I like to pair seemingly contradictory words to reveal how these words do not contradict one another, but complement one another. My paradoxical method includes using the word “blessing” and then coupling it with an experience or feeling that we typically do not associate as a blessing. If you look deeper, though, there are all kinds of blessings we forfeit during hard experiences because we focus on the pain and overlook the fruit that God is producing in us. In this way, my aim is to help Christians see the goodness and sovereignty of God in all of life, even in the most uncomfortable situations. After all, the “all” in the oft-quoted verse that God works out all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28) includes, of course, suffering.
This brings me to the subject of this post: weariness. I’ve been feeling weary lately. My desire to read and write is low. I have big life decisions to make, and I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of making the wrong decision or the less wise one. Not to mention being inside all day, or most of the day, most of the time, at least, is taking a toll on my mental and emotional health. What could God be doing with my weariness? Or your weariness?
More than you probably think.
When weary, you identify with Jesus, the God-man who himself felt weary. When our Lord arrived at Jacob’s Well, for example, we learn that: “Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well” (John 4:6). When Jesus completed the work of salvation on behalf of God’s people, he went to heaven and “sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). But when Jesus sat down by the well, he did so because he was exhausted.
“For we do not have a high priest,” the writer of Hebrews says, “who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So when you are tired, when you are weary, when you are on the brink of burnout and draw near to Jesus in prayer, it’s not like he doesn’t know what you’re going through. He does. And the good news is that Jesus not only sympathizes with you in your weariness but can also help you in your weariness. So one way that weariness is a blessing is that it helps us identify with Jesus, and usually forces us to draw closer to him.
Second, when weary and you go on vacation or take a day off or do an activity to help fight the fatigue, you enjoy the rest or activity more. On my day off, I like to go to a nearby park called Cliff Cave County Park and walk and enjoy nature for hours. I turn my phone off and go by myself. I spend so much of my time reading, sitting, and writing that when the opportunity avails itself, I seek scenic rest. And when I go to this park, I may meditate on a Bible verse or two. I may utter a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his creation. Perhaps the doctrine of natural revelation may come to mind.
But mostly, I walk around and think about nothing.
It’s glorious. But I recently noticed that I enjoy the park more when I’m weary than when I’m not. When I’m not stressed or tired and I go, I think, “Ah, this is alright.” But when I have zero energy left after a long week and I go to the park, I notice I am able to appreciate it more. I’m more dazzled by the trees and the leaves and the rivers. Creation seems more beautiful to me. I take none of the silence or solitude for granted. If you go on vacation when you really need it, you’ll enjoy it more than if you go when your bucket is full and rejuvenated. Being weary has a way of making you appreciate rest more and reminding you of your need for silence, solitude, and sabbath.
Being weary, furthermore, reveals idols and weaknesses in your life. Of course, there may be seasons (e.g., new parent, church planter, a particularly busy season of work, etc.) where you have to expend a great deal of energy and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s life. We all have to go through it. But this kind of season should not characterize every season of your life. If it does, it’s time to self-examine. Do I say yes to too many things because I fear what people would think of me if I said no? Do I keep busy because my busyness makes me feel significant? Do I waste too much time on social media when I should be actually working?
Sometimes we are weary not because we are working too hard, but because we are spending too much energy on things that don’t matter. It might be time to reassess how you spend your time and energy and to seek to eliminate things that do not align with your calling and to channel your energy toward the things that do. This can be a sobering and painful exercise. But honest acknowledgment is the first step towards change.
Fourth, weariness is a reminder that God created you to get stuff done for his glory (Ephesians 2:10). To use an N.D. Wilson expression, “Life is meant to be spent.” Workaholism is bad, but laziness is equally so. Because of the fall, we should not expect things at work and at home to always run smoothly, but we need to move forward in this post-Genesis three world and get stuff done anyway. Personally, I enjoy an appropriate amount of fatigue after a productive, hard day of work, but feel guilty when I didn’t, to use an athletic expression, “leave it all out on the field.” Weariness reminds us that idleness is sinful and that our lives are meant to be poured out for the glory of the triune God.
Finally, weariness points to heaven. I’m increasingly becoming convinced that most Christians don’t think about heaven enough. I think it’s because heaven seems so abstract, so “up there,” that we don’t know how to think and talk about it, or that we are so focused on the pressures of this life that we don’t stop to contemplate the glories of the next.
All we need to know about heaven is found not in the heaven tourism books (shudder), but in Scripture. We may want to know more about heaven than what we do, but we know enough from Scripture that should create a sense of inner joy and holy anticipation. Heaven will be utterly glorious. No more tears, sorrow, or suffering. God’s people will receive transformed bodies that work perfectly and will never again feel weary.