We just returned from our vacation a couple of days ago. I appreciate so much those who helped fill in for me here in my absence: I listened to Bobby’s sermon Sunday afternoon, and he did a great job; I am sure Robert did as well leading the discussion Sunday evening; and Barb pulled an old article out to print in last week’s bulletin when I lost track of what day it was and forgot to send her one! But even though I am now in that stage of disorientation that comes with trying to catch up on all the things I need to do after being gone, the trip was a lot of fun and much needed.
We all need a break once in awhile. There are times in all of our lives when we feel overwhelmed. I read a story once about a woman—let’s call her Susie—who called a friend of hers and asked her how she was feeling. “Terrible” she told her. “My head is splitting and my back and legs are killing me. The house is a mess and the kids are driving me crazy.” Filled with compassion, Susie responded to her friend, “Listen, go and lie down. I’ll come right over and cook you some lunch, clean up the house and take care of the children while you get some rest. By the way, how is Sam?” The woman said, “Sam, who is Sam?” “You know, your husband Sam” she replied. “I don’t have a husband named Sam” the woman said. Susie exclaimed, “My goodness, I must have dialed the wrong number!” There was a long pause…finally, the woman said, hopefully, “So, are you still coming over?”
We recognize immediately that woman was weary. That is something that happens to all of us from time to time: we grow weary. We grow weary in our day to day living as employees, employers, friends, husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, children. In the world of social work, they have a name for weariness, one that we employ in the hospice world. They call it “burnout.” It happens when a very dedicated, committed person suddenly wakes up and realizes they are tired. Tired of giving, tired of doing, tired of serving. They find the joy of service is gone.
What is true in the secular world is also true in the spiritual world. The writers of the New Testament all realized that from time to time, faithful workers for the Lord become weary, and the issue is addressed in a number of passages. Paul talks about it in Galatians 6:9 where he writes, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. In another place, he says, As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13).
We wonder sometimes why those in the Lord’s work grow weary. One reason is that often there are not observable results. We live in a results-oriented society. When you play golf and shoot a low round, you have the score card. When you reel in a big fish, you hold it up and take a picture for proof. In the secular world, we can measure success in tangible ways depending on our line of work: promotions and titles, sales numbers, salary.
But service to the Lord is not always easy to measure. We may labor years and years and not know the results of our work. And we begin thinking nonvisible results mean no results. As a result, we grow weary.
When God commissioned Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9, he told him to deliver his message to a people who would not hear and would not see. Jeremiah likewise was commissioned by God to deliver His message to the people. The only results Jeremiah ever received were his own ridicule and torture. He even despaired of his own life. That is why he is called the “weeping prophet”. Isaiah and Jeremiah both labored for God with absolutely no positive results in the way that the world measures results. Can you imagine how weary they must have become?
Then again, sometimes, those who face criticism can become weary. It does not matter what the worker in the Lord’s vineyard is doing, there is always a critic. Someone says, “we’ve never done it that way before” or “someone else/I could have done that better” or “that will never work.”
We must overcome being weary in well doing. We must focus on our eternal reward, knowing we shall reap if we keep on sowing. Paul tells us that if we sow to the spirit, we will reap eternal life (Gal 6:8). We must focus on our service to the Lord. We must ignore those who are not working and hindering the work of the church by their criticism. In our service to the Lord, we will encounter hardship. We will sometimes encounter hostility. Scripture recognizes God’s people sometimes get weary. Yet, we are promised we shall reap if we do not give up.