The Big Juggle – Balancing work and rest

Most of us hardly need any convincing of our busyness, but why are we so busy? It was with this challenge that Life @ Work director Andrew Laird opened our recent breakfast, The Big Juggle – Balancing work and rest.

Andrew began by considering “the system” that we are bound to, the workplace culture that constantly demands more and more from us. Sometimes being bound to this system feels like slavery.

But just as important, Andrew suggested, is what is going on in our hearts, and the desires within that drive our busyness. Chasing acceptance, approval, seeking to keep things under control. What New York pastor Timothy Keller calls “the work beneath the work”. [1] The excuses that we often give for our busyness – “I’m busy because I don’t want to disappoint people”, “I’m busy because I want to be known”, “I’m busy because otherwise things get out of control” – expose the issues of our heart. [2]

It’s into this that Jesus speaks perhaps the most comforting words ever said to the busy: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). But as Andrew explained, to those bound to a burdensome, demanding system, Jesus does not offer release from all bindings, but rather that we bind ourselves to a better way. To a better One. That we bind ourselves to Him. “Take my yoke upon you” Jesus says (Matthew 11:29).

But unlike the burdensome slavery of a demanding culture, Jesus’ yoke is “easy and light” (Matthew 11:30). As Andrew explained, this is because Jesus does not say “Come to me…if you do this”, but simply “Come to me”. And coming to Him we find acceptance, approval, and the one who keeps all things under His sovereign control, so that we no longer need to work for the “work beneath the work”. This is the one we bind ourselves too.

But we also bind ourselves to a better way, the way of restfulness. We learn from Him the way of gentleness and humility (Matthew 11:29).

In light of this Andrew suggested five practical acts of resistance for those bound to Jesus, yet who remain part of a demanding system:

1. Turn off – Don’t believe the lie that the world will stop turning if you stop working; that you are ultimately in control. So find a regular time to turn off your phone and turn off your email.

2. Say no – If you’re saying yes because you want the acceptance and approval of others, start to say no.

3. Don’t always choose the most efficient way of doing things – Take a longer commute to work, sit and drink your coffee rather than getting a take-away. Doing so slows you down and gives you the space to reflect on who you are and the One that you are bound to.

4. Practice humility and gentleness – In a proud and ostentatious world, responding with humility and gentleness is an act of resistance. Practicing this also has the effect of making us feel more calm, relaxed and at a peace.

5. Say something different to the question “How are you going?” – Find a different word to say, perhaps even “rested” if it’s true!

In closing, Andrew encouraged us to realise what a powerful witness it is to live this way in the midst of a restless world. That the restful stand out like a bright light, shining a better way, Jesus’ way, the way of restfulness. And so he closed with this challenge – “How can we possibly testify to a restless world of the rest that is found in Christ, if we’re constantly busy, restless people. The short answer is, you can’t”.

[1] Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavour, 227.

[2] For more on these reasons, and other issues of the heart which drive our busyness, see Tim Chester, The busy Christians guide to busyness.