Updated: Aug 9, 2022
Papers are flung everywhere: to-do lists, planners, business spreadsheets, three-ring binders, study notes, sermon notes, game and skit ideas for summer camp, and books that I’ll never have the time to read...
“This is crazy!”
I check my phone for some temporary relief. Facebook. Twitter. Back to Facebook. No, I’m not old. I just hate TikTok...insert relevant eye-rolling emoji here.
I scroll YouTube for ideas for this or that. Remember that I have to send a text to someone. Grab the fancy new book on my shelf. Put it back with yet another eye roll and big sigh. Finish sending my text. Stare off into space, glance back at all the papers on my desk. I beat my head against the wall. Well, I seriously contemplated it.
I take a deep breath. Finally, about to break, I admit, “I can’t do it. I just cannot do everything that needs to be done.”
My stomach is aching, and my head feels like Venus and Serena Williams are playing tennis up there.
“Is this really what my life is going to look like?”
I grew up in a pretty average home. Nothing fancy. I was surrounded by the southern charm of just plain country folk and North Carolina humidity. I guess you can say I had it made in the shade—literally. That North Carolina humidity doesn’t play around. Shade is a must in July.
I was an average boy. I played with toy guns, rode my bicycle with a baseball card between the spokes, and often visited Mamaw and Papaw’s house.
My church and Christian school were the hub of everything I did. Youth activities, sports, school plays, student government, camp, choir—you name it, I did it. But I think one of the greatest blessings of my childhood was the person in charge of all I was involved with—my pastor. He was amazing in all respects! His faithfulness and compassion were unprecedented, and his daily walk mirrored Christ more than any man I’ve ever known. God only knows where I would be had it not been for my pastor’s wisdom and guidance.
I think one of the greatest proofs of his sincerity and love for people came with the decision to start a summer camp. His heart was to reach young people for Christ, and he made every effort to do so. By divine orchestration, he started the church’s camp in the hills of southern Virginia. You know, God’s country.
That place would mean a lot to many people, especially this ole country boy. It was a place of solace from the crazy of everyday life. No school. No cell service. (Yes, we did survive.) No Internet. No TV. No distractions! Just God and His crisp, mountain breeze that swept the valley and refreshed every weary soul that passed by.
I was privileged to serve there for almost a decade. So many memories that I don’t have time to tell: snakes in the dining hall, skunks in the cabins, afternoons tubing down the river, camper-counselor softball games. Yea, it was awesome! But out of all the summers of wild fun and spiritual revival, no summer would have as great an impact on me as the last summer that I served.
Back to my sad, depressive saga...
I was preparing for my last summer at my favorite place in all the world. Pulling my hair out was a daily ritual as I tried to get everything into place for several hundred screaming kids who would probably die of video game anorexia by the end of the week. And not only that, I had to make sure my business back home would survive the summer. Running a window cleaning company is not easy when you spend seven weeks of the summer in the middle of nowhere without cell service or internet.
As the days began to count down to the commencement of camp, my anxieties and fears began to surface. I knew those kids were worth every bit of effort and preparation; I just didn’t know how I was going to do it all. Doubts filled my mind: and what once was a joyful song of a heart ready to serve God, was now a dreadful tune of frustration and restlessness.
Would I lose my business? Would my customers welcome me back after a whole summer away? Would I even make a difference in the lives of those kids?
I didn’t have a clue.
Right before the launching of summer camp, God began to work. I was out on the job and reasoning through a thousand possibilities. I was sick of the rat race in my head trying to figure it all out. I was about to break. Jerking the tools out of my truck and mumbling some sarcastic remarks, I put my headphones in to drown out the world around me.
I quickly surfed to one of my favorite preachers, Dr. Scott Pauley. His fiery spirit and humble attitude behind the pulpit don’t compare to his genuine love for Christ. Growing up, I had heard his messages at youth conferences and had salivated over his ability to communicate God’s truth. His messages just seemed to hit home with me. Maybe it was the Appalachian dialect or the Clark Kent hair, I don’t know.
My thumb landed on a message entitled “Finding Rest in a Restless World.”
“Yeah, I think I might need this one!” I chuckled as I pushed play.
That ordinary day on the job would be a monumental day for my journey. It was not so much a man’s message or delivery, but the God of the message Who was present with me that day.
I rushed home to see the passage for myself.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Easy? Lord, this whole 6:00 a.m. to midnight camp schedule is not going to be easy! And I have a business to run!”
Slowly but surely, He began to show me my fast-paced life from His point of view. Sure, I was busy doing all good and moral things, but was my focus really on Him? Was my end goal a destination, or was it Jesus? Like an arrow swiftly finding its mark, Jesus began to pull back the ugly layers of my restlessness. He began to show me it was not so much a matter of the physical condition, but a colossal disruption of my soul that had left me in the grave of fear, discontentment, and unbelief.
Then it hit me.
I’m living like a lost man. I am living the life that Jesus saved me from—controlled by fear and not by faith. Look what Isaiah said about the wicked (lost) man:
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” (Isaiah 57:20-21).
This is the description of a restless soul—stuck in utter darkness and troubled day and night. This is more than a matter of stress or sleepless nights; it is an aching on the inside that screams when all is silent. It’s the stirring in your heart that shakes with every worry. It’s the pit in your stomach when fear’s vice grip gets ahold of your thoughts. Restlessness is the monster that hides in the secrets of your past. Its father comes from our old Adamic nature and is passed down from generation to generation. It has destroyed many souls from the inside out and has carried away captives of God’s precious children.
My friend, Jesus has not called his children to live a life of unrest! No! He has made a way for us to find rest in a restless world.
Restless: Finding Rest in a Restless World is two years’ worth of prayerful meditation and a study of Christ through Matthew 11:28-30. It is a discovering and rediscovering of rest in a very restless world. This book is not a finding-yourself type quest for happiness. You will not have to dig that deep to understand it. So don’t try to over complicate it. Soul rest is simple, as Christ intended it to be.
We will begin Part One with examining how we have gotten where we are. What is it about our world that is so restless? What are the direct reasons for a restless heart? What prescription has the world come up with to deal with the longing in their soul? You will come to find that the very things that the world proclaims as the cure to restlessness can in return only produce more restlessness.
In chapter 1, we will examine the Delusion of Prosperity. These are the lies that culture has begged us to believe in order to find peace and happiness. Many of God’s children have swallowed up these lies hook, line, and sinker:
You will miss out.
More stuff equals happiness.
The more money you have the better of a person you are.
Power only belongs to the rich.
If you had more you could finally have rest.
This is the delusive ideology of the world that we must reject in order to follow Jesus’ way of rest. We must stop pursuing something and start pursuing Someone. Our inward peace lies in the character of a Person, and that Person is worth pursuing.
The next reason for the restlessness within our souls is the Drive for Productivity, which we will discuss in chapter 2. Many people choose to medicate the hurt of their soul by simply getting busy. It’s not just a matter of checking something off their to-do list, but it is an indictment on their character if they cannot be a success or build an exuberant empire. This is a persuasive violence as it will deceive you into thinking that you are making progress, when on God’s time-table, you have stopped growing in His love and grace. You have worked hard to build your life and have forgotten God has made your hands for the work of His kingdom.
We will dive into several habits of toxic productivity and see how they play out in Jesus’ way of thinking:
Neglect of the Essentials