Believe it or not, our busyness is one of the great threats to our spiritual lives.
In his book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg tells of a time when he was weary and frazzled and exhausted. His ministry was expanding, his writing career was taking off but Ortberg was miserable. He could feel himself drying up spiritually. So Ortberg reached out to one of his mentors, Dr. Dallas Willard. Willard was a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, but he is best known as a Christian thinker and author. Ortberg calls Willard and asks, “What do I need to do to become spiritually healthy?”
There’s a long silence on the other end of the line. Ortberg says that with Willard, there’s always a long silence on the other end of the line.
After giving the question some thought, Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Ortberg said, “Okay. Got it. What else?”
And his mentor replied, “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
The great enemy of spiritual life in our day is…hurry?
Just because a Ph.D. says something doesn’t make it true. But what do you think? Is there some truth to this?
If I were asked to name the great enemies of spiritual life today, “busyness” probably wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind. I’d probably say something like secular humanism — the prevailing myth that we are capable of achieving our own salvation if we simply look within — or legalism — the religious myth that God’s grace is insufficient — or internet pornography or our phones or a number of other things before I ever got around to adding “busyness” to my list.
But the more I think about it, the more I think Willard is actually right. And the fact that busyness wouldn’t make our initial list might just be an indication of how subtly our enemy operates to wreak havoc in our lives.
I like the way the author John Mark Comer puts it:
Today you’re far more likely to run into the enemy in the form of an alert on your phone while you’re reading your Bible or a multi-day Netflix binge or a full-on dopamine addiction to Instagram or a Saturday morning at the office or another soccer game on a Sunday or commitment after commitment after commitment in a life of speed.
Let’s ask ourselves: what are we really seeking when we pack our calendars with event after event? A life of importance? Significance in the eyes of others? An Insta-worthy experience? And how is that working out for us? It seems that the hurried life is actually the worried life. All our frantic busyness doesn’t seem to be making us any happier or healthier or more spiritually mature. If you ask me, all our rushing about is simply a cover for the deep restlessness that grips our hearts.
I was talking to a good friend recently and he was telling me that he’s completely exhausted right now. He said he feels like he needs to hit the “force quit” button in his life — he needs to turn off all the applications and just be still for a bit. And I think so many of us can relate to that sentiment.
But we’re not just physically exhausted. Our physical weakness points to something even deeper: our heavy-laden soul’s cry for rest.