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.

Accomplish more by doing nothing?

Do you ever get to feeling tired and worn out? Like the task you’re trying to accomplish is so far beyond you that there’s no way you’ll ever complete it?

I’m having a good week since I came back from that writing workshop so I actually haven’t been dealing with this recently, but I’m human and I know that the time will return (probably shortly) that I look at the time I have available to me and I will compare it to everything that I need to get done and I will start freaking out. So when I read the verse this morning, I thought maybe I should get myself ready for the next time I feel overwhelmed. Because when I start looking at everything that people are expecting me to do, I can start feeling pretty rundown. And the longer and harder I work, it never seems like I actually accomplish anything.

Do you ever feel like you’re on a treadmill your entire life? Like you’re expending a great deal of energy but you never get anywhere?

Well that’s what trying to live in your own strength is like. You wear yourself out and even though you might accomplish bits and pieces of your task, you don’t ever make any real progress.

If you’ve ever experienced that, the verse this morning is for you.

Isaiah 40:31

 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
      They will soar high on wings like eagles.
   They will run and not grow weary.
      They will walk and not faint.

Yes, indeed. One of the most quoted verses in the Old Testament. This one appears on plaques we hang on our walls and cups we drink our coffee out of. But do we ever really let it sink in what it means? This verse is one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith.

Maybe that would be a little clearer using the Amplified Bible:

31But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. 

When you read that, do you get the same thing I do? To me, this verse says that if you want to gain new strength to face your challenges in life and if you want to accomplish great things for God, you have to wait for Him.

Does that make sense to anybody? Because it doesn’t make sense at all if we’re trying to be rational about this. The Bible is saying that we will accomplish bigger and better things and more of them if we sit around waiting? One school of thought might understand that sitting and waiting will help with the tired and worn out feeling, but personally I find waiting to be exhausting. So it’s not restful for me to sit and wait. I wear myself out.

How can we accomplish more by doing nothing?

I guess the first answer is that doing nothing and waiting are two completely separate issues, especially when you wait the way the Amplified Bible suggests (expectantly looking for God to do something).

The second answer . . . well, if we rush forward and get ahead of God, we’ll be on our own. We’ll be trying to force events to turn in our favor without God’s backing. If we can just be patient and wait for His timing, all we have to do is just be in the right place at the right time and He’ll do all the work for us.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it is true. And if you’ve ever tried waiting on God, you’ll know that it’s harder than it sounds. I hate waiting. There are so many things I want to do . . . and these things are even for God! They’re not for me. But no matter who I want to accomplish these tasks for, I can’t just rush off and do them myself. They’re too big for me. I mean, I could try to do it on my own, but I’m not smart enough . . . or fast enough . . . or experienced enough . . . So I need God’s help, but He’s not going to open a door for me until He’s ready — until He can fit the dreams He’s given me into His plans.

That means I have to trust Him. Because when I trust Him, I get my eyes off myself and my timetable and my goals and I hang everything on Him. And when I’m no longer relying on myself, I am free to lean on Him completely. And that’s when stuff starts happening. That’s when I get stronger. That’s when my goals seem to start accomplishing themselves.

Part of the paradox of true Christianity is that if you want to accomplish great things for God, you have to stop gumming up the works and get out of the way. God’s going to do what He wants to do no matter what. But if you want a part of it, you’ve got to be willing to do what He tells you, even if what He tells you to do is to wait.