Weary, But Not of Doing Good
Ask anyone these days how he or she is doing, and there’s a good chance that the response will include the word “weary.” Perhaps you have a particularly anxious child who spent her first year of high school learning through a computer screen, as you witnessed her intensified isolation. Repeatedly you’ve pleaded, “Lord, provide my daughter with a friend!” For some, the new norm of working remotely while simultaneously attempting to parent your children leaves you moaning, “God, just give me one moment for me!” For some, the attempt to help compensate for what (we think) our kids were missing this past year—on top of the already exhausting rat race—leaves us bone-tired. The cry from Psalm 6:6 that “I am weary with my moaning” may resonate all too clearly.
Our natural response when weary is to turn inward—to focus on self-care and the care of those in our household or small inner circle. When the world shut down during the pandemic, this was all most of us really could do, whether because of uncertain health precautions or government mandates restricting other social interactions. But that time, for the most part, has passed. We cannot continue to gaze inward, using weariness as an excuse to avoid taking steps outside to love our neighbors. As Paul encouraged the early Galatians: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
Hopefully it goes without saying that I am not writing to those with severe health concerns, nor to those who are weighed down by grief from recently losing a loved one or who may be healing from a particular trauma. There is abounding grace for those times when we are so physically or emotionally depleted that it’s all we can do to rise out of bed each day.
In the more mundane weariness of everyday life, we aren’t given permission to take time off from doing good. While “doing good” can take many different forms, earlier in the chapter Paul offered this definition: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
Bearing One Another’s Burdens
Our malformed desire to be comfortable and safe has too often led us to pat each other on the back when we’re struggling, with encouragement to “take time for you.” While occasionally this advice may be warranted, our hastiness both to offer and receive it allows us to remain self-focused on our burdens when we really need a push to “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 4:3).
I love what John Piper says in a sermon entitled The Law of Christ: Bearing Each Other’s Burdens: “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.”
Part of God’s lovely design in calling us to lift the burdens of others is that our own burdens become lighter, as we simply aren’t able to dwell on those alone. Carrying the burdens of others grants a hopeful perspective about your own. No longer can you live under the weight of struggling alone, as you are reminded that others are also carrying some sort of load. We collectively shed burden-pounds when they are shared in community, particularly with others who constantly point to the One who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
The Blessing of Serving Others
During one of the most difficult years of my life, I decided to decrease my work hours in order to make more time to care for myself. While the impulse to create space for rest was good, my notions of rest turned out to be far too small and selfish. Instead of producing refreshment, I found that beginning each day with a few hours of “me time” increased dissatisfaction as my focus narrowed (on me!) and I sank deeper under my burdens.
The lesson I learned applies to our teenagers as well. So maybe instead of encouraging your anxious daughter to join another team or activity, sign her up to volunteer with you at your church or in your community. Invite a family with little kids into your home for dinner, knowing that they will appreciate your willingness to combine chaos. Or share a meal with some singles in your congregation, trusting their ability to draw out your daughter in ways that you just can’t do yourself.
Light enters the darkness as we move outward and pour ourselves into others, while also inviting others into our mess. While burdens will not disappear, they are sure to lighten!
As Piper continued in his sermon: “Christ never commands us to do anything that he wants us to do on our own. Therefore, every command in the law of Christ is a call to faith. Through faith God supplies the Spirit of Christ (Gal. 3:5); through the Spirit we produce the fruit of love (Gal. 5:22); through love we fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Therefore, if you trust him, you will fulfill his law of love. You will devote yourself to lifting the burdens of others.”
When I start to feel entitled to a little more “me time,” I’ve begun reminding myself of what following Christ means—that my life is no longer my own. I can release what I think I deserve for the joy of serving others, because Christ took on the wrath that I actually do deserve so that I can rest in the joy of my salvation. That’s why I can strap my two toddlers into the car to visit a struggling friend or deliver a meal. I hope that a decade from now they will come to understand they are along for a ride that doesn’t center on them—but on Christ and his glory.
God does not gaze upon us in our weary state and wait while we muster enough strength to lace up our boots and trudge on in serving others. And he’s not insistent that we develop the perfect theology of service before we take action, imperfectly operating as the hands and feet of our perfect Lord Jesus. More often than not, all that is needed is simply showing up and being present with others.
So start small, but whatever it is, involve your teenagers! Consider those in your community who are lonesome and visit, even if just for a few minutes. Bake (or bag store-bought) cookies and deliver them to neighbors. Call a local public school and ask if there’s anything you can do to support them. Our youth are full of good ideas, so ask them before springing into action!
Resting While Doing Good
When you feel weary, it’s okay to rest—even our Lord Jesus did that. We read in John’s Gospel that “wearied as he was from his journey,” he sat down at a well until a Samaritan woman approached (John 4:6-7). When the woman questioned why he would ask her for some water, he answered: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (John 4:10).”
As Jesus rests by the well, he brings true rest to the weary Samaritan woman by dignifying her, then revealing that he is the long-promised Messiah. In the same way, we and our teenagers find rest in the One who knows and forgives all of our sins because of his sacrificial love. Beautifully, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to seek rest that actually does good by helping provide much-needed rest for others.
He is constantly inviting us to remember what has been and will always be true: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He 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” (Is. 40:28-31).
May we not grow weary of doing good. And may we encourage our teenagers to do the same, as we rely upon God as our only real source of any strength or rest.