Hurry Sickness


Photo by: Stephen Mackenzie


Hurry Sickness

Why the RUSH?


Lyn and I just returned from our annual summer break. It was a time of reflection, refreshment, recreation, a LOT of good eating, mixed with a few good challenges. Per usual, I took a number of books with me. This time, however, I decided to re-read a few that merited revisiting…One of those books was John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Comer is a pastor (before you stop reading, give this a chance…PLEASE…there’s something here for all of us). Comer’s mentor asked his mentor to reduce his life’s wisdom. Here’s what it came down to: You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Comer’s mentor replied, “Got it. Now, what else?” 


This year, I’ve sort of substituted the word RUSH for HURRY. Can I do things without rushing? Can I drive, eat, have a conversation – without rushing?


Whether it’s eliminating HURRY or NOT RUSHING, I propose it’s worth PONDERING some of what Comer writes. On pages 48-51 of his book, he throws down a bit of a gauntlet. He gives us a way to assess whether we “suffer” from what has sometimes been called, Hurry sickness. On page 47, Comer puts it this way:


Hurry is a form of violence on the soul.


I’m giving you below Comer’s assessment. I’ll be the first to say that I “suffer” from the condition he and  others call, HURRY SICKNESS, Comer said the first time he took a version of the “test,” he scored nine out of nine. And, in the spirit of transparency, I “score” at least 9 (if not 10…) on his 10 categories. How about you?


Here are my ten symptoms of hurry sickness. Check if the symptom rings true for you:


  1. Irritability - You get mad, frustrated, or just annoyed way too easily. Little, normal things irk you. People have to tiptoe around your ongoing low-grade negativity, if not anger. Word of advice from a fellow, eggshell-expert: to self-diagnose don’t look at how you treat a colleague or neighbor; look at how you treat those closest to you: your spouse, children, roommate, etc.
  2. Hypersensitivity - All it takes is a minor comment to hurt your feelings, a grumpy email to set you off, or a little turn of events to throw you into an emotional funk and ruin your day. Minor things quickly escalate into major emotional events. Depending on your personality, this might show up as anger or nitpickiness or anxiety or depression or just tiredness. Point is, the ordinary problems of life this side of Eden have a disproportionate effect on your emotional well-being and relational grace. You can't seem to roll with the punches.
  3. Restlessness - When you actually do try to slow down and rest, you can't relax. You give Sabbath a try, and you hate it. You read Scripture but find it boring. You have quiet time with God but can't focus your mind. You go to bed early but toss and turn with anxiety. You watch TV but simultaneously check your phone, fold laundry, and get into a spat on Twitter (okay, maybe you just answer an email). Your mind and body are hyped up on the drug of speed, and when they don't get the next dopamine fix, they shiver.
  4. Workaholism (or just nonstop activity) - You just don't know when to stop. Or worse, you can't stop. Another hour, another day, another week. Your drugs of choice are accomplishment and accumulation. These could show up as careerism or just as obsessive housecleaning and errand running. Result: you fall prey to "sunset fatigue," where by day's end you have nothing left to give to your spouse, children, or loved ones. They get the grouchy, curt, overtired you, and it's not pretty.
  5. Emotional numbness - You just don't have the capacity to feel another's pain. Or your own pain for that matter. Empathy is a rare feeling for you. You just don't have the time for it. You live in this kind of constant fugue.
  6. Out-of-order priorities - You feel disconnected from your identity and calling. You're always getting sucked into the tyranny of the urgent, not the important. Your life is reactive, not proactive. You're busier than ever before yet still feel like you don't have time for what really matters to you. Months often go by or years - or, God forbid, maybe it's been decades - and you realize you still haven't gotten around to all the things you said were the most important in your life.
  7. Lack of care for your body - You don’t have time for the basics: eight hours of sleep a night; daily exercise; healthy, home-cooked food; minimal stimulants; margin. You gain weight. Get sick multiple times a year. Regularly wake up tired. Don't sleep well. Live off the four horsemen of the industrialized food apocalypse: caffeine, sugar, processed carbs, and alcohol.
  8. Escapist behaviors - When we're too tired to do what's actually life giving for our souls, we each turn to our distraction of choice: overeating, overdrinking, binge-watching Netflix, browsing social media, surfing the web, looking at porn - name your preferred cultural narcotic. Narcotics are good, healthy even, on an occasional and short-term basis when they shield us from unnecessary pain; but when we abuse them to escape from reality, they eat us alive. You find yourself stuck in the negative feedback loop of socially acceptable addictions.
  9. Slippage of spiritual disciplines - If you're anything like me, when you get over-busy, the things that are truly life giving for your soul are the first to go rather than your first go to - such as a quiet time in the morning, Scripture, prayer, Sabbath, worship on Sunday, a meal with your community, and so on. Because in an ironic Catch-22, the things that make for rest actually take a bit of emotional energy and self-discipline. When we get over-busy, we get over-tired, and when we get over-tired, we don't have the energy or discipline to do what we need most for our souls. Repeat. The cycle begins to feed off its own energy. So instead of life with God, we settle for life with a Netflix subscription and a glass of cheap red wine. A very poor substitute. Not because time wasted on TV is the great Satan but because we rarely get done binge-watching anything (or posting to social media, or overeating Five Guys burgers and fries, etc.) and feel awake and alive from the soul outward, rested, refreshed, and ready for a new day. We delay the inevitable: an emotional crash. And as a consequence, we miss out on the life-giving sense of the with-ness of God.
  10. Isolation - You feel disconnected from God, others, and your own soul. On those rare times when you actually stop to pray (and by pray I don't mean ask God for stuff; I mean sit with God in the quiet), you're so stressed and distracted that your mind can't settle down long enough to enjoy the Father's company. Same with your friends: when you're with them, you're also with your phone or a million miles away in your mind, running down the to-do list. And even when you're alone, you come face to face with the void that is your soul and immediately run back to the familiar groove of busyness and digital distraction.


How’d you do? Might it be time to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life?

To QUIT RUSHING? Give it a try…I bet you (and I) will be glad you (we) did!




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