Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people asking me how I’m doing. This happens at church, at school…basically everywhere. Without thinking, I tend to respond, “Tired.” Sometimes I add a bit about having young children to make my response into a bit of a joke, to lighten the mood a bit. But it’s not just my kids. It’s not even primarily my kids.
There are a lot of things happening in my life right now that are drawing a significant amount of energy from me. There are unanswered prayers. There are unresolved conflicts. There are circumstances that are nothing short of absolutely confounding. So…I’m tired. No, that’s not accurate. I’m exhausted.
It is in the midst of this exhaustion that I’ve found remarkably relevant readings in the Ancient Christian Devotional. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how timely many of the messages have been. This weeks reading is no different. The theme is God’s help, and it couldn’t be more welcome. Here’s the opening prayer, from Ambrose of Milan:
Lord, teach us to seek you, and reveal yourself to us when we seek you. For we cannot seek you unless you first teach us or find you except you reveal yourself to us. Let us seek you in longing and long for you in seeking; let us find you in love and love you in finding, O Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The first reading is from Jeremiah 14. Here are verses 7 and 8 quoted from the HCSB:
Though our guilt testifies against us, Yahweh, act for Your name’s sake.
Indeed, our rebellions are many; we have sinned against You.
Hope of Israel, its Savior in time of distress, why are You like a foreigner in the land, like a traveler stopping only for the night?
This. This is precisely how I feel. I don’t care to hide my wrongs. God, you know them. I’m not trying to excuse them. I know I’m a sinner. But Lord, for the sake of your reputation, please do something. Please come through. Show yourself faithful in my life, not for my sake, but for the sake of your reputation. I don’t deserve your goodness, but you deserve the praise that results from manifesting your goodness. Use my brokenness as a canvas on which you can paint your goodness for all to see.
The next reading was Psalm 84. Here’s verse 6, again from HCSB:
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of springwater;
even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
Some translations replace Baca with weeping. There’s debate as to whether this is what it means in this context, but that possibility really struck me. Imagine passing through a place called the Valley of Tears, and and there is such anguish there that the tears are abundant enough to produce springs. That just isn’t the kind of comfort I want. It isn’t the resolution I desire. I want to avoid Baca, or at least only stay there long enough to fill a small cup with my tears. I’m not trying to fill a well. After all, wouldn’t it be great if he came in and just fixed everything? Wouldn’t it be great for him, for his namesake?
The next reading is 2nd Timothy 4. Here’s verse 6 from HCSB:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close.
Not the kind of triumph we’re looking for. We want guns blazing, victory waving, triumphal entry. We don’t want the cross. We don’t want the shame, or the pain, or the suffering. Except Paul. He did. He understood. He was tired, no doubt. But he was also pressing forward to know Christ not only in the power of his resurrection, but in the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:10). This is the Paul that understood that Jesus laid aside privileges to bring glory to God instead of asking for more comfort and security with which to glorify the father.
I don’t mean to diminish your pain, and I certainly don’t mean to diminish mine. However, the path of Christianity isn’t about our lives getting easier. It isn’t about our problems going away magically. Rather, it is that same action of laying aside privileges that we are told to emulate (Philippians 2:5). We are to look at the humility of Christ and see that as a cue for how we treat everyone around us. I’ll bet they are tired, too. Instead of playing that time-honored game of “who has it worst?” and instead play the unfortunately unpopular game of “how can I help you?”