Exhaustion. Complete physical and mental fatigue. The kind of tiredness that leaves you spent, depleted, and weary. Have you ever felt that way?
Life is so busy and moving so fast that it can take a lot out of us. Frankly, as challenging as the Covid pandemic was, I found peace in the slower pace of life forced upon our family. Although I’m thrilled that life is beginning to feel more normal, our schedules are getting fuller, our list of commitments is growing, time is becoming scarcer, and the familiar ache of weariness is rearing its ugly head, threatening to move back in.
What can we do to ensure we don’t get sucked back in and weighed down by exhaustion?
Would it surprise you to know that even Jesus experienced fatigue? “Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well.” (John 4:6 HCSB) Jesus was personally familiar with the feeling.
It’s no surprise then that He can identify weariness in us. Matthew 9:36 describes that “when [Jesus] saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. (HCSB)”
I love that this verse shows Jesus' compassion towards us when we're exhausted. I also love that this verse compares the weariness Jesus witnessed to sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), so it shouldn’t surprise us that He is what we need to break free from the chains that cause fatigue.
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
Here we receive a two-part equation for overcoming and avoiding weariness.
When we find ourselves on the brink of or consumed by exhaustion, the first thing we must do is turn to Jesus. He promises to give us rest if we take the burdens causing us to feel worn out to Him.
To take our burdens to Him, we must spend time with Him through prayer and Scripture study. I know, when we’re busy and overwhelmed, it feels like taking time to study Scripture and pray will only add to our stress. But Jesus promises that He will give us rest, energizing and restoring us, when we make time for Him!
The second part of the equation is to come under Jesus’ authority. That means yielding our lives entirely to Him, including the things that seem important but may be causing us to feel burned out. We must hand those things over to Him and ask Him to reprioritize our lives. We must yield our will to the Good Shepherd and let Him lead us in the best path forward.
Yielding our plans to Him can be painful. He may tell us that some things need to go. If He does that, sweet friend, release it as quickly as possible! I know that is hard and scary. Trust me; I struggle with this part of the equation. But when we obediently follow His leading, we invite Him to come alongside us and help us with whatever is left on our to-do list!
However, releasing things to Jesus doesn’t mean reneging on our responsibilities or quitting because something is difficult. Instead, it requires us to take an honest look at where we’re at and prayerfully ask Him what things He wants us to say “yes” to doing. He may require us to follow through on some things we’ve committed to, which might mean being busier than He would have liked us to be for a season. But, even in that, He will come alongside us and help us carry our burden.
When we spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study, we prepare our hearts and minds to hear from Him, allowing Him to speak into our lives because we are quiet enough to listen to His still, small voice. As we do that, we begin to discern more about what He does and does not want us to do with our time and resources. Being submissive to his authority prevents future weariness because we are in His will while simultaneously inviting Him to help us with whatever plans He has for us. It’s a win-win!
I wish I could say I get this right all the time now. I don’t. I struggle with this because I’m a people pleaser and tend to say “yes” before thinking. But I’m growing! I remember more often than not to stop and take it to the Lord before answering. Now, when I take on a role that was not in His plan for me, I identify it earlier in the process. In turn, I can take the situation to Him and ask for His guidance. He is always gracious to respond and help me carry the burden until He releases me from the commitment I made.
As with all things learned from Scripture, this is a simple strategy but not easy to execute! Jesus is a good and gracious shepherd. As we continue to practice the discipline of spending time with Him and submitting to His authority, He matures us in a way that makes the process easier and tunes our ears into His voice that leads us more easily.
If you feel spent, depleted, or weary, spend time with the Good Shepherd and come under His authority. Whatever He tells you to do, follow through. It might sting for a bit, but as He comes alongside you, the burden will lighten, the exhaustion will lift, and you will find rest in Him!
Good Shepherd, Thank You for Your love and compassion. Thank You for seeing me where I am and knowing where I need to go. Thank You for promising that You will release the burdens causing weariness and exhaustion when I come to You! You are so good! I love You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.