If you've been in ministry for more than five minutes you know how wearisome it can be. We face the daunting daily task of helping people wrestle through crisis in a way that continues to honor God, even as we ourselves wrestle through crisis. Pastoral care can at times be exhausting. Counseling cases can fall apart. Church members can pass away. Key leaders can abandon the church. Some days I go into the office just plain tired. Tired of late nights and early mornings. Tired of phone calls and texts messages. Tired of loss and heartbreak. Tired of being tired. But I am convinced that for all Christians there is real value in a tired soul.
I can imagine how that sounds. After all, a “tired soul” sounds like a soul on the verge of giving up. Such a soul hardly seems valuable. Truth is, so many of us have been baptized into the American culture of safety and comfort that the thought of sorrow and weariness having value seems absurd. Only that which feels good is actually good, we tell ourselves. A tired soul can, however, have real value if we are willing to reflect on it and not simply run from it.
Way of Escape
Think for a moment about what a tired soul is saying. It is saying, “No more!” It is looking for a way of escape. It is looking for the nearest exit from the pain and difficulties. It's a plea for rescue. A tired soul reminds us we need to be rescued. Without a tired soul I think we would forget. I think we would become content and complacent in this world and in our own lives. But Scripture says this is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), and that this broken world needs restoring (Romans 8:18-23). Without a tired soul I am prone to ignore these realities and live in my own little bubble.
Think too of what a tired soul allows you to say to others. Death makes people awkward. Well-intentioned people, thinking they must say something, end up saying unhelpful things. Like the lady who, shaking my hand in the receiving line at my grandfather's funeral, pointed at me and said to her husband, “His dad's dead too.” It was an innocent statement. It was a dumb statement. And, of course, suffering brings out the host of clichés like no other event. They are legion at funerals. “All things work together for good.” “There's a reason for everything.” “Death has lost its sting.” “Time heals all wounds.”
Don't get me wrong, I really do believe in the sovereignty of God over all events. I also believe in tact and sensitivity. A tired soul knows the difference. A tired soul allows us to sympathize with one another, cry with one another. A tired soul understands another person's hurt and pain, and doesn't question the enduring sorrow. A tired soul never expects someone to just “get over” loss. It never assumes that someone's theology is bad because he grieves and aches. A tired soul is tired for a reason: because it has been through heartbreak, too. It understands.
Think about how we can share our heartbreaks. That may seem like a strange value, but a tired soul learns to appreciate the shared aches we experience. A deep bond connects people who share suffering and sorrow. The band Sleeping At Last sings, “Remember who we are: unconditionally loved by those who share our broken hearts.” I recall with surprising joy the tears my wife and I shared as we waited for our 2-year old to go through spinal surgery. It's the same way I feel when I remember clutching my kid brother in the back of a van after learning of our father's death. These scenes, and countless others, break my heart afresh each time I dwell on them. Yet, with each one, I think of the deep love I feel for those who have shared my broken heart.
We Need Each Other
I am tired, tired of so much. There are days where I just want to give up and crawl back in to bed. People in our church die, or abandon the faith. I am tired. A friend succumbs to meth addiction. Another is diagnosed with a brain tumor. A family member dies. I am tired. But of course thinking about all of this reminds me of others. It reminds me of what my family has endured. It reminds me of the people at my church and the losses they've suffered. I am not the only one tired. I see it on the faces of the people I counsel, the people I pray with, the people I kiss in the morning before I leave for work. So I get out of bed every morning. The floor is cold. I am tired. I can't give up; it's not because they need me—at least not in the sense that I am a pastor and have all the answers. The need is much more mutual. We need each other.
Paul tells the church at Rome, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I suspect that in much of the church we aren't good at following this command. At least I'm not. But my tired soul is helping me to change. There's some value in a tired soul, if we're willing to look for it.