The Toxicity of Hurry

“Hurry is not of the devil, hurry is the devil,” wrote renowned psychologist Carl Jung.

“If the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy,” contended Corrie Ten Boom.

“We, for every kind of reason, good and bad, are distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion,” declared Ronald Rolheiser going on to conclude that “pathological busyness, distraction, and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives.”

John Mark Comer asserts that the problem of hurry, busyness, distraction and restlessness are the great enemies of spiritual life.

Pastors and ministry leaders are often unconsciously swept into the raging flood waters of hurry and find themselves on the brink of burnout if not already there without a visible means to reach the other side. You, like me, as a ministry leader of over four decades, may often wish that someone had coached you in the value of dripping some REST into the rhythms of your life.

Yet the opposite was often communicated, now “go burnout for Jesus”, and you do!

Burnout for Jesus is a skewed perspective that ministry leaders often enter ministry with. The problem: you often leave your quiet time with God, your love time for your spouse, your playtime with children and your relational time with community in the dust behind, while racing full steam ahead to the finish line.

As a teenage boy I spent a summer or two on my grandpa’s small ranch in Northwest Colorado. During those summers I learned a thing or two. I learned how to drive a tractor, to bale hay, to stack hay, how to ride a horse across the river to “round-up” a few stray cows and drive them home. Amidst all those acquired skills I discovered how to REST! Yep, to rest. To be still. To be quiet.

Every day my grandmother prepared a feast that was diligently prepared and served at 12 noon sharp. You weren’t late to dinner and often hurried to make sure that your hands were washed and you were seated when the clock struck 12. After a hard morning’s labor, I consumed the most delicious meal you could imagine. Then back to work, right? Nope then to the living room recliner or sofa to REST. My grandpa insisted that I spend the remainder of the dinner hour RESTING (not much fun for an energetic sixteen-year-old!)

I know, as well as you, that REST is a four-letter-word which doesn’t exist in our theological vocabulary. We’ve ignored this truth and shoved it into the darkest recesses of our ministry lives. 

Quick confession, I didn’t learn the significance of resting at that time, it would take several years before rest would become a reality. With that brief venture into my teenage years let me offer some reflections on the mastery of rest.  

Let me begin with the conclusion given in Isaiah 30:15, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.” To avoid Israel’s response of having “none of it”, rest and quietness, let’s take a look at what avoiding the toxicity of hurry and learning to rest might look like.

If, as Comer suggests, hurry is the enemy of spiritual life, let’s consider the antidote: REST!

I know, as well as you, that REST is a four-letter-word which doesn’t exist in our theological vocabulary. We’ve ignored this truth and shoved it into the darkest recesses of our ministry lives. 


Yet it was Jesus who said, “come . . . and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 (CSB). It was the Pharisees who emphasized the “do.” Sadly, it’s the same rhythm of life that drives so many pastors and ministry leaders because we weren’t encouraged or equipped to treasure the value of rest before encountering the enemy.

“Anapauw”, the word Jesus uses for rest, “means to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to give rest, to refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest, to keep quiet,” (Larry Pierce, Outline of Biblical Language). The obvious outcome of discovering how to rest is “to recover and collect strength.” Every leader at one point in his/her life needs to safeguard a rhythm of rest in order to recover and refresh. 

Rest is a biblical wellspring not to be ignored if we thirst for a transformative relationship with God!

  • The principle of rest is established by God—Genesis 2:1-3.
  • The imperative of rest is presented by the Psalmist—Psalm 116:7
  • The necessity of rest is illustrated by Jesus—Mark 6:31
  • The invitation to rest is given by Jesus—Matthew 11:28-30

Rest is a biblical wellspring not to be ignored if we thirst for a transformative relationship with God!


A rule of life is essential for developing a rhythm of rest. It is not a legalist law that condemns. Rather it “offers unique and regular rhythms that free and open you to the will and presence of Christ, providing a partnership with the Holy Spirit for personal transformation” (Adele Calhoun). Henri Nouwen adds, “it means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

When attempting to craft a rule of life, you will need to take inventory of your core values, your priorities and your boundaries. Sean Nemecek in The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout offers a couple suggestions as you begin to think about developing your rule of life.

  • Pray and listen to God for direction from God about changing your habits.
  • Take time to notice and evaluate your life rhythms. You might ask yourself:
    • When do I feel closest to God?
    • Where do I need to be more aware of God, more filled with His love, or more discerning of His will?
    • Where do I need to make changes to be the healthiest version of who I am in Christ?
    • What changes do I need to make in my calendar in order to become more whole-hearted?
  • Adjust your rule as needed.


“Is there a speed limit to life? Have you ever noticed that Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry? Jesus understood that busyness, productivity, and efficiency are speed words, not kingdom words … and Jesus understood that meditation, wisdom, and worship are slow, mellow and deep” writes Richard Swenson in The Overload Syndrome. Swenson, a medical doctor, gives some prescriptions for healing the hurry sickness. Here are a few from his script pad:

  • Consciously slow the pace of life.
  • Make technology work for you and not against you.
  • Repent of the pride of busyness.
  • Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.
  • Take your time.
  • Develop healthy sleep habits.
  • Schedule relational time.
  • Schedule margin time.
  • Understand the will of God.
  • WAIT!

Take time to identify two or three from the above list and begin working on eliminating the overload of hurry in your life. For me at this stage in my life it would include repenting of the pride of busyness, scheduling relational time, and waiting. Peter Kreeft wrote, “if you can’t take time to do nothing, you’re a slave to doing. Doing nothing is a radical, revolutionary act. It frees you from the universal slavery of our age: slavery to the clock. The clock measures doing but not being.” The need of eliminating hurry is to limit my addiction to busyness, hurry and workaholism, learning to savor the moment (Calhoun). So why not try driving in the slow lane, getting enough rest and lingering longer at the table?

I certainly wish that someone had taken the time to disciple me in the concept of rest before entering ministry.


This one is self-explanatory. “Be still (cease striving) and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10. By the way, it’s an imperative!  

The Hebrew word for Sabbath simply means “stop.” Jesus makes it clear that the Sabbath was made for us, Mark 2:27. It is designed by God for us to cultivate the spirit of restfulness in our lives. This is how we replenish our souls.

Dan Allender in his book Sabbath writes, “Sabbath is the holy time where we feast, play, dance, have sex, sing, pray, laugh, tell stories, read, paint, walk and watch creation in its fullness.” Mind if I ask, “how’s your Sabbath life?”


It is God’s desire for us to enjoy Him! The only way we can do that is to practice the biblical principle of REST by developing a rule of life, eliminating hurry, and pursuing Sabbath. Consider the following:

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever,” Psalm 16:11 NLT.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:11 NLT.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. Philippians 3:1 NLT.

I certainly wish that someone had taken the time to disciple me in the concept of rest before entering ministry. It took a lot of years, but I can now apply the principle of rest modeled by my grandpa, so that I can enjoy an afternoon nap without guilt or shame, thus helping me purge the poison of hurry from my soul!

Why not protect yourself and receive Jesus’ invitation of REST, helping eliminate the toxicity of hurry in your life?

Michael McVey is the Regional Director for the Continental Divide Baptist Association.
His email is [email protected]



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