Resisting the Tyranny of the Urgent

Laundry on the line

The laundry will have to wait

Messy house – check.

Unfinished to-do list – check.  

Guilt and exhaustion – check.

 Need for Sabbath – check.

As I finish writing this blog (on Sunday night), I’m acutely aware of the many things that are undone in my life.  But I’m also aware of my aching need to be undone by the Lord of the Sabbath.  I need Him to “un-do” the tangles of tiredness and warped inner weariness I’m carrying around.

Sabbath is calling my name.

After a full week of school, ministry, and family commitments, there is still much more to do.  But I’m choosing to leave them for another day.  The laundry will remain unfolded.  Those emails will remain unanswered.  That event will remain unplanned.

Sabbath is calling my name.

As I write this, I am intending to take tomorrow (Monday) as my day of Sabbath rest.  It’s been too long since I’ve had an entire day off.  Part of that is a result of the season of life I’m in right now.  But a bigger part of it is purely my own doing.  I have allowed what Charles Hummel calls the “tyranny of the urgent” to be my cruel master, rather than allowing my Good Shepherd to lead me beside still waters.

Sabbath is calling my name.

Hummel reminds me that “We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the important.  The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week.  Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait.  But the urgent tasks call for instant action – endless demands pressure every hour and day.”

Sabbath is calling my name.

In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says, “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn how to live freely and lightly.  (The Message)

Sabbath is calling ALL of our names.

I want to live freely and lightly, so I’m planning to spend my Sabbath day resting, listening for God’s voice, enjoying my garden, perhaps going for a walk, and resting some more.

I’ve scheduled this post to come out on Tuesday – so as you read it, I will hopefully have already had my day of Sabbath.  I’m looking forward on Tuesday to being rested and refreshed, ready to respond to your input on this topic.  I’d love to hear about your practice of  Sabbath.  How do you live “freely and lightly,” as Jesus offers?  

How do you resist the tyranny of the urgent and pay attention to your need for rest and unhurried time in God’s presence?  

Take a moment and leave a comment below – let’s share ideas on how to respond when Sabbath calls our names.

And if you’re looking for some excellent reading on slowing down and taking Sabbath rest, I would highly recommend these books:    Invitation to Silence and Solitude, by Ruth Haley Barton;   Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner


  1. Holly Frederiksen

    Good Morning Linda-
    I sure hope you did have your Sabbath-Why is it that we as women feel like we need to take on the world-How do we unplug-It is a daily struggle for me-
    Thank you for the blog-It really is uplifting for me and many others keep it up-
    I appreciate you-:)

    • linda

      Thanks, Holly, for your encouragement. And you’re right – it is rather silly that we feel like we have to do it all. (Do I think I’m God or something? 🙂 )

      And yes – I did have a terrific day off. Of course that also means that my plate is even more full today. But I also feel like I’ve got more mental and physical energy to take on the day.

      blessings to you!

  2. Linda,
    Charles Hummel lived in my home town for a while, and I read his Tyranny of the Urgent at a time in my life when the to-do lists were pretty short. I’m wasn’t quite sure what the problem was!
    Now I know…
    Thank you for your example–you SCHEDULED a day. What a radical idea to try!

    • linda

      🙂 Yes, truly radical! I just wish I was more consist at putting Sabbath in my calendar, because when I don’t there always seems to be “schedule creep” – i.e. things that creep into my schedule.

      So Janet, did you actually know Hummel? And was he able to really live out what he teaches in that book?

  3. After a season of waiting and receiving such good gifts from others, I am finding the pull once again to the “tyranny of the urgent” i.e. my house and y computer. Accumulating stuff that clutters is such a vivid example of my spiritual life. Along the way I have accumulated more stuff..the ought to’s and the” should have dones” and it is paralyzing. Thank you, Linda, for your timely and insightful thoughts. Right now I am pulling Ruth Barton’s book off my shelf…to enjoy the quiet and solitude. Will it ever get easier…”to be in Christ, rather than to do for Him?” Breaking lifelong habits takes perseverance and priority, and relinquishing the “stuff” to God. Psalm 16;11 – that is where the treasure is.

    • linda

      Karen, I love that you continue to persevere – you’re a great example to me! I think the way God has wired both you and me, we’re especially prone to taking on more than we can handle.

      I’m praying for you today that you would enjoy Ruth Haley Barton’s book and that you would feel peace in resisting the tyranny of the urgent – especially since this is your birthday! Happy birthday, my friend! 🙂

  4. Linda Broffman

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder about priorities. Seems these days we can either be connected with the world around us (linkedin, facebook, pinterest, email, family, etc.) or with God.
    Lord, forgive me for choosing other relationships first over my time with you.

    • Linda Sommerville

      Ouch! Yes, Linda, social media definitely can be a distraction for me too. Although in all honesty, before the days of Facebook, etc., I managed to find other ways to be distracted from God as well. Here’s praying that we can both continue to grow in our ability to put God first. Blessings to you!

  5. Jann Alameda

    Linda, that was wonderful. I set aside Sunday afteroons for reading. I love to read so when I get home from church, I change my clothes to more comfortable, that’s translated to pajamas. I sit back in my recliner and enjoy an afternoon of reading and often dozing.

    Some Sunday afternoons are planned for family get-togethers and that is equally as relaxing.

    I’m not bogged down with children’s activities. My two sons are 42 and 38 so have been on their own for quite some time. I live along so it makes it easie for me to do what I need to do to rest.

    Thank you for your blog.



    • Linda Sommerville

      Jann, sounds like my kind of Sunday afternoon! And you’re right about how the different seasons of life affect our ability to take Sabbath. I’m so glad you’re in a season where it comes more naturally for you.

  6. great submit, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t realize this. You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

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