The One or the Many?: Finding Rest in the Busy-ness of Life
I've been busy. In fact, to borrow the title from Kevin DeYoung's recent book, I've been "crazy busy." My list (and I'm sure you have one too) of projects to do, things to fix, fires to put out, practices to attend, events to plan, people to call, and lessons to write grows ever longer with each passing day. And that's only the stuff I've planned for; on top of that are all the things I wasn't expecting, forgot, or didn't have time for yesterday. In the immortal words of a fellow pastor, "I've got a pile of stuff to do this high."
Can you relate? Does your day consist of running from place to place or task to task? Do you feel like you're on a never-stopping treadmill, and all you want is a chance to catch your breath? In the words of Rascal Flatts, do you miss Mayberry? If so, you're not alone. As a culture, we're so busy that we've forgotten why we do the things we do. Life tugs us in so many directions that we feel like we're coming apart at the seams.
And we are. As the world spins faster, the family disintegrates. Children and youth deal with the stress of school, homework, band, one or two sports, chores, clubs, and extracurricular activities, and text, tweet, and post while doing said activities. Parents, with their own crammed schedules, gradually become little more than chauffeurs because there's no other way they can get everything done.
How can this state of affairs change? There's a couple key indications in Scripture of how we're to respond to the busy-ness of life:
First, rest. It wasn't for nothing that once God completed his work of creating everything, he rested (Gen 2:2-3). It's obvious that God didn't even break into a sweat when forming the mountains and cupping the oceans in his hand, so why would he do something so absurd as rest? The best explanation is that he did it for our benefit. We're incredibly intelligent, creative, hard-working beings made in the very image of God, but we have our creaturely limits. We're not the Creator, but (due to the effect of sin) we often forget that. The results are tragic. We work unceasingly to make our own little kingdom, to be God over our own little world, and we end up hurting ourselves (and those around us) in the process.
Instead, God calls us to rest in him, to appreciate and enjoy his work, to declare alongside him that this world and the relationships he has placed us in are good (Gen 1:31). This is what the Sabbath is all about; we rest from our work and find our place in God's work (Ex 20:9-11). When we don't rest, we show that we're trying to take God's place in a creation of our own making (which is why Sabbath-breaking was punishable by death in the Old Testament).
Ultimately, this Sabbath rest points us to Jesus, who called himself the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28) and went to the cross for Sabbath-breakers like you and me. Even now, he is calling us to stop from our non-stop activity and rest in him (Matt 11:28-30), for at the cross, he won for us an eternal Sabbath rest (Heb 4:9-10).
Secondly, prioritize. What does Scripture emphasize? The Pharisees asked Jesus in Matthew 22 what the greatest commandment was; do you remember his answer? He didn't respond that it's to accomplish as much as you can before you die. That's like building a castle of sand during low tide; it'll get washed away as soon as you leave.
Rather, the great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and then, secondly, to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:36-40). Scripture doesn't tell us how many after-school activities we're allowed to participate in or how many hours we can work per week. But Scripture does tell us a great many things about how husbands should love wives and wives should love husbands (Eph 5:22-33; 1 Pet 3:1-7), how parents should love and instruct children (Deut 6:7; Prov 1:8; 2:1-5; Eph 6:1-4), and how God's people should worship and love the One who has brought us out of slavery (Deut 6:1-5; Eph 4:1-3; Rev 5:9-14).
Both rest and priorities find their way into the account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Martha is "busy with serving." She's like most of us, consumed with a lot of really good tasks to accomplish. To her consternation though, her sister Mary stops working and sits to listen to Jesus. But when she asks Jesus to make Mary work, Jesus gently responds, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
In the midst of the "many things" of daily life, only "one thing" is truly necessary. Rest in Christ and restructure your life to make that "one thing" apparent.