I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.
It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.
I recognized the discouragement because
We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.
So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time. We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace. We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.
How do we know? That’s what they might ask.
Oh my friend, how I know.
Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow. Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.
Yet, we know this also.
We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.
You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.
Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.
The Psalmists prayed:
Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)
God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).
Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.
We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again. That’s what they asked.
That’s what we need, too.
Eugene Peterson wrote:
Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion. The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish. The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).
So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.
We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.
No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.
We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.
We had lost everything and God restored us.
God did this for me, that’s what we say. And He will do this work in you, too.
And we pray, of course we pray.
We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.
God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?
But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.