In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, John Ortberg observes, “We suffer from what has come to be known as ‘hurry sickness’,” a condition Meyer Friedman defines as “above all, a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, from other persons.” Ortberg goes on to note that “hurry will keep us consumed by the ‘cares and riches and pleasures of life,’ as Jesus put it, and prevent His way from taking root in our hearts.”
Our society is one steeped in hurriedness. We have become experts at justifying our being busy and hurrying all the time. Too busy for the people we love and care about, too busy to take time for ourselves, too busy for God outside of the obligatory two hours on a Sunday morning, too busy and hurried to slow down and enjoy the only time we have which is now. For some of us, there is always one more thing to attend to, more phone calls to make, more people wanting our time, more church events to attend or ministries to be involved in, and we can rationalize it all. Running around like chickens without heads, pleased with ourselves for “getting things done,” for “doing the work of the Lord.” We are so busy that we fail to recognize that we are doing what Jesus did not do. He often took time out of His busy schedule to engage in solitude, to go away by Himself and rest a while. He knew what was really important.
Jesus also taught this principle to His disciples. According to Mark’s narrative, when the disciples returned from a busy but successful time of ministry, Jesus “said unto them, ‘Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while’: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately” (Mark 6:31-32, KJV). Too busy to even eat! If taking time out was important for Jesus and the disciples, how much more is it important for us! These times of retreat are important, not only to get away from the pressures of a society that would seek to conform us to its ways but to enable us to recalibrate spiritually while maintaining a fresh and vibrant relationship with God and others. We learn to truly prioritize what is really important in our lives.
I once read that if the devil cannot stop you, he will push you. Psychologist Carl Jung took it one step further when he said, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.” With that in mind, let us resolve to start slowing down; to eliminate hurriedness from our lives. This does not mean ignoring the important things that need to be done; it is a matter of prioritizing. Paul’s words to the Roman church is ours for today: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:2, The Message). One way to get started is to “come ye yourselves apart into a [quiet] place, and rest a while.”