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The Drug of Busyness and the Fear of Rest


Time stopped dead last year — for many of us. It was a few weeks for some; for others, months. City streets were quiet. Neighborhoods bloomed with people on streets sidewalks and in yards. It was almost neighborly to see people that were normally gone at the office 6-7 days a week. 

Then slowly, gradually, like a dam giving way: first a trickle; then a flood-tide…and somehow we are swimming in busyness again. Busyness is productivity, right? But sometimes busyness also medicates us—the blur of time becomes numbness, protecting us from our shame that we lack glory…or the pain that our glory is really hollow. 

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Cal Newport in his book Deep Work, encourages creating blocks of focused concentration, uncluttered by hyper-connectivity and multitasking. He observes we can deep-focus on specific work or knowledge to eventually emerge as craftsmen who obtain a sense of sacredness as they reach the pinnacle of their skill. 

Productivity at this level can be amazing. There can even be something worshipful about work, even simple work, when we learn to do it in a focused way.  We can push past the boredom and labor into those euphoric moments where we brush against magic in the mastery of something. As sons and daughters of the Creator, we can engage these high moments as a form of worship and prayer. 

Another angle to resisting numbness is quiet and rest. We can repent, turn away from busyness and take easy steps into rest. We can quiet our emotion-filled souls and trust with a confidence that God is at work for good regardless of all the conflicting stories, the polarizations and agenda saturated news. 

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (Isaiah 30:15 NIV).

Why are we so busy as societies? What pain are we pretending to hide? What fear are we running from? What has betrayed us so deeply, wounded our souls to such a depth that we do not know how to be still? What gods do we serve that demand such high achievements of us? Gods whose silent mocking laughter tell us our pursuit is empty. We win the prize, charm fades and we crave another hunt, another chase for something a little better. 

Are we angry at God for the pain in our world? Is there an arrow shaft splintered and broken off; a buried pain of betrayal; a jadedness because there is no medicine, no life coming from our workplace, government, church or segment of society that can get under the scab? Do we even recognize the severity, or does busyness (maybe laziness) keep us numb? 


Judgement to our world for ignoring her pain – she protects it like a snarling dragon curled around her treasure hoard. She defends herself from exposing pain like a mother bear, like her young. But this pain is old, as old as the tree in paradise. We reached out, we ate fruit to be like God and fell short of his glory. Present day we labor with sweat on our brow, for this technology we can’t live without, this handheld device connecting yet demanding our time, a click, a touch, a glance every second.

We leverage busyness like a border wall between the US and Mexico. Like the West Bank Barrier knifing into Palestine. Walls are erected to keep enemies out so that we never have to truly confront our societal pain. Yes, walls allow us to splint the brokenness of conflict, but this is only a partial truth. As long as there are walls, there is no healing, a partial hardness resides, a numbness to the deeper fractured heart of the peoples. 

Be still my soul. My God? My soul be still. My hope is found in the incarnation of Jesus: God now with us, God’s presence manifest in me and in my world. God again visiting our world to make things right. God was not of creation, but he entered creation to woo us. God is not of evil, but he entered sin and death to reconcile us to God. God’s love does not hang out on only one side of a dividing wall or conflict. Walls are monuments of protection from pain. Gates are invitations. Jesus said, “I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9 The Message). 

We can find freedom from our monuments of protection, the freedom of green pastures. Will we enter the invitation of rest and escape our culturally approved busyness? Surely there are large concerning agendas in our world. Many eyes are on the “The Great Reset” but our eyes should first be on the Great Redeemer of all things, who offers us his own way, “The Great Rest.” 

“For the person who has entered His [God’s] rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:10–11 HCSV).

Many of us had a glimpse of something beautiful, a flavor of the Sabbath rest in 2020. It may be that many hard times are coming to our globally fractured yet connected world, but this word of rest is abiding. God created a good earth, and even if evil looks more powerful, Jesus submitting to the powers of Sin and Death and rising from the dead demonstrates something else. 

There are three relevant theological truths that we can rest in: 

  1. The beginnings — we can rest knowing our creation is founded from an eternal and good Word. The original good intentions of God are still active and redemptively moving forward in spite of human history.

  2. The fulcrum — We can rest in knowing that the Living Word manifest as Jesus—his reconciling death and resurrection—are life giving; a way forward through the chaos.

  3. The future — we can rest in the hope of a future and coming king of all things. Jesus—God’s favorite—will return, unveil and manifest the ultimate beauty of his redemptive dream.

Don’t loose lose the gift of rest God offers us. Press in, fight the busyness, claim the quiet confidence for your soul.