(August 29, 1990)
Today, my body feels like it used to after 4-5 hours picking peas; no, more like after a week of forking hay or maybe breaking a horse. Muscles ache; bones ache. If I don’t keep moving, then I can’t move at all.
For all of that, it is a pleasant fatigue -- from hard, honest labor... but I would like a hot bath just the same. Work, effortless for a twenty-year old, becomes arduous after forty – that I have accepted. The Bible says, “the outer man perishes day by day” and today is no exception. However, God also has something to say regarding exhaustion.
Two of my favorite passages of Scripture are extremely comforting at the end of a day’s hard work. One is Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The context and words indicate Jesus is speaking primarily to the spiritually fatigued, those who have been futile in seeking the favor of God through their own efforts, perhaps a result of adhering to a false religious system. Added to that is a heavy load, possibly the weight of sin and guilt. God’s solution to this kind of weariness is COME: be equally yoked with Jesus, the sin-bearer, who removes the sinner’s load and replaces it with forgiveness and new life. Those who seek this rest will find new energy as they experience peace with God plus a clean conscience.
The other passage is for those who have already come, but find themselves feeling “old” and overworked. It is Isaiah 40:28-31: “Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”
Isaiah didn’t reserve fatigue for the middle years; it knows no age limit. There is no limit to its origin either. One cause might be a futile effort to please God without first checking what He wants. Another is adding unassigned work to God-given responsibilities, winding up with a work load He never intended. But even doing the Lord’s work the Lord’s way doesn’t produce immunity to bone-wearying exhaustion. Jesus became so tired He fell asleep in a fishing boat during a storm.
According to Isaiah, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burn out also have a practical solution: WAIT on Him, and He will re-new our strength. WAIT is from the Hebrew QAWA, meaning “to look to God in faith, eagerly expecting He will meet the current need.” This doesn’t mean we can pray and never have to sleep again, or read the Bible and never need a restful walk in the garden. What it does mean is expecting God to be our resource for restoration, and trusting Him to not only provide the means but also the opportunity. God created love, beauty, friends, even night time: all sources of renewal. He also gave us His Word and His Spirit; both minister to weary hearts with words of strength and encouragement.
So often we think we need another nap or more and more vacation time, when what we really need is the consistent ability to wait on the Lord. It is learned through spending time with Him on a regular basis, needy or not, in both good times and bad. It is a lifestyle, not an action for crisis only.
There is nothing wrong with being tired and sore from doing whatever the Lord has given us to do, but rest is honorable too – a hot bath or a night’s sleep might sooth aching muscles and restore physical well-being but rest and renewal at the feet of the Lord refreshes the spirit.