The RPMs are at the red line. Robert has no spare time in his schedule.From the moment he pops out of bed and hits the floor running, he knows there is no way he can move fast enough to accomplish everything on his schedule for the day. Breakfast is on the fly — three big swallows of orange juice and a granola bar he grabs as he rushes out the door at 7:00 a.m. sharp. His day is a blur of one commitment backed up against the next.
At 7:30 in the evening, Robert rolls into his driveway after being in constant motion for over twelve hours. He can’t relax yet because he still has at least two solid hours of work to do that night. Robert knows the drill; it is nothing new. He will sit at the dining room table and shovel down a reheated dinner while he cranks out a couple more hours of work. Finally, exhausted, Robert will flop onto the couch, turn on the TV, and shift into neutral. Eventually he will drag himself to bed, hit the pillow, and put his frazzled mind to rest.
In the quiet of the night, as the silence surrounds him, Robert reflects on his life. Day after day he feels spent, exhausted, and emotionally wiped out. What makes his situation so desperate is that he can’t imagine any way out of this daily cycle.
What is most shocking about Robert’s frenzied life is that he is not some prot working for a Fortune 500 company. He is a normal high school freshman who works hard to get good grades, plays an instrument in the school band, and excels at two sports in the course of the year. By the time he gets home from his soccer game after a day of school, he still has homework for three classes. This young man has learned from a young age that he has to run full speed just to stay up with the pace of life. We live in a pathologically busy culture, and the “Robert Syndrome” is impacting too many young people and adults. We run from event to event from morning to night. We can’t see any way out of this vicious cycle, this proverbial rat race. The problem is, there is no finish line. To make things worse, our culture cheers us on and inspires us to run even faster. We get awards and rewards for busyness. In the end, many of us come to believe this is the way life has to be.
Many people wear their overburdened schedules as badges of honor. Not only do they flaunt their busy pace with pride, they tend to look down on those who do not live with the same intensity. Yet in the middle of the full days, fitful nights, and endless to-do lists, most of us have an unspoken sense that something is wrong. Our bodies, minds, and souls long for rest. Deep inside, we know something must change. Into this frantic context, God speaks with startling hope. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28 ? 30). God asks a few core questions: Do you feel weary? Is your burden too heavy? Are you tired of carrying your load alone? Do you need rest for your soul?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, God has good news. He wants you to slow down. Take a nap. Discover that the Lord is still the Shepherd who can lead you to green pastures (Psalm 23). If you are soulfatigued and long for rest, God wants you to know that he has established a way for you to order your life so there is always space for play, worship, refreshment, and community with those you love. If we find ourselves wondering if God wants us to discover rest deep in our souls, all we have to do is look at his example. In the opening scene of the Bible, God is at work, creating, shaping, carving, gardening, painting, and speaking the world into existence. At the end of each day, God declares his work good and gets ready for another day of creating. Until the seventh day. On this day, God decides to take a Sabbath. He rests. In the book of Genesis, we read, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2?3).
Why did God rest? Was he tired? Did he need a day off? Had he overdone it with all of his intense creating and hit a wall of fatigue? Was this downtime necessary for him to recharge his batteries for the next week of activity?
God took a day off as an act of love. He rested so he could model a rhythm of life essential for the health and well being of his children. The very first Sabbath was not for God; it was for us. In Genesis chapter 2, we see one of the first teachable moments in the history of the world. Before the man and woman were even aware of their need, their Father was setting an example.
God knew the only way our souls could find true refreshment would be through learning the secret of Sabbath. As the Creator of life, God understood what it would take to sustain the health and vitality of his people, so he showed us the way. Then with open arms he invited us to discover the life-giving rhythm of six days of labor and one day of Sabbath rest.
Ever since that first Sabbath, God’s children resisted this amazing gift. Like a moth to the flame, we are drawn to a hurried lifestyle. We run from the rest God offers. We resist the refreshment we claim our hearts desire. The prophet Isaiah captures this ongoing battle when he writes, “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ?In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it’ ” (Isaiah 30:15).
God offers rest and quietness, and we politely say, “No thank you. I’m not interested.” Isaiah goes on to paint a picture of how God’s children run away from the peace he offers: “You said, ?No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ?We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” (Isaiah 30:16).
Our Creator knows we were made for more than endless days of labor. Because he designed and sculpted us, he understands we need time to love him, connect with each other, and enjoy the blessings of this beautiful world. Yet he also knows that we run from the very things that give life and joy. Sometimes a busy schedule and the refusal to take a Sabbath are signs that we are running from God and avoiding intimacy with him and others. As Isaiah says, we flee; we ride off on the fastest horse we can find. But God is even faster. He can always catch us. Isaiah goes on to say, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).
When we feel God close on our heels and try to run even faster to escape him, we prove that we have no idea who we are dealing with. We can’t outrun God. We should never try to escape from him. He wants us to stop running, turn around, and face him. When we do this, we discover that the things our hearts long for will never be found in a frenzied pace, a seven-day work week, or a schedule that leaves no room for rest. God knows our only hope to experience lasting peace in our souls will come when we find our life and rest in him.
Adapted from Seismic Shifts by Kevin Harney.
Copyright © 2005 by Kevin Harney, published by Zondervan, used with permission.