The first time I heard about the term “rat race” was in high school through the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins. In his nasally voice, lead singer Bill Corgan railed in his song “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”:
Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
Back then, I didn’t understand what all the angst was about, but I sure did like the song! Fast forward a few decades. Now I understand what he was referring to, as I see people in my generation feeling trapped in the rat race of life.
Career-advice books now include titles such as:
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
- Get Out While You Can: Escape the Rat Race
- Off Grid Living
My family even has a board game called Cashflow: Get Out of the Rat Race.
We live in a culture that glorifies long working hours, keeping up with the Joneses, climbing the corporate ladder, and running side hustles—often all at the same time. No wonder people want out!
It’s difficult to break free from this system when we live within the system. As appealing as it sounds, the goal is not necessarily to escape, but to learn to pursue godly lives right where we are. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:15-16 NIV). We live in the rat race, but are not “of” it.
Be Transformed, Not Conformed
So how can a rat at least escape the feeling of being in a rat race? How do we maintain peace amidst our hectic days? How do we slow down when the world is moving faster than us? How do we stay mentally opted-in to our world, without succumbing to the temptation to opt-out?
The answer lies in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Separating ourselves from the noise and pressure of the clamoring world, we can go before God, lay out our aspirations, and surrender them all to Him. We can ask God for guidance regarding our commitments so that we don’t take on anything that He hasn’t asked us to.
He will show us how far to climb the career ladder, what side-gigs to start, what projects to take on—and which to leave on the drawing board. Or maybe we are fine just where we are.
By meditating on His Word, we allow the Holy Spirit to change our desires to be in line with His kingdom, rather than the currents of our culture. We learn to distinguish our needs from our wants. We gain the discernment to know when are striving unnecessarily apart from Him. We become strengthened through the Holy Spirit to withstand peer pressure.
We find peace and relief from the rat race.
When we quiet ourselves before God, we find a refreshing reality. We may not need to hustle more or read yet another personal development book. We may not need that bigger house or that scheme to escape our 9-5 job. We may not need to conform to this world after all.
Is there any part of your plans and dreams that you have not surrendered to God? If so, can you lay them down today?
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)