I’ve been thinking about weariness and its cure.
I enjoy thriving (who doesn’t?), yet I am continually compelled to pioneer in dark places. When Christine Caine spoke at the Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis and the Christian Response a few days ago, she said, “We run TO the darkness. We should be God’s search and rescue team on the earth.”
I could be one of the poster children for this. Fortunately, I never got the memo that you are supposed to grow out of it. I also want others to thrive. Sometimes I minister to people who are weary from suffering, grappling with ongoing fears, or undergoing post-traumatic stress. At the summit, the President of World Vision told the stories of refugees he met in Lebanon. He said that many of them carried their keys in their pockets because the last thing they did before leaving was lock the door to their homes. Even four years later, more than anything, they want to go home. I felt the tension mounting in my body as he spoke. When we returned to Franklin a few days later, I took the keys to our home in Kyiv out of my bedroom drawer and wept. Four years later, I still want to go home. Yet, over time, God is restoring my loss. When people suffer, we cannot compare the smallness or greatness of their suffering. They need hope.
What does it take to thrive?
I read the Bible daily, which proves my trust in it, so I thought of the example of Elijah and his exhaustion after a tremendous victory over the prophets of Baal. I love that the Bible doesn’t do spin. It doesn’t hype up its heroes of faith. At times they are frail, weak, and broken. They make mistakes because of their pride and fear. Sometimes they pour out their hearts to God like madmen desperate for help. Yet, most of all, I love the Bible because the stories are not about their faithfulness. The stories point us to the faithfulness of God despite human frailty and seemingly insurmountable odds. We witness the overarching story of God’s faithfulness that has always been and always will be dependent on His character, not our own. When we are weary, we need to know that deeply. We need to know that we cannot fall but so far. We are upheld by His grace and love, kept in the refuge of His presence.
After a full-blast confrontation of the evil of his day, Elijah witnessed a miracle when God showed up, all the people fell on their faces to acknowledge Him as God, and the long drought ended. It was the pinnacle of Elijah’s career as a prophet. But soon afterwards, he was fleeing for his life when the evil Queen Jezebel’s ire boiled over because Elijah wiped out the prophets of Baal. She would not stop until she had his head. He fled for a day, sat down under a tree in the wilderness, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4) Sometimes people place their confidence in faith confessions as if our right standing with God depends on the words we speak. This was not that moment for Elijah. He was deeply fatigued and discouraged. I have been there. I am glad that I can rest secure in God during those times. And that is exactly what God had in mind. Rest. Elijah slept, then rose to eat and drink, slept again, then rose to eat again. God provided food and drink to sustain him for the long journey ahead that, otherwise, would have been too great for him.
When we are weary, our needs are not only spiritual. We need rest. Sometimes we need a great meal and deep sleep.
We also need sustenance from God. Like in Psalm 23, we find that “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. . . He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
After his journey, God spoke to Elijah. He did not speak through the strong wind that passed, or through the earthquake or fire, but in a quiet voice. After listening to Elijah explain his dire circumstances, God told him what to do. I think that Elijah was so discouraged that he did not know what to ask God. Have you been there? God did not rebuke Elijah, but encouraged him with steps to take so he could experience a victorious outcome.
His success was based on God, not himself. He obeyed and the outcome was just as God had spoken.
We need truth to hold onto in order to navigate tough times when discouragement clouds our thinking. We need truth that embraces us and never lets go. This leads me to a final thought. It’s about Saint Patrick, the missionary to Ireland who basically led the entire nation to faith in Jesus Christ during a dark time in history when Ireland was ruled by warlords and druids. Young Patrick suffered as a slave for six years in the country where he would later serve as a missionary. During those difficult years, he learned to depend on God through prayer and came to know Him as God the Father and protector.
These words from “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” are ascribed to him.
“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me.”
God may give us promises, true words of hope and life to stand on when we are weary, but our greatest comfort is found in knowing that we rest secure in Christ. His grace and love fill and encompass us at all times.
This, friends, is how we thrive.
Photo by my brother, Dan.