And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. | Romans 12:2
It’s that time of year again. That time when we resolve to do all sorts of good things to make our lives better and more productive. This year, I’m taking a new approach: What if, instead of resolving to do more in the new year, I resolved to do less? (Gasp) Yes, you heard me right. Less instead of more. Those very words go against my grain. I am naturally a “doer”—when I see something that needs to be done, my instinct is to do something about it. Most weeks, my free time is divvied up to the max, yet I always seem to be adding “just one more thing” to the list. So, instead, I’m going to be more intentional about prioritizing and taking time to slow down. I realize this may be a seemingly impossible task for most of us, but just take a few minutes with me to consider the implications this could have for your life in 2017.
Most health fads and diets agree on one thing: The less processed something is, the better it is for you. Organic and raw ingredients deliver more nutritional value and greater health benefits. Just as overly processed foods are diminished in value, overly hectic lives dull our senses. Busyness protects us from raw emotion. When we’re busy, we don’t allow ourselves to feel the full range of emotions that God intended. And how do we know that God intended for us to experience happiness, love, sorrow, pain, loneliness, anger, and even fear? It’s simple—because Jesus experienced all of those things during His life here on earth. His emotions were central to His humanity, even if they were perfect manifestations of our imperfect emotional expressions. His were always perfectly timed, perfectly controlled, and perfectly just and sinless.
When we are at the heights of love and the depths of sorrow, we identify more fully with our Savior in His joy and suffering. However, when we rush from one activity to another, we don’t have time to truly feel or fully experience the emotions that confront us. For many of us, busyness serves as a distraction from the messy areas of life that we’d rather not deal with or even acknowledge. Instead, we push them to the back of our minds, avoiding their presence, because we have too many other things to think about and do.
The problem is that when we dull the pain, we also shortchange our joy. Busyness diminishes our emotions on both ends, thereby stunting our emotional and spiritual growth. As believers, our joy should not be tied to our circumstances, because we have a living hope that is eternal. Instead, we can can find joy in the knowledge that God uses even painful experiences to build us up, to mold us and conform us to His image, and to make us better equipped to serve Him and others.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. | 1 Peter 1:6-7
If we gloss over this process of refinement, we render ourselves less effective for God and certainly less able to relate to others. It is through Jesus’ humanity that we can more closely identify with Him and He with us. Like Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,” our joy and sorrow can find common ground. Jesus found joy in obeying His Heavenly Father and in redeeming us to Himself. We, too, must look beyond our circumstances to God’s work in our lives and the eternal implications. But first, we must slow down and let God work.
Let It Go
Let go and let God. There really isn’t a better way to say it. The epidemic of busyness in our society provides a false sense of security and the illusion that we’re in control. After all, nobody else is making our decisions for us—the calendar says so. Hopefully, as believers, we all know that God is ultimately calling the shots, but our discipline should be in trusting God, not ourselves. When our hectic schedules make us feel like we’re in charge, we’re in essence saying that we don’t trust God with the details of our lives. We’d rather do things our way. Unfortunately, this not only prevents us from becoming the people God wants us to be, but it also keeps us from the many blessings God has in store for us.
If we work and work and work, but miss God’s guidance and leading and neglect our own spiritual condition, we may find ourselves guilty of Jesus’ charge against the Israelites:
You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes. | Haggai 1:6
There is little value in doing “good” things in the name of the Lord if our lives don’t reflect the One we serve. Lecrae’s lyrics capture this all-too-prevalent reality:
It’s a shame the way I want to do these things for You,
Yet don’t even cling to You,
Take time to sit and glean from You.
Rest is Best
As a lifelong athlete, I know the value of a rest day. After five or six days of intense training, your body needs a day to recover and heal, so that it can perform at its best. During weight training, your muscles need time to repair themselves, because you must first break them down before you can build them back up. Following this simple rule prevents injury and helps you to get stronger and faster.
The spiritual benefits of rest are no different. The Sabbath is not just some archaic Old Testament ideal that was intended to rid the Israelites of their forgetfulness and stubbornness. (And, really, aren’t we just as stubborn and forgetful?) While we are no longer under the law, the principles behind the Sabbath are still relevant to our lives today. In fact, they may be even more relevant, considering the many distractions—e-mail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on—that compete for our attention on a daily basis.
The Lord instituted the Sabbath for the Israelites so that He would be ever before them. He wanted to ensure that they would not take His provision for granted. It also set aside time for the Israelites to reflect, recharge, and worship God on a weekly basis. As believers, we aren’t limited to one day; we have continual access to the rest that God offers through Christ. We don’t need to wait to enter the Promised Land as the Israelites did, for Hebrews tells us that “we who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3). We can rest daily in Christ, knowing that He is seated at the right hand of His Father in Heaven, because the work is finished. What’s more, we are also seated with Him in the heavenly places, for where He begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it. If Jesus and His disciples valued rest, then clearly we should too.
This year, let’s say no to constantly doing, and say yes to living life more fully the way God intended. Yes to walking in the trenches. Yes to becoming more like Christ. Yes to trusting God and His future for us. And yes to rest.