Busy is the state most of us find ourselves in most often. Women in days past washed clothes by hand and yet still had time to crocket lace tablecloths or sew beautiful quilts, not just practical things but works of art to brighten their homes. Nowadays, no one has the time to make lace. Yet we have machines to do half our chores, and we get our food from shiny stores rather than laboring to coax it from the earth.
How have we gotten so busy?
Perhaps, being busy is more manageable than relationships. Perhaps, distracted social media pursuits are less complicated than real life. Perhaps, the hustle and bustle stroke our fragile egos more than we realize. Maybe, we’ve placed busy on a throne in our hearts without realizing it. When you feel like busyness has overtaken your life, it would be best to set aside to rest. You may need to find tangible, practical ways to pursue rest in Christ. You have to create a set of steps to follow that clean slate of forgiveness.
Making time and space for a sabbath rest is not an easy task. Your family may not do it perfectly, but they’ll come to love it. Before you find your rhythm, you may be so stressed out trying to rest that you might wonder what the Lord meant for this ordinance in the world. And in truth, you may want to give up. It can seem like it’s too hard to clear this time for joyfully worshiping together. You may have to cut back on and sift non-essential tasks from the schedule, hone the house projects to just what was necessary, and guard that family time of rest through preparations.
Remembering Christ’s death on the cross until He returns is just as He instructed us to do (1 Corinthians 11:24). There are two commandments given most often in the Old Testament: do not fear and honor the Sabbath. God knows we need the Sabbath. He made it, especially for us. The angels don’t have a sabbath, nor do the animals or the plant world. Humans need rest that is unique from the rest of Creation.
Why do we deny ourselves rest?
To deny our need for rest is to deny who we are and how we’ve been made. And yet so often, that is precisely what we do when we inundate our lives with busy activities. Embracing our need for rest, accepting our inability to accomplish that which rescues our souls, and obeying the command to rest every week is a place of humility.
Busyness makes us feel important, wanted, and in demand. It strokes our precious egos and reassures us that we are needed. It becomes a demanding, consuming idol that robs our lives yet distracts us enough that we aren’t forced even to notice the damage it has done most of the time.
Busyness proclaims the opposite of each of these re-centering truths. Busyness lies to us, assures us that we are our own, that we can work hard and accomplish our goals (not that dreams are wrong), that everything we have or will have is from our getting and doing, and that others need us — we don’t need others or God. Busyness, if we let it, can become a God-replacing idol.
One of the most well-known biblical illustrations about busyness was brought to us through the contrasting choices of Mary and Martha. But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Martha had a legitimate reason to be busy. Jesus and all His followers had dropped by for a visit. Of course, she wanted dinner to be perfect, fit for her King! But all the other people crowded around must have been so overwhelming as she tried to show hospitality to everyone. And where was her sister? Sitting adoringly collecting dust at Jesus’ feet while Martha worked up a sweat taking care of everyone.
Imagine Martha’s flushed cheeks from working over the fire, her hair escaping her head, covering something like how our always becomes a total, crazy, frizzy, mind-of-its-own mess when we’re working hard. Her robes were covered with flour, sauces, and who knows what, while her sister sat there with flawless hair, not a drop of sweat, and her robes crisp and clean, her face beaming up at Jesus, just having the time of her life.
Martha wanted to please Jesus. All her efforts started with a worshipful heart in her way. But something happened in the in-between part of her service, and it got a bit twisted up, which happens to all of us. If Martha hadn’t been slaving away in the kitchen, would Jesus have pulled another loaves-and-fishes miracle to provide for everyone? What was his plan to tend to everyone if Mary was doing the right thing?
When our work and busyness cloud our view of Jesus or His people, and we start to feel like Martha, the result is better left undone until you get my heart on straight again or instead until we stop long enough for Him to get my heart on straight again.
Why does this matter?
The opposite of rest leads to disobedience. Rest requires intentionality. And it is bizarrely difficult to rest when we are exhausted. This is one of the reasons God calls us for a weekly reset so that we don’t get so lost in the tornado of life we can’t take care of ourselves.
We need the self-control to not over-commit and over-schedule our lives so that we don’t get to those places of exhaustion that lead us into disobedience. And the wrestle to purge our lives of the busy is worth every bit of struggle it will take to get there! (Matthew 11:28-30).
Our Lord leads us this way. With rest, with gentleness, with humility. If we are taught in any other spirit than this, it isn’t the Lord leading us. And we’ve followed an idol. May the Lord give you the wisdom to see the soul spaces where busyness has robbed you and the grace to de-throne the idol that busyness can be and replace it with the kind of worship and rest Mary illustrated for us at the feet of Jesus.