July 14, 1998
A commercial shows a young man in the company of beautiful, alluring women. The words tell of his struggle to resist temptation as sweat drops from his brow—but it isn’t the women that are enticing him—it is their cigarettes. He is trying to quit smoking.
A friend tells me that he started smoking on a dare, but it soon became his main source of relaxation. As his life entered the fast lane, his habit grew to over a pack a day. He now claims he needs this much nicotine to calm his nerves.
What can a person do for a stressed body and frenzied minds? In 1984, over 100 million prescriptions were written in the United States for tranquilizers and related drugs. Some prop themselves up with alcohol. Others crash in front of a television set. Nothing seems to have a lasting effect because that fast lane soon demands they come back.
Because of our hectic pace, North Americans suffer in epic proportions from “sleep-deprivation.” Instead of cutting back, our to-do lists get longer. Instead of taking mini-vacations, we add pep with pills, chemicals, multi-vitamins, and all sorts of related pick-me-ups. Amid the pressures, our limping bodies demand a bigger and better boost to keep us going.
The problem with our props and crutches is that even if they do work, the relief they give does not last long. It is like dieting; we lose weight but soon go back to our old eating patterns and the pounds return. We need a permanent change in the way we live, not a short-term boost.
One bonus: the body is sometimes smarter than the mind. It will fold up on its own if we refuse to willingly take a rest. Illness forces us to do what we knew we needed but were too busy to allow ourselves the time for.
Jesus knows all about our tendency to go too fast without taking time to refuel but His solution was not necessarily more sleep. Even though stress and the tensions of life eventually affect the body, they begin their toll in the inner places, in our hearts and minds and souls.
On one occasion, crowds pressed Jesus for greater miracles but He noticed those who refused to believe in Him, religious leaders who preferred their own hectic efforts at pleasing God. To them (and to us) He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor 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.”
Jesus knew their fast-lane living came from efforts to be all they could, but they were trying to do it in their own strength and by their own rules. Without God’s help, they were becoming weary, beating up themselves with impossible rules and demands. They missed out on God’s help because they refused to put their trust in Him.
On another occasion, Jesus visited Mary and Martha, sisters who loved the Lord. It was mealtime. At first, both women sat and visited with Jesus. Then Martha became anxious about the meal and sped to the kitchen. Soon she grumbled that Mary was not helping her but instead sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha complained to Jesus. He told her she was over-anxious, then added, “. . . only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. . . .”
The meal was important but so was spending time at His feet. Without it, Martha did not have the strength (or the right attitude) to do the work. She railed at Mary and even tried to tell Jesus that He didn’t care. She thought Mary was lazy but Mary knew her source of strength. The work could wait until she was fueled up and ready to do it. Jesus said this was “better.”
Notice, Jesus does not promise a work-free life. He just promises to lift anxiety and be our ultimate crutch. With Him, we can find strength for life, even for the fast lane, but we have to slow down to get it.