“Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Matthew 11:28.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”
David, King of Israel, Psalm 55:22.
But I’m Not Tired!
With more than a little defiance, my then 4-year-old daughter yelled, “But I’m not tired,” as she stomped her foot. Her tiny hands clutched a pink toy dinosaur as she wiped her blond hair out of her face. Instinctively, she rubbed her eyes with the back her hand. Despite her protestations to the contrary, she was very, very tired. She should have been. It was a busy day. She and her little sister had played hard. They concocted plots to sneak chocolate candy from the pantry. They played hide and seek in the cabinets below the bookshelf. There were squeals of delight, and there was unrestrained laughter. It was a full, good day. What my little mischief maker wanted was more of it. She wanted it to continue well past bedtime. I picked her up, took her upstairs to her room, and tucked her in.
“I don’t want to go to sleep,” she said.
“Well, you don’t have to sleep, but you do have to lay quietly,” I responded in my most comforting voice.
Of course, I knew if I were not observant, she would gather dozens of her toy dinosaurs and have a toddler version of Jurassic Park on her bed.
Even though she was tired, she wanted the day to never end. She was tired, but not weary. She has never known what it is to be weary, and I hope she never does.
The Difference Between Tiredness and Weariness
I suppose trying to distinguish between tired and weary is like finding a distinction between two shades of cobalt blue or two flavors of chocolate. Whatever distinction there is between them is subtle. Weary feels different to me, though.
A person can be tired for good reasons, happy reasons. Visits from rambunctious grandchildren, completion of a successful project, a day full of productive labor, or time spent traveling with our loved ones can make us very tired. There is such a thing as a “good tired.”
I’ve never heard of “a good weary.” When we are weary, we stare blankly at the tv until we realize binge-watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will not help us sleep. We gather the energy to leave the couch and lumber to bed. There we stare at the alarm clock, calculating how much rest we would get if we could fall to sleep now. Then we repeat our math 45 minutes later and 20 minutes after that. We cannot fluff the pillow enough. We cannot find a comfortable position. Our tossing and turning resembles a wrestling match with a comforter. Catching sleep is like catching a crazed chicken with our bare hands.
Once we do find sleep, there is never enough of it. Repeatedly slapping the snooze button will not cure weariness, and large cups of coffee will only mask it. Caffeine cannot cure the weariness of the soul. 9 more minutes of sleep cannot give us the strength to carry our burdens. When our version of a perfect vacation is a coma, the body is not our problem. It is in the spirit.
Weariness or Depression
For many of us, weariness is often indistinguishable from depression. In fact, one of the symptoms of clinical depression is sleep pattern disruption—sleeping too much or too little. Weariness anchors us to our beds. If we do manage to go about our day, we cannot find the emotional strength to function. The emotional load of weariness is simply too much. Weariness saps our strength and resolve. Staring at the computer screen, we muddle through the day hoping our inability to function will not catch up to us.
If it were only our own emotions we needed to bear it would be a bit easier. Often it seems we have the burden of bearing the emotional weight of our entire family system. Our families depend on us for stability. If we fail, we shame the family name. If we fail, the fragile members of the family will crash and burn. We cannot show weakness because of how it might affect our parents, spouse, or children. “I must be strong for them.” This strength, though, is a façade. We would love to stop pretending to be strong. Being candid would be a relief. It might even provide some rest. Rest will not come today, though. We are left thinking, “One more thing and I will crack.”
Jesus’ words, alluding to David’s Psalm, speak of a different way of life. He invites you, cast all of these burdens on Him. God did not design you to carry all of this weight. You are mortal. There is a limit to your strength. There is a limit to your capacity to adapt. You cannot carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You are not God.
Jesus gives us a realistic possibility to escape weariness: Leave your heavy burdens with Him. You do not have to be strong for your family. His strength is enough for them and for you. You do not have to find a solution for every crisis you face. His wisdom is enough. Ask for it. You do not have to stress over the events in your life. He is the Lord of the universe. He can manage the outcomes of your efforts. Seek Him. Ask for His help.
Sometimes we just need to get things “off our chest.” You can unburden yourself with Jesus. He will never break your confidence. Your weaknesses will never disappoint Him. He is not dependent on your success. He is good. Take Jesus at His invitation. Your load will be lighter.
I’m weary. I’m weary of the world, and I’m weary of my world. I am quickly approaching the end of my strength and seek your help. Jesus offers me the possibility of letting go of my burdens, but I’m not sure how to let them go. I’ve carried some of these burdens for so long that I’m not sure what I’m like without them. All I know is right now these burdens are too much. Here they are, all of them. I name each of them in Your presence now. Help me trust in Your power and grace. Help me trust in Your promise. Help me to find Your rest.
In the name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, I pray, Amen.