“Voices surround us, always telling us to move faster. It may be our boss, our pastor, our parents, our wives, our husbands, our politicians, or, sadly, even ourselves. So we comply. We increase the speed. We live life in the fast lane because we have no slow lanes anymore. Every lane is fast, and the only comfort our culture can offer is more lanes and increased speed limits. The result? Too many of us are running as fast as we can, and an alarming number of us are running much faster than we can sustain.
Speed damages our souls because living fast consumes every ounce of our energy. Speed has a deafening roar that drowns out the whispering voices of our souls and leaves Jesus as a diminishing speck in the rearview mirror. Spiritual growth is not running faster, as in more meetings, more Bible studies, and more prayer meetings. Spiritual growth happens when we slow our activity down. If we want to meet Jesus, we can’t do it on the run. If we want to stay on the road of faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area, and stop. Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us; it’s about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop.
While the church earnestly warns Christians to watch for the devil, the devil is sitting in the congregation encouraging everyone to keep busy doing “good things.” I just received a letter from a woman minister who was on the edge of crashing and burning. She and her family had joined a growing, active church and quickly volunteered to help. But two years later, she realized that her entire family was speeding by each other in unrestrained zeal to lead one activity or another at church every week. “Run faster!” this woman’s church bulletin screamed, but the only way she could save her soul from death was to slow down, which meant finding a new job.
Sin does not always drive us to drink; more often it drives us to exhaustion. Tiredness is equally as debilitating as drunkenness. Burnout is slang for an inner tiredness, a fatigue of our souls. Jesus came to forgive us all of our sins, including the sin of busyness. The problem with growth in the modern church is not the slowness of growth but the rushing of growth.
Jesus came to give us rest.
We know we are ready for God to work in our lives when we’re tired. When our lives begin to weigh us down, God is present in the heaviness. It turns out that it’s weariness that’s next to godliness, because when our souls are tired, we are able to hear his voice, and according to Matthew 11:28, what he’s saying is, “Come. Rest.”
The ugly truth, however, is that many of us do not know how to rest! Actually, we do know how to rest; we simply refuse to rest. Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: “No!” Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to say yes. Only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus.”
-Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality