The following is a chapter from my book, The Way of the Rogue Christian: Living a Life that Counts for Eternity.
Rest of Soul
He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.
—Corrie ten Boom
We often become mentally and spiritually barren
because we’re so busy.
If I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential. It’s so easy to spend your whole time being preoccupied with urgent matters
and never starting to live, really live.
Busyness is usually a sign of brokenness.
Eric was a senior pastor of a church, married, in his 60s, and addicted to pornography. His wife and the church’s elder board were the only ones who knew of Eric’s struggles with porn. They were eager to help Eric and searched for help online where they found Blazing Grace. A member of the elder board called me. The church wanted to pay for Eric to take our eight-week phone course for men who want freedom from pornography. The course involved daily communication and prayer with another brother in Christ and weekly assignments.
After I answered the elder’s questions, he asked me what they could do to help Eric during the eight weeks. “Clear his schedule, and give him time off so he can focus on his relationship with the Lord and rebuild his marriage,” I replied. “Simple enough,” said the elder.
During the next six weeks, I watched as Eric’s schedule doubled. He was so overwhelmed that he was doing his weekly assignments at 3:00 in the morning. When Eric called in to the weekly group meetings, his voice was riddled with anxiety. I challenged Eric multiple times to get off the merry-go-round of insanity he was spinning on but to no avail. He dropped out of the course two weeks before completion.
Months later I got a call from the elder at Eric’s church. Eric had been forced to step down due to his porn addiction… just because he wouldn’t stop and rest.
Satan has it easy wearing out God’s people. Give them a smartphone so they keep checking it and are constantly distracted, obsessed, and devoid of meaningful relationships. Increase their productivity so they do more, and keep them moving as quickly as possible. Do, do, do. You gotta work on your marriage, take care of your kids, be a superstar at work, burn out for God—oops—I mean spend as much time as possible doing good works and ministry. Get ’em hooked on the rush of being busy; busy people are important, after all. Keep them spinning on the merry-go-round of urgency until they fly off and crash.
Over-busyness kills the heart. Since the BA (busy addict) has little time for prayer or resting in God’s presence, their heart dries up and hardens. They stop feeling their emotions and lose sight of who they are and what they’re becoming. Given enough time, they get so tightly wound that they explode in anger at a whim, implode into depression and discouragement, or fry their chemical circuitry to the point that they have a nervous breakdown. They end up anxiety-ridden like Eric, depressed, angry, or all three. They wake up one day and discover that their loved ones are keeping their distance. No one wants to get sprayed when the BA blows up.
The BA is a prime candidate for porn addiction, gorging on junk food, forsaking the exercise and nutrient-dense foods their body needs, binging on entertainment, or going too far with alcohol or drugs. As their health declines, they spend more time at the doctor’s office.
Jim is a pastor. He recently told me he’d lost his passion and hunger for the ministry and couldn’t figure out what had happened. After I asked Jim several questions, he shared his schedule with me. It was overstuffed with running a business, a church, a family—and, oh yeah, he was married too. I asked Jim when the last time was that he had a day alone with the Lord, and I got the same blank stare I get from most Christians.
There is an epidemic these days of BAs falling in ministry. Over-busyness is an open door to a flesh- and pride-driven moral collapse. Neglect your prayer life long enough, and the flesh takes over. Then anything can happen.
All this damage and wreckage is because God’s people don’t understand that rest of soul is a critical part for the Christian life. Scripture gives us a vivid picture of how God sees those who are too busy for Him.
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Buying a field, farming, and getting married are blessings from the Lord. These people weren’t shunning the Lord because they wanted to throw themselves into idol worship or some other sin. Their problem was that they chose to make God’s blessings a higher priority than feasting with Him. Jesus’ parable of the sower gives us another picture of the BA.
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
The cares of the world aren’t described as sin; we all have them. The “choked” are those who don’t put God first and order their priorities accordingly. That is why the first guidepost of the Rogue’s Creed is cultivating a passionate love-relationship with the Lord—not ministry, church, family, or anything else. God must be first. We must drink from the fountain of living water often and refuse to allow anything to choke our relationship with Him.
The flesh-driven BA doesn’t have a shot at making their life count for eternity until they stop, align their schedule and their life with God’s priorities, and take the appropriate action steps on an ongoing basis. It’s the actions of our life, especially how much time we spend with Him, that prove our love for Him.
Before examining the antidote to busyness, what would you say is the number-one reason people get hooked on the bizzy-go-round? Some might say smartphone addiction, the use of ministry as a drug, a love for work, or too much to do.
I believe the number-one reason we keep ourselves over-clocked is that we avoid our heart. We are the church of Pollyanna—keep it light, happy, and pleasant. Don’t rock people’s comfort zones, and whatever you do, don’t bring the heat of conviction of sin. We study God’s Word, preach it, memorize it, assimilate it, and know how it fits into the theology box of our church of choice.
But looking at our heart? That’s where the pain, pride, lust, judging, and sin of every kind reside. Anger, fear, doubt, and discouragement live there too. Many are suffering from hidden wounds and trauma. The heart is the key to the Christian life, and it’s also the temple where the Spirit of God dwells.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Many attempt to outrun, suppress, or medicate their hearts with busyness addiction, workaholism, pornography, sex, gluttony, ministry, or using people. Churches exalt those who carry the heavy load, especially their pastor, until the bottom drops out and the exalted one crashes and burns. Ninety percent of pastors work 55 to 75 hours per week, 91% have experienced burnout in ministry, and 90% report feeling fatigued and worn out every week. Those are epidemic numbers. Unfortunately we’re not getting it; once a church fries their pastor, they look for a new lamb to sacrifice.
This isn’t a pastor-only problem. Most Christians we counsel—at least 90%—are exhausted from spending years avoiding their heart on the bizzy-go-round. It doesn’t work. You can’t outrun your heart. The Holy Spirit is the only One who can soothe and heal your pain, and heart suppression is suicide of the soul. You’ll wake up one day and discover that your heart has turned to stone and that nothing satisfies or matters to you anymore. Jesus calls us to rest.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Perhaps you expected this book to be a call to get busy for God. While the Christian life is one of action, we are called to consistently clear the deck and rest with God. To rest with Him is to obey Him.
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
Why is rest so critical? To rest with Him is to release everything, including our heart, into His hands and give Him permission to do as He wants with our lives. Taking our hands off the controls gives Him room to heal and fill broken, weary hearts with His love. It’s after we rest with Him that we are empowered to live a life that counts for eternity.
Here are the keys to rest:
- You must be willing to stop, set everything aside, and make resting with Him in silence a priority. That means resting often with Him alone during the week and personal retreats in an isolated setting every three to four months.
- Hit the off buttons. Turn off all your electronic toys. Rest of soul is impossible if you’re distracted with texts, emails, and social media notifications popping in the background.
- Open you heart. All attempts to outrun, suppress, or medicate your heart must stop. For some of you, that may be terrifying because you don’t know how much pain is in there, and you haven’t faced you heart in years, maybe decades—or ever. That’s okay. God has healed me many times when I rested with Him. He is gentle, patient, and kind. No counselor, pastor, or friend can heal a heart to the core like God can. He knows your heart and has been waiting for you to come to Him.
- Embrace silence. We don’t do silence in our modern churches. There’s always noise or something going on during our weekend services. People squirm and get uncomfortable if a pastor calls for several seconds of silence for reflection because we’ve trained the flocks to avoid their hearts. Jesus spent considerable time away with the Father in silence. Many of the early church gatherings were prayer meetings, which meant (gasp!) no worship band. Have you noticed how some churches have a “night of prayer and worship” where 20% of the time is spent in prayer? Silence stills the soul and tunes our heart to hear God and rest with Him. You won’t find rest of soul in noise, chaos, and distraction. Go back and read the above verses on rest. Most of you know Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (verses 1–3). Lying down in green pastures . . . still waters . . . restoration . . . peace.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
- Rest with Him. Set your heart on being still and resting with Him. Let the Lord show you what He wants to do when you meet with Him. Don’t set an agenda, and forget about your expectations of what you think He should do. He may bring you to praise, prayer, reading His Word, or listening in quiet. Still your heart, and allow Him the freedom to take you to green pastures.
Do you see how Rogue rest of soul is? Instead of getting busy for God, we rest with Him in order to align ourselves with His heart. In return, we experience deep peace, rest of soul, and the blessing of knowing Him. Then, in His time, He shows us how He wants us to make our life count for eternity.
Are you willing to go Rogue and make resting with Him in silence your way of life? What is holding you back? Are you afraid of facing your heart? Pour all your fears and concerns out to the God of grace and mercy who is waiting for you to come to Him. Take some time to look at any changes you might need to make, and set them in stone. Share them with a friend, and ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable.
Pastors, teach and train your people to rest with the Lord. Having five-to-10-minute periods of silence in your church services will make a big difference in the life of your flock. Don’t just teach them God’s Word; show them how to live it, and give them the opportunity to put it into practice.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”