Watching the results as a candle burn, you find the wick shortens, the amount of wax diminishes, until it burns out. You notice that it feels like you.
Your energy reserve is low, motivation depleted, you’re running on empty-the thread that’s been holding everything together is fraying, the fuel for consumption depleting.
The flame fades.
Burnout may be a result of our own poor choices and unhealthy habits, or a natural extension of facing difficult circumstances or challenges. It’s a feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, a pervasive weariness. We all have times where we taste it.
But, in the discomfort of the season, one of the easiest things to do, is to take matters into our own hands.
The Condition of their Heart
You’ve felt so tired and annoyed that you just took the bull by the horns to get it done, regardless of who you had to step on (or over) to do it. Or, drowned in paperwork you quit counting all the shortcuts you made to complete your work. Maybe in the exhaustion the moral dilemmas stop mattering, even the people you’re serving seem to drift from your line of sight. Our children easily sense when we’re burnt-out, because our patience runs thin, with cracks and crevices ever widening.
This tendency isn’t new.
From the earliest days on earth people gathered to solve the problem of drawing near to God, and united to get there themselves by building a tower to heaven.
Judah experienced the threat of invasion from the powerful Assyrian empire during the reign of King Hezekiah and in response, sought to strategize a way out by making a pact with Egypt.
Getting help may not sound like such a bad plan, tired and terrified as they were,
this seemed to be their only way out. But the Lord spoke through Isaiah to remind them “ah stubborn children, declares the who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit” (Is 30:1). It was clearly a plan of their own design and not God’s.
Isaiah 30 goes on to describe the people as “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (Is 30:9), plugging their ears to what God would say, following their own path instead, reminiscent of a toddler trying to accomplish a task declaring, “I’ll do it myself!”
How many times haven’t we, out of weariness or exhaustion sought to make our own way through the turmoil. Truth be told, those chaotic seasons are like a walking through a blizzard: you can’t see anything else around you, the sole focus is putting your next foot in front of you, blind to all else.
But in the chaos, God is calling us to a better way.
Though our eyes are fixed on placing our own foot, he is illuminating the path before us, if we only turn our eyes to see. He is shepherding us along the weary journey, inviting us, directing us toward himself, for “in returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Is 30:15).
Does it seem like a weak invitation?
The Depth of Our Trust
When life becomes a collection of ‘doing’ we can’t help but measure of worth, success and purpose by it, which inevitably leads us to rely on our own strength, abilities and productivity, even more so when we feel lost in the stressors of a tough season.
Judah would trust Egypt to get them out of their trouble, but God told them it would be like taking refuge behind a wall about to collapse. It’s the same for us when we rely on ourselves. The answer to our problems is not in how we can solve them or how we can navigate the hard times, but in recognizing the truth that, “some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Ps 20:7).
But, when has the name of God become weak in our eyes?
God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. The One who holds all things in his hands, who shook the earth at the death of Jesus and tore the veil in two, who gave life to the resurrected Christ and empowers us by his Spirit. Our God is all-knowing and all-powerful, mighty and strong.
We acknowledge these characteristics about God yet hesitate to put our full trust in the truth of who He is. When the storms of life rage we discover self-reliance is the foundation we’ve built, but it’s sandy land, then we’re surprised it doesn’t hold. Relying on who God is will be the solid foundation, sure, steadfast and sturdy, “for who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?” (Ps 18:31).
Obedience in Returning
We’re more like the Israelites than we’d like to admit. Facing threats around us, weary from the chaos, we forget so easily of all God has done for us. Our choice lies before us, whether will depend on ourselves or in God.
Judah would be taunted mercilessly by the Assyrian messengers. They were trembling with fear at the impending terror Assyria would bring. Yet, King Hezekiah would tear his clothes, humble himself and seek the Lord God. He returned to the One who’d promised blessing and redemption.
We may not feel the strength in our times of struggle and we may lose sight of the big picture of what God is doing. Living in this time on earth we are guaranteed hardships, but we’re also guaranteed his presence and power as we move through it.
This is the beauty of the gospel, that we have been saved through the work of Christ and set apart as his people who are persevering through the now-and-not-yet time before Christ’s return, when we will experience everything we’ve been striving for in the first place, safety and provision, happiness and peace. Obedience will be our natural default. His presence will radiate around us.
The great hope of heaven reminds us in our weary days that pursuing our own way will lead to disappointment, but strength will be found in returning and resting in our Lord and Saviour.
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