Book review: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Wake up and smell the coffee…after you have finished your sabbath lie in. 

The Ruthless elimination of Hurry is summarised by its subtitle: ‘How to stay emotionally healthy and spiritually alive in the chaos of the modern world’. A subtitle that speaks quite directly into the current lockdown times. John Mark opens the book by talking about burnout. Burnout is a fear for so many people. I’ve hit it; you’ve probably hit it; everyone and their Nan have probably hit burnout at some point in their life. If you are anything like me, achievement-focused-yes-man-who-wants-to-single-handedly-save-the-world-but-realises-you-can’t-do-it-without-God-and-have-to-pray-for-forgiveness-of-pride, then you might know what I’m talking about. Without sounding too much like a seventy’s car sales assistant… this is the book for you!

Hurry is the greatest enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate Hurry from your life.

Dallas WIllard

Let’s take a closer look…

Comer breaks the book into three sections. Part one is his argument for the statement above. He writes about the history of hurry and its origins. It turns out that it started with the sundial, as that was the moment that ‘time’ could be broken up hour by hour. Fast forward to present day and hurry was tearing down Comer’s emotional and spiritual well-being. He didn’t have time for his kids, wife, himself, church congregation or God. A sincere and powerful start. 

In part two, John Mark makes a case for the practice of spiritual disciplines. ‘Jesus’ schedule was full. To the brim at times. In a good way. Yet he never came off hurried.’ His argument mainly looks like: Jesus did it, so why don’t you? A compelling and convincing reason if I say so myself. The practice of spiritual disciplines, or holy habits, is the way that Jesus lived every day. He even did it without a coffee in hand or the latest United Pursuit album gently playing in the background. I still struggle when I have both. 

Part three is the development of silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity and slowing as spiritual disciplines. John Mark asks one simple question: How did Jesus do it? These are four practices he has adopted in his life to improve his relationship with time. The outcomes are improved relationships in every sphere of his life. Each section is full of advice on why they are essential and how they can become daily, weekly and monthly habits.  

The book ends with the 20 rules of life; some easy steps that we can try out for ourselves. Although deliberately getting in a longer queue hurts every fibre of my body, I understand his point that we can slow down in the simplest ways. They are rules for him, recommendations for us – an important distinction to remember. 

An honest review

This book does two things well in terms of accessibility. Firstly, it is accessible for non-believers. John Mark always appeals to secular writers and supports his points with scientific studies, research and cultural commentators. Specifically, when he writes about minimalism. Secondly, this book is wonderfully conversational. John Mark has found an excellent balance between an informational and chilled-out writing style. An excellent book for introducing a young audience to ‘spiritual disciplines’ or maybe even a discipleship group’s next study.

I would love to see more writing on recalibrating the heart when legalism seeps into the practice of spiritual disciplines. I know in my life that my sabbaths can become more important than actually setting apart time for God. So often, I get caught up thinking about doing my quiet time ‘right’ instead of just doing it. We all know that legalism is a dangerous path to go down. So how do we get legalism out of our spiritual disciplines when it manages to seep in? 

And to conclude…

It is easy to forget that the movement of the spirit is seen through firm foundations of faith. I know that so often when I seek justice in this world, I will want to go guns blazing in passion to the fight. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is a strong reminder that the more we pursue justice, the more we seek God, the more we usher in the Kingdom; the more we need to practice the disciplines that Jesus taught us. Jesus led the most significant liberation movement in history, ‘the busier and more in demand and famous Jesus became, the more he withdrew to his quiet place to pray.’

We cannot seek justice without first seeking God.

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