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Are you always in a rush? Does it feel like there’s never enough time to do everything you need to do?
Pastor and author John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry explores our cultural obsession with rushing and examines how it harms our relationships, health, and spirituality. Comer argues that you can escape this culture of rushing by following the lifestyle of Jesus.
Continue reading for an overview of this insightful book that can put you on the path to an unhurried life.
Overview of John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
You wake up, gulp down your coffee while speed-reading the news, and half-listen to a podcast during your rushed morning commute. You spend your workday juggling tasks before finally returning home and sinking into the couch, your brain fried and your heart pounding.
If any aspects of this scene describe your typical day, you know what it’s like to rush through life. John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry provides insights into what it means to rush through life, why we rush, and how doing so harms us and others. Comer shares advice on how to live a slower, more fulfilling life by following Jesus’s lifestyle.
John Mark Comer is the author of six books on Christianity and the co-host of several podcasts about spirituality. He’s also the founding pastor at Portland’s Bridgetown Church, which helps its congregants model their lifestyles after Jesus’s. Comer says that prior to publishing The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry in 2019, he was a burned-out and overbooked pastor of a megachurch, struggling to juggle his responsibilities as a pastor, father, and husband. In this book, he shares the practices, mindsets, and biblical wisdom that helped him slow down, strengthen his relationships, recover his health, and reconnect with God and Jesus. While Hurry is written primarily for Christian readers, Comer’s insights on slowing down your life may be relevant to non-Christian readers as well.
The Issue: We Rush Through Life
According to Comer, busyness can be either negative or positive. He draws a distinction between what we’ll call a lively lifestyle (positive busyness) and a rushed lifestyle (negative busyness):
- When your life is lively, it brims with meaningful experiences. Comer presents four criteria that characterize meaningful experiences: They 1) nurture your spirituality, 2) deepen your relationships, 3) support your health, and 4) cultivate your sense of purpose.
- When your life is rushed, it’s packed with meaningless experiences—time-consuming tasks that distract you from meaningful experiences.
Why We Rush
Why do we live rushed lifestyles? Comer says that our culture values speed and that this value compels us to rush. Our culture surrounds us with messages that it’s better to be fast than slow. We internalize these messages and arrange our lives to match the speed of the world around us.
Comer identifies a belief that contributes to maintaining the pervasive culture of speed: the delusion that we can do everything we want. Comer calls this a delusion because, in reality, we don’t have enough time to do it all.
The Four Perils of Rushing
Comer argues that over time, rushing has the opposite effect of meaningful experiences: Rushing degrades your relationships, spirituality, health, and sense of purpose. Let’s explore each of these perils.
Peril 1: Weak Relationships
According to Comer, it’s impossible to maintain strong, loving relationships when you live a rushed lifestyle. Here, we’ll highlight two ways that rushing harms your relationships. First, rushing makes you stressed, and this stress makes you less patient and gentle around your loved ones. Over time, this behavior strains your relationships. Second, when you’re rushing, you’re preoccupied with being efficient and productive, which leaves you less emotionally available to others.
Peril 2: Disconnection From God
According to Comer, rushing also harms another relationship: your connection with God. Meaningless activities snatch your attention away from spiritual practice. Your prayers start getting shorter, you begin skipping church, and your nightstand Bible starts to collect dust.
Peril 3: Poor Health
Comer says that in addition to weakening your relationships, rushing degrades your mental and physical health.
Mental health: As previously noted, a rushed lifestyle is stressful. If unaddressed, this stress can harm your long-term mental health. For example, imagine your child is having a tough time in school. You love them deeply, but you feel too busy to provide them with the close support they need. Every time you think about your child, feelings of worry and guilt arise. You believe that you’ve failed as a parent, which lowers your self-esteem. If you fail to manage your worries and recover your self-esteem, you may start experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Physical health: According to Comer, a rushed lifestyle also harms your physical health. When you’re rushing, you make less time for quality sleep, exercise, and healthy eating. Failing to meet these basic needs also increases your chances of getting sick.
Peril 4: A Lack of Purpose
Finally, Comer says that when you’re rushing, you lose your sense of purpose in life. Meaningful experiences give your life purpose, but you can’t fully engage in such experiences if you’re preoccupied with meaningless tasks.
The Remedy: Follow Jesus’s Lifestyle
Now that we’ve explored the perils of rushing and why we rush, let’s turn to Comer’s solution. He argues that you can prioritize meaningful experiences and commit to a life free of rushing by following the lifestyle of Jesus. According to the Bible’s four gospels—which amount to Jesus’s biography—Jesus had a lively lifestyle, not a rushed one.
We’ll begin this section by looking closely at a particular passage of the Bible, one in which Jesus calls upon his believers to follow his lifestyle. Then we’ll present Comer’s insights on how to model your lifestyle after Jesus’s.
Jesus’s Call to Follow His Lifestyle
Comer emphasizes a particular passage from the Bible, Matthew 11:28-30, that sheds light on Jesus’s hope that his followers adopt his lifestyle: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Let’s explore Comer’s interpretation of two specific lines from this passage.
Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Comer says that here, Jesus acknowledges that life’s burdens wear people out spiritually, mentally, and physically. He invites them to experience rest from these burdens.
Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a beam that rests across the shoulders of a pair of oxen, enabling them to pull weight. Comer argues that Jesus is saying that he’s figured out a method—symbolized by the yoke—to make life more bearable. You can achieve this same result by mimicking his method.
According to these passages, Jesus urged his followers to mimic his lifestyle—but what was his lifestyle, specifically? Lastly, we’ll highlight three habits that allowed Jesus to live a meaningful lifestyle free of rushing, and we’ll explore how you can mimic his lifestyle even in modern times.
Habit 1: Slow Your Daily Tempo
First, according to Comer, you can mimic Jesus’s lifestyle by slowing the tempo of your daily life. We’ll begin this section by describing the pace of Jesus’s lifestyle; then, we’ll explore why and how you might model the pace of your life after his.
Jesus’s Daily Tempo
The idea that Jesus’s life was slow-paced and free of rushing may surprise you. Comer says that most people think of Jesus as someone who rushed from town to town, healing the sick and preaching to as many people as he could. However, Comer explains that this portrayal is inaccurate: Jesus never rushed in his endeavors. For instance, he took his time visiting and healing the sick.
Why You Should Slow Your Daily Tempo
How will it benefit you to follow Jesus’s example and slow the tempo of your daily life? Comer explains that slowing the pace of your daily life increases your patience. If you eliminate the pressure of speed, you’ll no longer feel impatient when events in everyday life take a while. Comer insists that increased patience will improve your health, relationships, and spirituality. Let’s further explore each of these benefits.
First, patience helps you feel more relaxed. When you move at a slower pace, you’re less stressed, and this is good for your mental health. Second, when you’re more patient, you treat others better. This improves your relationships. Third, patience provides you with opportunities for spiritual contemplation. While you’re waiting patiently—such as standing in a long line at the post office—you’ll have the opportunity to pray to God. This will improve your relationship with him.
How to Live a Slow-Paced, Patient Lifestyle
How can you experience the benefits of a slow-paced, patient lifestyle? Comer recommends gamifying patience: making a joyful game out of slowing down. He says that gamification will motivate you to slow down your life.
Comer suggests that you make a game of only engaging with technology during specific, scheduled times. Consider scheduling one time of day when you can check social media and another time when you can check your email. That way, you won’t waste too much time on either action. Comer says you can make this a game by setting ambitious rules and challenging yourself to stick to them.
Habit 2: Honor the Sabbath
In addition to slowing the overall pace of your everyday life, Comer says you should slow down for a full day every week—the Sabbath. This day provides an opportunity to take a break from your usual, rushed routine (such as work and chores) so you can engage in slow-paced, meaningful, and spiritual experiences.
We’ll begin this section by exploring why Jesus honored the Sabbath, as you may be inspired by his example. Then, we’ll discuss how you can best honor the Sabbath.
How Jesus Honored the Sabbath
The Gospels reveal that Jesus regularly honored the Sabbath. According to Comer, Jesus did so for multiple reasons. First, he did so to obey God’s commandment. One of God’s Ten Commandments is “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). By “keeping it holy,” God meant taking a break from your typical routine to spend the day worshiping him.
Second, Jesus honored the Sabbath to experience enjoyment. When the Pharisees critiqued Jesus and his followers for how they spent their Sabbath, Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Comer interprets this line to mean that God created the Sabbath as a gift for us to enjoy.
Third, Jesus honored the Sabbath to continue a tradition of resisting oppression. The Old Testament explains this connection between honoring the Sabbath and fighting oppression: Moses delivers the Ten Commandments to an audience of slaves who escaped Egypt, and the commandment about the Sabbath reads: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). According to Comer’s interpretation of this passage, this commandment frames rest as a form of resistance against oppression.
How to Honor the Sabbath
How can you honor the Sabbath, as Jesus did? Comer says you should make it the most enjoyable day of the week, one you consistently look forward to. By making the Sabbath enjoyable, you’ll want to observe it, and it’ll feel easier to observe.
Habit 3: Protect Your Lively Lifestyle
So far, we’ve discussed how to live a less rushed, more meaningful lifestyle by following Jesus’s daily tempo and honoring the Sabbath as he did. But, how can you maintain these habits as new obligations and opportunities threaten to make your days more rushed or encroach on your spiritual practice?
Comer insists that you must protect your lively lifestyle by regularly turning down opportunities that you don’t have the time or the capacity for. Doing so will allow you to focus on the things that really matter—your health, relationships, connection to God, and life purpose. For inspiration on turning down opportunities, look to Jesus. According to Comer, Jesus set boundaries to prevent additional obligations from making his lifestyle rushed.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry summary:
- Our cultural obsession with rushing and how it's harmful in many ways
- How to stop rushing by deepening your Christian spiritual practice
- How to carve out more time for your spiritual practice