“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it,” says the Preacher of Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 1:8). I can relate. Though perhaps, right now, it’s more that I myself am full of unutterable weariness. I can’t remember being more weary than I have been in this season: pregnancy, on top of a major home remodel, on top of convalescing from COVID-19, on top of mothering three boys under age five, on top of all the mundane concerns of cooking and laundering and maintaining a household standard of cleanliness somewhere above “gross” — I’ve been physically exhausted for months, and exhaustion, for me, often finds me dissolving into tears.
There are so many other reasons for weariness besides my particular set of physical circumstances: the ongoing pandemic, the deep political divides at home, unrest and unraveling in the Middle East and elsewhere, besides all the private burdens and griefs of living in a world that is fallen and broken, or the wearing sameness of days and duties — again, and again, and again. I’d be surprised to find anyone reading who is not experiencing weariness in some way or another.
But life doesn’t stop when a girl gets tired. While a bubble bath or a spa treatment may provide a physical reprieve, there’s still tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and — too often for me — three in the morning, when worries and responsibilities steal my sleep and leave me depleted for the day to come. How should Christian women deal with being “full of weariness”? Dissolving into tears may be a natural response, but it isn’t ultimately helpful with the problem at hand.
The first, most logical, response to weariness is to rest. I can imagine the eye rolls because I’ve rolled my own eyes at such advice: Yes, you say, but HOW? In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus speaks directly to the weary: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
This isn’t a promise of a nap or a solid night’s sleep or a day to put your feet up and let other people do your chores. This rest, Jesus says, is “for your souls.” Weariness often leaves my soul in a place of despair — I cannot; it’s too much; I’m not enough. And the gospel affirms all of those things: you cannot; it IS too much; you are not enough. “All our righteous deeds,” the Lord tells us, “Are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6).
Good days can deceive me into believing that I have talents or righteousness or sufficiency in myself. But on the so-many days when weariness takes me out, I have the opportunity to rejoice in the truth: I am utterly insufficient, often overwhelmed by the prospect of making my son a sandwich, certainly and entirely incapable of working out my soul’s salvation; but God. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” — not tired, DEAD — “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5).
The gospel of Christ frees us from the burden of trying to earn our own value: the gospel insists that our value is not in what we accomplish but in what Christ has done for us. Remembering this can put my overwhelming list of things to do and decide in proper perspective; having found rest for my soul, it is much easier to rest my body.
Remembering the gospel leads naturally to the next step: cry out for help. I’ve had to learn to ask my husband to help me, very frequently and specifically in my physical weariness. I don’t like doing it, but things are so much better when I simply speak up, tell him I need to rest, ask him to hold the toddler, mop up the spill, or make the sandwich. And because he loves me, he is glad to help me. Do I think my Savior loves me less than this? Hebrews 4 uses the gospel as the impetus to bring our requests to God, reminding us that Jesus “can sympathize with our weaknesses,” because He “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then, with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16). Does my weariness tempt me to despair? Jesus has walked this road before me. I can come to Him confidently, knowing that He understands each struggle and promises mercy and grace to help.
Resting in the gospel and asking the Lord to help me, I am enabled to walk in obedience to Jesus. Though I’d be the first to say that tired people should rest whenever possible, the first to acknowledge the difference a nap can make in my general outlook on life, there are many times when actually stopping and resting is impossible. No matter how badly I need a nap, my children still need lunch prepared for them; no matter how ready for bed I may be by four in the afternoon, some evenings, our house will fill with people for Bible study instead of calming for sleep. So, what does a weary person do when external needs cannot give way before personal exhaustion? The best thing I have found is simply to obey Jesus.
Has God called me to motherhood? Then I can trust Him to uphold me as I hold my babies. Has God called me to be hospitable? Then I can trust Him to keep me on my feet until the door closes behind the last guest. And He is unfailingly trustworthy. Again and again, when I think this next step must be the last step, I find He has provided the energy for one step more and one step more.
One of the hallmarks of God’s greatness described in Isaiah is that “he does not faint or grow weary” (28). People get tired; God doesn’t. Moreover, Isaiah says, God “gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31). Overworked as material for inspirational bookmarks, these verses are nonetheless true: the Lord supplies me with all that I need, renewing my strength when I have none, lifting me up when I am faint.
Are you, like me, full of weariness? Look to Jesus, who has given Himself for you; ask Him to help, because He has promised He will; and follow Him with confidence — not in your own ability or strength — but in the God who gives strength to the weary.