Monday, December 9, 2013

Why am I so tired? (Part 2)

[Please don't read the following unless you have read the preceding post.]

We become tired any time we do anything, because work requires energy.  Not all fatigue defeats us, though. When we work hard at something flowing from our inherent strengths, the fatigue we feel actually exhilarates us.

My friend wasn't speaking of this kind of fatigue, however.  He wants more than anything to strive for his Lord Jesus, yet frequently finds himself feeling defeated at the end of the day.  This is why he asked me, "Why am I so tired?"

There are, of course, many reasons one could address in answering my friend's dilemma, but I would like to suggest three common reasons for the demoralizing fatigue my friend so desperately wants to overcome.

Firstly, when we walk with Christ we can often become burdened down with guilt.  We are well aware of the fact we all too often fall short of Holy-Love; and we worry we are rapidly using up the grace God has allotted us.  Consequently, we begin wringing our hands, pace, and fret that God will drop us from His roster unless we straighten up and fly right.  We work even harder to make up for our infractions, and fail again.  Before long we are exhausted and defeated under a heavy weight of guilt.

This guilt-based fatigue happens because we have misunderstood the Gospel of Christ.  Jesus took on all our guilt--past, present, and future--and paid for it once and for all by dying on the cross.  There is no longer any condemnation for anyone who is in Christ. We are forgiven when we stand in Christ by faith.  There is no limit to the mercy He will afford us.  Yes, we will fail; and yes, God's Spirit within us will help us  recognize our failures--not to discourage or shame us, but to awaken us to the new life we have in Christ.  Instead of becoming defeated by guilt, we become invigorated by the wisdom we gain through our failures, because our eyes see more clearly in the light of God's forgiveness.  Truly, in Christ we are freed from the burden of guilt.

Secondly, we tend to exhaust ourselves by  constantly second-guessing, modifying, mitigating, or down-right ignoring what the Holy Spirit tells us to do; instead of simply obeying by the grace He provides, we labor to find loop holes to the Spirit's simple instructions.  The fatigue I am talking about here is of the same ilk as experienced when we tell a lie and don't fess up.  The first lie soon begets a second and then a third, and we find ourselves embroiled in a complex chess game of manipulations, intrigues, and moves and counter-moves; just trying to keep it all spinning wears us out.  In the same way, when we override the Spirit's direction, we collapse under a heavy load of consequences; and our futile attempts to manage these consequences to our best advantage quickly incapacitates us.

Christ frees us from the burden of trying to figure it all out for ourselves--to find wisdom on our own. God's sight is always 20/20; we simply don't have the wherewithal to craft lenses thick enough to correct for our lack of wisdom.  Jesus frees us by lighting our path; we now see through His eyes. All we have to do is to trust Him by stepping where He tells us to step.

Thirdly, we tend to defeat ourselves by thinking walking with Christ is the same as keeping some grand New Year's resolution to ourselves. We tell ourselves, "I've got to be like Jesus," so we proceed to lay out our stratagems,disciplines, and rules.  Unfortunately, we soon find ourselves defeated by our inherent inadequacies.

The good news of the Gospel of Christ is it is God who does and must change us.  No longer are we fettered by our weaknesses, but we are being renewed in the perfect adequacy of Christ.  In ourselves we only find tortuous paths to death; in Christ we find life, and life to the fullest.  God is transforming us as we drink from the well of the eternal spring of Holy-Love gushing within us through His Holy Spirit.

There is an inescapable fatigue in following Christ, but it need not defeat us.  The fatigue I mean comes from persecution.  Persecution is resistance to the Truth of Christ; and we encounter persecution both from within and from outside of ourselves.  To suggest this persecution isn't exhausting would be a lie. But the truth of the gospel of Christ is Jesus suffered every persecution we face, and even the ultimate persecution of death by crucifixion.

In Christ, then, we are freed from having to bear this persecution alone. In the same way Jesus upheld Peter back to the boat through the torrent raging around them in the middle of the lake, He will uphold us through the terrors of this life.  And in the same way Jesus quelled the storm after returning Peter safely to the boat, the day is coming when Jesus will bring eternal Shalom for all who are standing in Him.  This hope is a sure comfort in our afflictions.

My friend asked me what this all looks like practically. Certainly when we can, we should read the Scriptures, which is God's revelation to us.  We should also not forsake His assembly; God often brings His wisdom, comfort, and strength through our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  We also need to find designated times to engage in focused prayer to God.  All these things must be done.  But there are times in life when we simply don't have access to them.  The beauty of the Gospel of Christ is Jesus is always within us.  Therefore we can and should be always chatting with our Lord; in work or play or anytime, we need to be talking with God as an active listener--thanking Him, questioning Him, seeking guidance from Him in everything, and celebrating the fallout of His love both to us and to others.  It is as the Holy Spirit teaches us through St. Paul:

"Always rejoice, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thess. 5:16-18)

In this way we are no longer taxed by the demands of Holy-Love because we are already entrusting ourselves fully to the sure power of Christ.  We find rest as we continually stand in Christ's righteousness.  And the fatigue we experience no longer defeats us but invigorates us as we confidently pursue God's purposes for us.

What Paul says next summarizes this present post much better than I can:

"Don't extinguish the Spirit, do not treat prophecies with contempt. But examine all things; hold fast to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil.  And may the God of peace Himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this." (I Thess. 5:19-24)[NET].