Stop This Train

Stop This Train

Written by: Joseph Koh (Photos by: Zann Lee)

The dangers of busyness

I’ve written about slowing down, not giving in to strife, and combating the urges of perfectionism, but I still struggle with an infestation of busyness.

My heart is easily overtaken by the worries of modern living. Finding it impossible to keep up with society’s demands — even little things like needing to exercise more, eat better, and be more attentive to others — it has been left panting, unable to take a breather from such expectations and platitudes.

In the past couple of months, I found myself in an irascible state due to the avalanche of things that I’ve had to do — outside of work (which was already taxing on its own), there were various projects I was involved in, and a series of responsibilities that I had committed to.

My body felt lethargic as I limped out of bed each day; my head throbbed with the pressures of trying to eke out some semblance of a meaningful Christian life. An inertia to find God in the quiet had distended, causing God to feel distant. Along the way, I lost the joy of serving Christ and everything felt like a drag, as exemplified by my shambling feet.

Whilst commuting on the train one bleary morning, it dawned upon me that I had no conception of where I was headed with all these activities. A frustration soon boiled over, as I questioned the reason behind every commitment. I knew I had to stop myself in my tracks, and re-evaluate every single thing in my life, leaving no stone unturned. It scared me that I was not only a Martha; I had no intentions to be Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

Losing my religion

During a period of deep reflection, I uncovered that I had simply lost sight of my season, and the larger purpose of the different domains in life — from work to ministry.

What was I convicted about when I started this job two years ago? Do I know what is my service to God is built upon? Why am I even mentoring others?

I did not have the answers; I had grown accustomed to going through the motions, content with shooting arrows blindfolded.

We can get trapped within the suffocating cycle of mindless activity, that we fail to notice that our heart has started to shift, ever so subtly, to a point where the “vision” of our lives is nowhere to be found. I let the true meaning of work slip through my fingers, even though they remained mired in labour; I had started well and good — being “salt” and a “light” in the marketplace — but personal ambition soon took over, kidnapping my soul in broad daylight.

My job was now centred around self-glory (the pursuit of career success) and vanity (material wealth and comfort). Everything on the outside appeared fine, but I was growing sick on the inside, narcotised by worldly temptations.

Not good enough

This was not all. I became increasingly guilt-ridden that I wasn’t doing enough in my life. My corporate job did not feel adequately impactful, especially when I read the news about wars, poverty, and sickness; yet I was doing nothing to alleviate the pain of others. Riddled in a perpetual state of questioning my occupation, I was taunted by feelings of not doing enough for this broken world. My conscience did not know where to lay its head — it could not find rest.

This nagging and heavy disposition only found release when Mark 1:35-39 (ESV) confronted me:

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”

The Word came alive in me like heartburn, as the passages highlighted to me how razor-sharp Jesus was when His life mission was concerned. While there were many people scrambling to get close to Him, desperate for that one touch or one conversation, and people who needed healing or deliverance; Jesus remained on course and departed for the “next towns.” Even His disciples did not understand his rationale for leaving, given the pressing needs all around.

It may seem like a simple decision, but if I were in Jesus’ shoes, I probably would have stayed put, assuming that I was pleasing the Father’s heart by ministering to the masses. The Son of God was not swayed by others and did not swoon to the tune of others’ approval — the same couldn’t be said for me. He knew full well what he was on earth for, and did not give in to the compulsions of a busy life.

Contemplating on how Jesus lived His life, in how intentional He was with every deed, it was a sobering reminder for me on the need to understand my mission full well, instead of pandering to everything that appeared in my line of sight. Even when it comes to worthy causes and charitable deeds, the “good” thing may not necessarily be something God has called us to do. Our limitations reveal how important it is to understand our season and calling.

These past months of frenetic activity have taught me the dangers of filling my time without understanding what this very time which has been bestowed to me is for. I had allowed busyness to get the better of me, to a disconcerting extent that I neglected the things God has instructed me to do right here and now.

In order for us to live out God’s intentions for us, it is crucial that we follow Jesus’ example: through the chaos and delirium, He prioritised prayer and communion. I believe that this provided Jesus clarity for the road ahead. It may sound simplistic, but it is such an uphill task to achieve when we are always working and feeling flustered.

If you, too, have been slaving for the hustle, I urge you to courageously jump off this train that is destined for destruction. Too often have we been pre-occupied with activity that we are no longer cognisant of where we’re headed and why we even decided to board this very vehicle. God will surely catch you as you ricochet — He is ever waiting to remind us of the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).

JOSEPH thinks that Nasi Lemak ought to be Singapore’s national dish. He is passionate in discovering how faith can collide beautifully with urban culture, and believes in mentoring the next generation. He also wishes that a singular Singaporean accent will emerge in his lifetime. Follow him @firesandtimbers

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