"Hurry sickness" is the malaise of the modern world. We rush from one appointment to another, and from one task to the next. Many of us in the West are perpetually in search of materialism and money as we charge up the ladder of success.
London Times writer Celia Brayfield commented that "thirty years of greed have given us luxuries undreamt of by previous generations and no free time to enjoy them."
In her feature article she frequently mentioned "time poverty." In her conclusion she warned readers that "if we don't change our time poverty consciousness soon, we will reach a point where that change is no longer possible. We are already miserable, lonely, stressed and sick ..."
An overstatement? Probably yes, but some of the present symptoms are highly distressing indeed!
No rest for this modern age
Many executives are routinely expected to put in at least 14 hours at the office or on the road. One man recently said that he was in the office by 6 a.m. and worked weekends, and he's certainly not alone.
It seems that the pace of modern life is taking its toll. A recent study suggests that long hours at work are harming our mental health—psychologically and emotionally. Jonathan Scales, a research lecturer at the Health and Social Services Institute in Britain, observed that "there is evidence that working long hours over a long period of time is raising stress levels and reducing emotional well being."
Closely related to the perpetual hurry syndrome is increasing evidence of our monumental impatience. We do not easily come to terms with the discipline of deferred gratification. We want everything now.
We live in an age of almost perpetual impatience. One symptom is road rage. If irritated or delayed even for a few moments by another driver, some few totally lose their tempers and fly into a rage.
Some of these symptoms of modern life are increasingly reflected in the behavior of our children. According to Britain-based author and journalist Minette Martin, "Their infant minds ... have been so grossly over-stimulated by the easy fixes of television and computer games, and of low-grade, heavy-beat surround sound, that they are largely unable to concentrate for more than a few seconds" (Daily Telegraph).
We all need to sit down, breathe easily, relax and take time to think rationally and constructively.
Regrettably, in this past century we've even cut down on our sleep time. An article in The Times reported that we now average 90 minutes less sleep at night than people did a century ago. Also a recent survey found that we now average 7 hours and 12 minutes of sleep a night, down 25 minutes from only a decade ago. Many average much less than that.
The 24-hour society
Clearly human beings were designed to rest at appropriate times. Yet increasingly we are moving into a 24-hour society. Some of us work, eat, drink, dance and shop around the clock. Like New York and other cities that never sleep, we are very reluctant to turn in and go to bed. The evidence is becoming clearer that our collective exhaustion threatens national health and well-being.
Many services and shops are open around the clock in major American cities. The Internet is available anytime. One person described this growing practice as "colonizing the night," expanding our control over time to do things whenever it is convenient for us, regardless of what the clock tells us.
Societal habits have changed significantly over the last generation. It wasn't that long ago that the typical husband came home after a hard day's work and the whole family sat down to a meal and family conversation at 6 p.m. or thereabouts. Today both husband and wife are likely to arrive home—often at different times—to the start of a second shift of domestic chores and mutual responsibilities.
For those who have some time for leisure pursuits, many TV stations and cable channels are on the air around the clock. Supposedly we can be entertained at any time of our choosing. But the net result of the 24-hour society is that schedules start to blur in our minds and we begin to lose the significance of natural time patterns. Even our awareness of the seven-day week starts to wane.
Many today are in a state of perpetual confusion and weighed down with various problems and anxieties. What's the solution? Jesus Christ tells us that if we will adapt to His way of life, He will give us rest from our burdens (Matthew 11:28). On one occasion He encouraged His disciples to "come aside by yourselves ... and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).
Once in a while we all need to come to a complete halt—to totally stop what we are doing, take time to rest and reflect, and take stock of our lives.
Precious time to think
The late author Norman Cousins observed: "We in America have everything we need except the most important thing of all, time to think and the habit of thought" (Human Options, 1981, p. 28, emphasis added).
"Our own age is not likely to be distinguished for the large numbers of people who insisted on finding time to think," he wrote. "Plainly this is not the age of meditative man. It is a sprinting, squinting, shoving age" (p. 69).
There are so many movers and shakers in our society, there is little room left for thinkers. Yet the capacity for disciplined, sequential thought is one of the greatest gifts our Creator has given mankind. We have the God-given ability to exercise our moral imaginations. Like God, in whose image we were made, we can bring order out of chaos through the process of developing proper thinking habits.
Clearly we do live in a chaotic, confused age. To cope successfully, we need valuable time for sustained thought—periods in which we really have time to think things over and prioritize our commitments. Also we need time to truly appreciate the wonders of the creation. Solomon said that God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
The Bible does tell us that we are to be "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). How are we to accomplish this task? A key lies in a God-given pattern that has been with us since creation.
The seven-day week
It's interesting to note that God's Word is full of patterns of seven. Check any sizable Bible concordance and you will see. In fact, the biblical record tells us God fashioned the present world in six days and chose to rest on the seventh—thus setting apart the Sabbath day for all of mankind to follow His example.
Each 24-hour period was divided into night and day for special purposes. Generally speaking, the nighttime is for rest and sleep.
But we also need rest from our general labors. So the Creator commands us to rest every seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This 24-hour period of time is holy to God, and He tells us to cease from carrying on with our normal working lives and devote this time to rest and reflection on His ways. It is also a time for assembling with others for collective worship (Leviticus 23:1-3; Hebrews 10:24-25).
Spiritual fellowship with others of like mind is one of the most beneficial tonics to the human psyche. We all need it! Of course, this can only succeed in and through our fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
Successful relationships all require time—quality time with God in prayer and Bible study; quality time with our husbands and wives; quality time with family, friends and fellow churchgoers. Of course not all quality time is spent at weekly church services, but it's a good and important beginning.
A weekly day of rest enables us to use the other six days much more profitably. It also gives us sufficient time to meditate and think about those things that can bring special meaning and divine purpose to our busy lives. It provides time and space for families and couples to draw closer together. It provides precious time to read and study the Bible, the book that tells us how to live in a way that is infinitely rewarding, purposeful and fulfilling.
The Sabbath is an integral part of the Ten Commandments. It is no less important a commandment than those six specifically designed to govern our relationships with other human beings. It is one of the vital first four that help us to please our Creator and worship Him in a proper and respectful manner.
Isn't it about time you looked into the Bible's solution for all the stress and anxiety permeating your life? GN