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Receptivity and offering: Fatigue

Lynne Baab • Thursday March 31 2022

Receptivity and offering: Fatigue

“I’m just tired. I think America is essentially an optimistic country. That’s the nature. ‘A more perfect union’ is an optimistic thing to say. We’re all just tired.”
—Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Night Show [1]

Maybe Stephen Colbert’s words don’t resonate with you at all. Maybe you’re not tired. (Maybe you’re not American.) If you’re not tired these day, you are profoundly blessed, and I hope you can spend some time praising and thanking God that your optimism, hope, and joy are intact.

Sadly, I can’t remember a time when so many people have told me they are tired and discouraged. I won’t list the reasons. Instead I want to suggest that we can offer our fatigue to God and see what we receive back.

Fatigue isn’t a big theme in the Bible. Instead, there’s quite a bit of talk about the attack of enemies (for example, see Psalm 18, which mentions enemies 5 times) and persecution (for example, see 2 Corinthians 11:24-30 and 2 Timothy 3:10-11). Probably the most poignant presentation of the effect of fatigue is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane late at night when he begs his disciples to pray with him (Matthew 26:36-46). The disciples simply can’t find the energy to stay awake, and Jesus has to pray alone. I wish I could have been there with Jesus, supporting him and showing him how much I love him. However, when I’m realistic about my own limitations, I suspect I would have fallen asleep, too.

The passage that speaks to me the most in my fatigue is 2 Corinthians 4. Here are some verses from the apostle Paul’s letter to a fledgling and conflicted church:

“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. . . . So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:6-15, 16-18).

I can affirm a lot about this passage. Yes, I feel like a jar of clay that breaks easily. Yes, too often I feel afflicted and perplexed. Yes, my outer nature is wasting away. However, often I don’t feel that my affliction is “slight” and “momentary.” Often the fatigue and discouragement I feel seems huge and permanent.

Paul affirms two significant truths here: the life of Jesus is being made visible in our bodies (even if we can’t see it), and our affliction is preparing for us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” This happens because “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen,” the eternal. 

We can offer our fatigue to God, and we can offer our willingness to look at what cannot be seen, the eternal. When I see spring flowers blooming or when I marvel at the beauty of a child, I see the handiwork of the Eternal. When I see the many faces of human kindness, I can choose to acknowledge that all kindness reflects the God of community and love. I can choose to put myself in places that help me focus on the Eternal God, including church, Bible reading, prayer, a Sabbath day, Christian poetry, a Christian book, a Bible app, a hymn or praise song, a painting that lifts my heart to God.

I’m writing these words for myself as well as for you, a reminder that where I put my focus really, really matters. May God have mercy on all of us who are tired in these challenging times.

(Next week – receptivity and offering: hands. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below if you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Earlier posts you may enjoy:

[1] David Kamp, “Mr. Colbert’s Neighborhood,” Wall Street Journal Magazine, Spring 2022, 98.

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