Hurry is the Great Enemy of Spiritual Life

For the last few weeks, whenever anyone asks me how I’m doing, my first answer is, “Busy. Good busy, but you know, busy.” And it is good busy; homeschooling four kids can be a ton of fun, with projects and field trips and reading great books, and don’t forget to hike Shenandoah before the leaves are all gone, but pile that on top of cooking dinner (most nights) and cleaning the house (let’s be honest: rarely), hitting the gym, serving others, hanging out with my husband once in a while, you know, all the things that we are privileged to do with our free time and financial resources.

But I didn’t stop to think about how all these good things might be adding up to my detriment. As John Ortberg puts it, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.” I figured as long as I was getting in a few good Bible reading seshes each week, the rest of my life’s busyness was not a problem. I can keep all these plates spinning in the air, right? I can keep all these circus monkeys in line, right?

I recently listened to a sermon about 2 Samuel 7. At the start of the chapter, we see King David at a pretty good place in his life. He is far removed from running for his life from Saul, living as a fugitive in the caves, and assembling a ragtag army of malcontents. No, at the start of chapter 7, we see David living large. He is, so to speak, sitting on his back porch with his feet propped up, overlooking his pool and his putting green. He starts to think about all that he has accomplished, and then he starts to think about what awesome thing he could do for God. We read, “When King David was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, the king summoned Nathan the prophet. ‘Look,’ David said, ‘I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!’” (2 Samuel 1-2, NLT). 

So David tells Nathan he wants to build God a house, and Nathan, like any good pastor, thinks this is a great idea. What’s that, you’re gonna give the church a million dollars for the new building fund? Blessings! 

But God has other plans. His answer to David is pretty great. He says, essentially, “David, you’ve got it exactly backwards. You aren’t the conquering hero here, I am. You aren’t the one who makes my name great. You are simply the recipient of my grace, which I am pleased to pour out. Oh, and by the way, you aren’t going to build me a house, I’m going to build you a house, and it’s going to last forever.”

It reminds me of God’s conversation with Job after Job dares to question God. God’s not having that, so he shows up in an actual whirlwind, from which he speaks. Loudly, I assume. No big deal. He says, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (If you haven’t read Job 38 in a while, or if you’re needing a reminder of God’s power and sovereignty, I highly recommend a read, especially if you can find time to bellow it at the top of your lungs from a mountaintop. I think that’ll give you a good sense of things.)

After Nathan delivers God’s message to David, David is appropriately chagrined at his attitude. He remembers that he was never the hero of the story. Note the change in posture from the beginning of the chapter to verse 18: “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed.”

And I ask myself: how often do I just sit before the Lord and pray? How often do I just sit? Just to be with him. In our community group this week someone compared this feeling to that puppy love we feel at the start of a relationship. We want to spend every waking minute with that person! We can’t get enough of them! And no one is complaining about having to do the dishes again or who took out the trash last time. There’s nothing we wouldn’t joyfully do for the other person, simply because we love them. This is how we should feel about our God. We should delight just to sit in his presence. 

In Luke 5 we read that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray. Several other places in the gospels we see him retreating from the crowds and going off alone to be with his Father. Ortberg continues: “Following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. If we want to follow someone, we can’t go faster than the one who is leading. … Jesus often had much to do, but he never did it in a way that severed the life-giving connection between him and his Father. He never did it in a way that interfered with his ability to give love when love was called for. He observed a regular practice of withdrawing from activity for the sake of solitude and prayer. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried. Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.”

Read that last sentence again. Don’t you want to get your heart in order? I know I do. It’s time to take a hard look at my schedule and ask God what he wants for me. As Augustine taught, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” With all the busyness and rushing of modern life, we are struggling to find rest. But scheduling time for an afternoon nap won’t cut it; we need the rest that can only be found through abiding in Christ. It’s time to sit before the Lord. It’s time to stop trying to be the hero, as though everything–as though anything!–depended on us. It’s time to pray, along with Job, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”

Written By: Jess Glass

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