aspects of his fruit in our lives. ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…’ Hurry and we miss them all. Not convinced, just watch Jesus for a few minutes.
Jesus is ‘The Way’
A week on Sunday (19th July) we will be hearing from Jesus in John 14 as he urges his followers ‘don’t be troubled’ John 14:1 . How? ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, v6. The life we long for – to know God and the Son he sent – is something we enjoy through Jesus who is also the truth and the way. We not only discover the wonderful truths of the gospel in Jesus (and how we need to stop in order to let these truly impact our souls) but Jesus himself is also the way to God. His way, is the way we are to follow. By this point, those listening to this, had walked with him and watched his way for 3 years. In other words, we have much to learn about enjoying life by watching Jesus’ Way and following him in it. This isn’t a set of things to do. Services to go to. Programmes to follow. This is about a whole way of life. Walking like Jesus. Walking with Jesus. In everything.
Jesus doesn’t offer us escape from the trials and troubles of this challenging world. No. He offers us the equipment to tackle them. Listen to his invitation.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 1:28-30
In the context of the burdensome behaviour of the Pharisees and the unbearable weight of their legalism Jesus offers rest. Complete forgiveness. Total pardon. Cleansing. Life! And the way to receive it? Two things. Firstly, you must come. There is no rest, no life, without coming to Jesus. Secondly, we have to take his yoke. This is the wonderful exchange. He takes the burden of our sin and guilt. Our inability to live up to our own expectations or that of others, let alone his. And he calls on us to take his yoke and follow. Did you notice his description of it? It’s easy. It’s light. He’s calling us to follow him in his way. The way that he dealt with his challenges, the resistance and opposition of this world, and the call to love and glorify his Father through it all. His way is easy because he has already walked it for us. By faith we receive his obedience, his resilience, his holiness and the rest that he secured for us through it. So, what will this look like? Well, if we are trusting that his presence in us will enable us to walk his way wouldn’t it be wise to consider the way he walked?
This is where Comer’s reflections are so helpful for us. If we want to enjoy God’s rest, his life in Jesus through the Spirit then we need to learn from all he’s shown us of Jesus’ approach to life on earth. This is not a matter of copying Jesus in order to gain this rest. Quite the opposite. As we receive his rest it’s looking for the likeness of Jesus in the way we walk as we trust him.
This is God’s wonderful solution to the problem of hurry. Four reflections on the way Jesus walks – his habits – it’s characteristics. I think you’ll find them helpful too.
Silence and Solitude
The four gospels are at pains to point out Jesus’ practice of getting away to be on his own. He spent time away from the noises and influences of his own day to be quiet. To spend time alone with his Father.
Have you noticed the ever present noise we have allowed to fill our lives today? Checking the phone. Filling the spaces with music. It’s as if we daren’t stop in case of what might happen. And if we’re fearing the approval of others on our productivity and busyness than how could we ever account for time spent doing almost nothing?
If Jesus needed this regularly and persistently don’t we need it all the more? He seems to have made sure it was frequently observed by his followers so they would do the same.
We don’t need to be busy. We do need to be alone with God.
In Psalm 63 David declares ‘your love is better than life’!
Do you believe that? Really believe it? Have you had times of experiencing it? Feeling it deep in your gut? If not, might this be because we are strangers to the practices that David describes in this same Psalm? First, he makes this discovery in the desert.
‘A Psalm of David. When he was in the desert of Judah.’ Ps 63
Alone. Without distraction. More aware of his most basic needs in life. There, he is able to assess them – the thirst, hunger, protection needed from the heat and the wild – and still he concludes – God’s love is more to him than life. Then we discover what he’s doing in this place of silence and solitude.
‘Earnestly I seek you’ v1
‘I will praise you’ v4
‘I will be fully satisfied’ v5
‘I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night’ v6
‘I sing’ v7
‘I cling to you’ v8
He’s not earning this delight in the love of God. But he is seeking it!
Now it’s confession time. Though for many years I’ve been convinced of the need to take time away. Alone. I have been all too quick to embrace the busy bug of our age. I do do it. But all too infrequently. And yet, those sparse experiences call out to me to make this more fully a part of my life. I can remember walking in the woods meditating on John 6. After feeding the 5000 Jesus offers… “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” v35. I allowed this to go round and round in my mind. I dwelt on that amazing miracle. I started to meditate on the reality that it was pointing toward. Jesus feeding us to complete satisfaction through the giving of himself on the cross. After some time I stopped in my tracks. I started to respond to this invitation. “Lord Jesus I’m coming to you now. I don’t want to be hungry and thirsty any more. I keep tasting so many things, believing they will satisfy me as only you can. I am so sorry. Forgive me. My foolishness. My wilful selfishness. I choose you now. I choose to feed on you instead of my pride and the praise of others. I choose you more than a long and healthy life here. I choose you more than success in my job, my ministry. I choose you more than sexual fulfilment. I choose you more than my family and the love and respect of my wife.” And so it went on. I’m only telling you this because in the silence. That place of solitude I experienced love. Overwhelming joy. Release – a freedom that I hadn’t felt in so long. Peace – the challenges and hurts of that day couldn’t get this deep. It was infectious!
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t chasing these feelings. I was chasing Jesus. Wanted him now more than I could remember. And it felt so good!
So. Will I? Will you make time each day for this? If I stopped checking my emails throughout the day it would help? Take away the obsession with news. Checking if anyone’s messaged me. Catching up on a bit of YouTube. There is time. I just need to take a look again at how I’m using it. You?
I’m going to stop in a moment. I promised a short one and this is now anything but. Comer takes us on from silence and solitude to Sabbath, simplicity and slowness. That’s his 4 habits for battling hurry and following the Way of Jesus. All so very helpful. If you want a quick refresh on Sabbath, take another look at Miles’ going viral blog here. For the rest you’re going to have to read the book. I just hope that I’ve said enough to prompt you to look again at your own connection with hurry and to choose a better way.
Mike Smailes | Associate Minister
John Mark Comer, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”, Hodder and Stoughton
Tony Schwartz, “Addicted to Distraction,” New York Times, Nov 28, 2015,