When's the last time you said, "I'm exhausted!"?
Did you say it at the end of a long, satisfying day of work?
Or was it barely a whisper off your lips while you were lying helplessly in bed for hours?
Exhaustion, to me, used to mean that I'd crammed too many classes, experiments, meetings, and social events into a day.
Now, it is a mind/body/emotional bankruptcy from sickness and prolonged trial. A feeling of utter weariness. It's as if I'm one of those vacuum sealed bags on an infomercial; someone inserts the attachment and sucks out every last ounce of air until I shrivel up.
Last week, I watched a Bible study video on exhaustion. As I dragged myself into the room and opened my notebook, I looked forward to finding help with this familiar problem. I was disappointed to hear tips about taking a quiet retreat, accepting assistance, and dispensing with unnecessary commitments. Sadly, none of these tips help someone who can't escape their burdens, is minimally committed, and whose proper sources of assistance have either turned away or dried up.
The final point of the video? A long story about how God had made supernatural provision for an old man to have his tangled hair brushed before meeting his wife again.
I was supposed to feel encouraged, but I left feeling even emptier than when I came in. If God cares for the hair of an old man, why is my family spending years in circumstances that are draining the life out of us? Where is God when I feel exhausted and in pain?
I have been struggling to keep faith in the midst of one trial on top of another, on top of another. I look to heaven for help, and often I just get enough to survive another day of difficulty. Another day, another struggle.
I keep thinking, what is it God wants to show me about exhaustion?
I think the most important thing to know about exhaustion is that it is a breeding ground for temptation. Temptation to doubt God. Temptation to give up. Temptation to justify disobedience. Temptation to pull away from faith and contrive inadequate human solutions instead.
When Satan had taken everything Job had, including his children, the Enemy was convinced that the destruction of Job's health would finally break him.
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
We need to remember that when we become physically sick and tired, it can be the Enemy's ultimate weapon to break us. However, Job was determined to cling to God, never giving in to the temptation to curse God and die. Instead, he proclaimed his faith boldly in the midst of his utter physical misery Job 19:25-27.
When David was forced to give up his throne and flee from his own son, his trusted adviser betrayed him in his weakest hour by planning the perfect attack.
"I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee."
If you're exhausted, it's a pivotal time to be on guard. Dr. Charles Stanley, in his sermon series on temptation, reminds us that Satan attacks hardest when we are (HALT) Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Preparing for the temptations with scripture means we won't be blindsided. We also need to prepare for feelings of fear and isolation. The withdrawal of human support often accompanies intense spiritual attack. We counter that by seeking God's support in prayer.
While David fled, a relative of his old enemy taunted him, cursed him, and physically threw rocks at David along the way.
"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!"
This is a taunt, strong rejection, and an accusation all in one. It tore at David's very character and self-image. These words resonate with me because in my grandma's demented state, she can say things like this almost verbatim. ("Get out, get out, you awful woman!") Sitting under a waterfall of nonstop criticism and personal insults is emotionally draining to say the least. Though the accusations aren't true, they still erode my strength.
Satan's name literally means "the accuser," and he specializes in tormenting people with false guilt and condemnation. He knows that as long as we are neutralized by feeling bad about ourselves, we won't be powerful in spreading the gospel, encouragement, or hope in the lives of others. We counter this by rejecting wrong thoughts and memorizing scripture that reveals how God views us.
To summarize, scripture clearly outlines the Enemy's exhaustion attack plan:
1. Physical illness to break us
2. Temptation striking at our weakest moments
3. Isolation and Fear
4. Personal insults/Criticism
6. False guilt for non-sins/Condemnation for forgiven sins
Knowing the Enemy's attack plan can help us withstand the onslaught and not become victims of permanent despair. Instead of giving up, I can:
A) Determine to cling to God
B) Seek God's support in prayer
C) Memorize/pray these truths from God's word
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Though I may not have control over my health or circumstances, I have control over my response to the weight of exhaustion. Like Job, I must cling to my Redeemer no matter the cost. By trusting in his death for my sins, I am destined for a better land where "moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal," where there is "no more death or mourning or crying or pain."
Determine to persevere through exhaustion on your journey with Christ. The Lord is with you and will reward you for your faith.