“Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.”
Written by: Scott Savage
Earlier this year, if you ran into a friend, you would’ve inevitably asked them how they were doing. One likely answer would’ve been, “Oh, I’m so busy.” Busy has the potential to be a badge of honor and a validation of worth.
While some of us are busier and stretched than ever now, others of us are facing an unprecedented level of stillness. For those of us who are planners, movers, and control freaks, this time at home feels very uncomfortable.
But, what if there’s an invitation from Jesus hidden in this unexpected, even unwanted experience? An invitation to be present with Him, discovering much-needed rest?
In Matthew 11:28-30, we read, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
When Jesus invites us to be present with Him, we have an opportunity to learn some needed lessons.
Jesus taught that the life we want cannot be achieved; it can only be received.
Our default setting in life can become “hurried and distracted.” Our spiritual activities can become a twisted endeavor to earn and achieve, through hurry and hustle, so we’ll feel we’ve accomplished something which makes us feel secure with God. How exhausting!
When I started meditating on Matthew 11:28-30 a couple of years ago, it was if Jesus started inviting me a level deeper. I sensed Him saying, “Scott, I have more to give you. But you keep trying to achieve it yourself. You won’t get it that way. You cannot achieve the life I have for you; you can only receive it.”
When we live at a hurried pace, it’s hard to pay attention to Jesus and others.
There’s a difference between being physically present and fully present.
Jesus embodied true presence. He was never in a hurry. You ever notice that when you read the Gospels, Jesus is fully present in each moment?
Jesus showed the people around him that He loved them by paying attention to them. He once moved through a crowd on his way to heal a girl, and someone reached out to touch him. He noticed their touch, the power going out of Him, and He stopped the crowd, so he could pay attention and show love to a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years!
How do we show God we love Him? Give Him our attention. How do we show others that we love them? We pay attention.
Love is spelled a-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n. Paul Tillich once wrote, “the first duty of love is to listen.”
Jesus teaches us that busy isn’t the problem; hurry is.
Busy is outward - hurry is inward.
Busy is a state of your schedule. Hurry is a state of your soul.
Busy will wear out your body; hurry will crush your spirit.
Jesus invites those who are hurried and burdened to come to Him so that He can provide “rest for our souls.”
John Ortberg moved to Chicago years ago to serve a large church with many programs. Not long into his tenure, he felt overwhelmed by the pace of the ministry. So, he called his mentor, Dallas Willard. After recounting his problems, Ortberg asked for advice. Willard replied, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg wrote that down and asked, “Okay, what else?”
Willard said, “No, that’s it. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
The life Jesus came to give us cannot be hurried or hustled. Hurry must be eliminated to experience the fullness Jesus offers.
We hold onto control, instead of surrendering to Jesus.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus talks about taking up his “yoke.” In the ancient world, a yoke was a device used which linked two oxen to more efficiently plow the ground. In Jewish culture, though, taking up a rabbi’s “yoke” meant submission to their teachings and way of life.
Jesus was inviting his listeners to surrender and submit, trusting that His lifestyle was a better way than they’ve been living. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that His yoke is not heavy or burdensome.
Jesus deserves our submission; He is gentle and “lowly of heart” (think humble). He is the one who brings true rest to our souls. Compared to the crushing weight we’ve tried to carry through the never-ending hurry and hustle, His weight is easy and His burden is light.
Jesus starts teaching us when we stop long enough to listen
My friend Josh took a sabbatical a couple of years ago. When he came back from that time, he told me, “There were things about God I only discovered in slowness and stillness.”
It’s hard to hear Jesus when you’re in a hurry. We all long to hear from Him in a real and meaningful way, but we forget that the kind of encounter we want will require an adjustment of our pace and volume.
In Psalm 46:10, David wrote these famous words. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
So, what can we do in this season to be present with Jesus?
1. Embrace what you’ve been trying to escape.
What if what we feel is a curse is, in fact, a gift from God? If we stop trying to escape the challenges of this time, we might embrace the transformation God is working to bring in our hearts.
2. Listen to God before you look to the world.
In this season, my discipline involves at least 30-45 minutes of phone-free time with prayer, Scripture, and my journal before I see what’s going on with the world.
3. Receive what God has for you in this season.
The gifts of God - unconditional love, grace, and adoption into His family - cannot be achieved through our efforts. They can only be received as gifts from God through the work of Jesus Christ. What if God has gifts He wants to give you, even in this difficult season?
Gifts that cannot be achieved - they can only be received.
We’ve also prepared 10 practical ways you can choose to be present below!