Whether we’re in lockdown or at our liberty, life feels fast and we feel rushed. John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019, 304 pages) is a well-researched and appealingly-presented diagnosis of this problem.

Comer's reaction against rushing indicts church as well as culture. He helpfully notes that feeling harried is nothing new but identifies how western societies are particularly in thrall to this, and implies that the church has baptised busyness rather than shown a different way. The most serious charge is that the noise of action drowns out a profound hollowness in our lives, personally and corporately.

The message of hope is that we can come to Jesus and find rest and joy, purpose and strength. We receive these gifts through using practices that will “unhurry” our lives and connect us to God's grace. Comer's recommendations are silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing. Practices that begin with other letters of the alphabet are also available, and it is clearly his intention to serve as an introduction to works such as Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, John Ortburg's The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, and Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. Those books deal with spiritual disciplines in greater depth, which includes rejecting a tempting (for some) but unbiblical conclusion that God only meets with us when we withdraw entirely from the world.

Here are some quotes from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry that I found helpful…

“Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.” (p.20)

“We live in a culture that wants to transgress all limitations, not accept them – to cheat time and space. To ‘be like God.’ To watch every new film, listen to every podcast, read every new book (and don’t forget the classics!), hear every record, go to every concert, drive every road trip, travel to every country (another stamp for the passport, please), eat at every new restaurant, party at every new bar opening, befriend every new face, fix every problem in society, rise to the top of every field, win every award, make every list of who’s who…” (p.64)

“The Western church has lost sight of the fact that the way of Jesus is just that: a way of life. It’s not just a set of ideas (what we call theology) or a list of dos and don’ts (what we call ethics). I mean, it is that, but it’s so much more. It’s a way of life based on that of Jesus himself. A lifestyle.” (p.84)

A discipline is a way to access power [by training yourself to do something you previously could not do]. A spiritual discipline is similar but different. It’s similar in that it’s ‘any activity I can do by direct effort that will eventually enable me to do that which, currently, I cannot do by direct effort.’ It’s a way to access power. But it’s different in that not only are you exercising your own capacity to do the right thing (what we call willpower), but you are also opening yourself up to a power far beyond your own – that of the Holy Spirit. You are creating time and space to access God himself at the deepest level of your being. (pp.110-11)

“One of the great problems of spirituality in our day and age that so few people feel safe enough to admit is how separated we feel from God. We rarely experience God’s presence throughout the day. ‘Love, joy, and peace’ does not describe the felt experience of many Christians. Often we come to church hoping for a God hit – a fleeting moment of connection to God before we return to the secular wasteland.” (p.134)

“Right now you have everything you need to live a happy, content life; you have access to the Father. To his loving attention.” (p.217)

“Every… single.. thing that we let into our minds will have an effect on our souls. If you fill your mind with fornication and wildly unrealistic portrayals of beauty, or romance and sex, or violence and the quest for revenge, or cynical secular sarcasm that we call ‘humour,’ or a parade of opulent wealth, or simply banality, what shape do you think that will give to your soul? Honestly, there’s very little I can watch [on television or online] as an apprentice of Jesus.” (p.233)