“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
When it gets really tough — what do you really need — deep down in your soul — to keep going? To keep moving? To keep working, witnessing and being light, salt and love?
A friend, a fellow co-laborer in the Gospel, called me today and shared with me that he felt like he was running on empty. He wondered if he needed a vacation or some other kind of change of pace. When I reflected on how many times I had heard so many of my colleagues express the same kind of exhaustion (and me too!) just within the space of a week, I thought “what do we really need to keep it going?”
I know some of what we may want: we want for things to be a bit easier, for the schedule to slow down just a bit, for time to play. We want for folks to “ack right!”
We want a nap!
We want to feel as if we are making headway….sometimes, we just want to stop for a moment and take a breath, and while we are taking that breath, please, please, don’t let something “crazy” happen to the movement!
But what do we need?
Every day brings more focus to the incredible odds stacked against us — the incredible challenges facing the people, the communities for which we fight. They are always outnumbered, outsmarted, outwitted, outplayed, out-“somethinged”! And we are always working to re-group, lift a new strategy, organize and mobilize more people, lead the people to celebrate the little victories that we too often forget about, and work to bring meaning and definition to the losses. We carry the weight of “defining” reality — drawing bold lines around what’s really at stake — and then, pointing people’s hearts forward toward hope — praying that their minds and their bodies follow.
For people who are committed to Kingdom — what we have is a lifestyle. Because the world we live in is broken and will be until Jesus comes, the most important thing we can can do is witness against broken-ness. We can be light in the places where shadows reign. We can speak truth to power and challenge systems — and sometimes we can even change systems. We can give our lives to the battle, and even though the battle is not ours to win or lose — it is still lonely, painful and exhausting!
If I am to be exhausted, I want to be spent for Jesus. In fact, though I complain at times about being tired in the work, I have yet to tire of the work. I could get tired if I was alone, but I echo Paul — “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” In other words –this is not just me working it out. Not just me. No lone voice here….nothing special or genius about this life, except it be yielded to Him.
Or — consider how Charles Spurgeon reflects on exhaustion:
“If by excessive labor, we die before reaching the average age of [man], worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of heaven…it is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of [men] in fine preservation, but living sacrifices whose lot is to be consumed.”
“We can only produce life in others by the wear and tear of our own being. This is a natural and spiritual law — that fruit can only come to the seed by its spending and being spent even to self-exhaustion.”
Now — of course, I don’t mean that we are to be workaholics. I don’t mean that we are to eschew balanced lives. I certainly don’t mean that we are to neglect the care of our selves, our bodies. That is ridiculous.
But if we are to be exhausted — then by God’s power and grace, we should strive to be exhausted for Him.
If my eyes are to be bleary and tired — let them be because of a laser focus on God’s beloved, God’s smallest ones….and not because I have been looking so intently at my own navel.
If my shoulders are to ache, let it be because I found a sister or brother in need of them….and not because I am carrying my own ego, excess or wealth.
If my feet hurt at the end of the day, let it be because I have walked with someone who was lonely and in need of companionship, or because I went in search of someone lost — and not because I have been stepping on others.
This is what I know: when I am empty God does supply. I may get anxious sometimes, wondering…when, Lord?…but God does indeed supply.
I called my friend back to share with him Philippians 4:19 — and he just laughed.
He said, “I just read the whole letter again….with each verse, I felt like I was caught up in a song that was modulating upward. With each modulation, I felt lighter, weaker…and if you can believe it, more powerful, stronger at the same time.”
I guess that’s what he needed. Of course, my response?
“So, get back to work you slacker!”