I want to talk with you today about an epidemic in our world. It’s something that is draining life from us and causing untold amounts of misery and even sickness.
It’s called “busy-ness.”
In our world, we are constantly seeing what others are doing and receiving subtle and not-so-subtle messages that we should be doing the same. If not, then there is something wrong with us. So, we try our best to be busy – to have things to do as often as possible.
This epidemic of busy-ness is being enabled by an unholy alliance between three powerful trends: smart phones, social media, and extreme consumerism. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, "The result is not just information overload, but opinion overload. We are more aware than at any time in history of what everyone else is doing and, therefore, what we ‘should’ be doing. In the process, we have been sold a bill of goods: that success means being supermen and superwomen who can get it all done. Of course, we back-door-brag about being busy: it’s code for being successful and important."
Does this sound familiar? Do we get caught in this crazy rat race of doing and doing, leading to exhaustion and defeat? Why is this? Why do we always feel the need for “more?” We even foist it onto others, don’t we? If someone relates that they are simply spending the evening or weekend at home, “doing nothing,” we somehow feel an urge to help them fill in that obvious void – inviting them to some event with us or backhandedly insulting their laziness by saying, “I wish I could just do nothing!”
But the point is this: we don’t have to. Rest is a perfectly good idea and pursuit. Jesus understands this too. A Man whom we would think had His work cut out for Himself comes to us today and talks not about “getting out there and doing something,” but rather coming to Him and resting.
Too often, I think, we are drawn away from resting – lured into the illusion that being busy somehow means we are worthwhile, contributing. Our culture continually shows us the things we need to have, the places we need to go and the activities we need to do in order to be happy. Social media are full of these images. But isn’t the idea of rest an attractive one? Jesus comes to us today, in the midst of our summer, and reminds us that His gift of peace is one that offers contentment and rest – and that this is a holy thing.
The world sells us what Paul calls living “according to the flesh.” It means satisfying all our appetites and doing whatever “feels good.” But where is the rest that the world offers? No matter how much of the world’s goods we amass, we are always wanting more. We are never happy.
However, when we live in the Spirit, we are giving ourselves to the peace that God offers. This is a peace that comes not from things but from our knowledge of being “in Jesus.” It’s His peace – a peaceful rest that is the result of knowing that God loves you and values you more than any “thing” in the world. We don’t need to occupy ourselves with worldly pursuits; we don’t need to fill our schedules with more stuff. We need to fill them with God.
The next time someone asks you how things are going, pay attention. Is your first response to say “Busy” – as if that is the “right answer”? What if you responded, “Peaceful” or “Restful”? Don’t you think someone would want to know more about the Source of that peace – the Source of that rest? Often, we think that evangelizing needs to be a active thing – and exertion of effort to share God with others. However, just the opposite can be just as effective. Where does the peace and calm of a Christian come from? How do we get some of that?
Jesus never tried to overwhelm people with His presence. He triumphantly entered Jerusalem, not on a chariot but on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of an ass. He even comes to us now in the simple form of Bread and Wine. These are reminders to us that true Christian holiness is seen in those who take Jesus up on His invitation today: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
As we ease through our summers this year, I hope we can take advantage of the restful opportunities that we often get. Use this time to pare back on those things we really don’t need and to focus and enhance those things we do need. Pray a little more; spend real time with family and friends; simplify.
Sometimes, when we pursue less, we recognize how truly blessed we are; and we can rest in that knowledge that God gives us exactly what we need.