Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Fresh strength for the worn out

Do you ever get tired of everything? When you hit that wall on the edge of burn out where you’re not ready to give up but you’re too worn down to keep trying? Anyone else ever been there? I end up there more frequently than I care to admit, and there are a number of reasons for it. The primary reason is simply that I load myself down with too much to accomplish. I was lauhing at a drama team leader meeting last night that I had made a priority list of things I needed to do, and it turned out to be two pages long.

Sometimes I have those moments where I know everything is fine and even if it’s not fine, I know it will be. But even so, I just get tired. And as busy as my year has been up until this point, it’s fixing to get even busier, and if I’m already exhausted now, I’m kind of nervous about fall, which is when my life turns upside down.

So if any of you out there are where I am this morning–skirting the edge of burn out, trying to stay focused, grasping for the strength you need to accomplish things that used to bring you joy–this is for you. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Isaiah 40:12-31 (The Message)

Who has scooped up the ocean
    in his two hands,
    or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
    weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
    or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
    what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
    showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
    a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
    like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
    nor enough animals in those vast forests
    to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
    less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

So who even comes close to being like God?
    To whom or what can you compare him?
Some no-god idol? Ridiculous!
    It’s made in a workshop, cast in bronze,
Given a thin veneer of gold,
    and draped with silver filigree.
Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood—
    olive wood, say—that won’t rot,
 Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god,
    giving special care to its base so it won’t tip over!

Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
    The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
    yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
    The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
 Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
    Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
    Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

“So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one?

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
     or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything?
Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Rejoicing when life sucks

No matter what our situation, the Bible tells us we need to rejoice. Because no matter how bad our situation may seem to us, God still has His hand in it, and He still knows what He’s doing.

It’s easy to say that out loud. It’s very easy to remind someone else of the truth of this. But it’s next to impossible to do yourself, especially when you’re having a bad day . . . or a bad stretch of days . . . or (strangely enough) immediately after you’ve had a really awesome experience.

I think we’re all like Elijah in the cave sometimes. We come down from a mountaintop experience with God, where we saw Him move and saw His hand in so many different ways, and then we get back to life and it sucks and everything goes wrong and you make mistakes and people yell at you and then crazy lightning and thunder and hail keep you up all night long so that you get less sleep than you did the night before when you got home at 1:00 in the morning and by the time you’re back on your feet all you want to do is huddle in a corner and cry your eyes out for no real reason. . . . Has anyone else ever experienced that?

I know I go through it every November. Right after Judgement House, when life goes back to “normal,” I always feel my life implode. So you’d think I’d learn to deal with it by now? It’s funny. I’ve learned to expect it, but dealing with it is a whole different matter.

But I think that’s why God gently reminds us to rejoice in Scripture. Because when our lives get like this (just like Elijah) we need to refocus on what’s important, on what matters.

Today’s verse is Psalm 68:4-5.

4 Sing praises to God and to his name!
      Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
   His name is the Lord—
      rejoice in his presence!

 5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
      this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

This was not what I wanted to read this morning.

This morning I woke up in a foul mood, and rejoicing was the furthest thing from my mind. I’m so tired I can hardly concentrate on anything, and I’ve got a full day at work where I’m still picking up pieces of everything that went wrong while I was at the workshop in Colorado. And I’d hoped to have an early night last night and I’d planned to get a decent night’s sleep last night, but that storm blew through here . . . and while I probably just should have gone to sleep, I wanted to make sure nothing was going to happen . . . and then when I was finally able to get into bed, I couldn’t sleep. Oh, and I couldn’t get a shower last night either because the lightning was so bad . . . so I’m greasy . . . . and all my clothes smell like suitcase because I haven’t had time to wash them.

What I really want to do is sit and whine and complain. That’s what my heart tells me to do. To moan and groan about how unfair my life is and just sit in place because I’m so tired that walking is probably a very bad idea.

But you know, what good does that do me? We puny humans get the concept from somewhere that whining and complaining about our circumstances actually helps us feel better. Does it really? I mean, there is sometimes a need to vent to people. But there’s a vast difference between venting and whining.

What I need to do is rejoice.

I need to praise God for everything that’s going right in my life. And I need to praise Him for everything that’s going wrong too. Because He is responsible for all of it, and even if it seems like what He’s sending my way is bad, God is always good. So when my life seems to be falling apart, I need to remember that He’s the one holding it together and it’s just my perspective that needs to change.

God is always good. He knows what He’s doing. He never makes mistakes. He always keeps His promises. And the best way for me to get through days like this is to praise Him for the good and for the bad, because no matter how awful it may seem, He’s going to use it to make something beautiful, something wonderful, something that will be more than worth all the pain and annoyance.

So praise God today wherever you are. If you’re having a good day, praise Him. If you’re having a bad day, praise Him harder. Because once you get your focus off your circumstances, you can see who God is. And once you can see who God is, the little problems in life (like no sleep and greasy hair) aren’t important anymore.