“Please pray. The pain is excrutiating…” was my feeble request to a dear friend and prayer supporter before going on to talk about a commitment she had asked me to prayerfully consider taking on.
In her gracious reply, she promised to lift me up in prayer then offered, “First of all, the last thing you need to do is take on another responsibility…you of all people know what happens when we push our bodies too far.”
I knew she was right. How many times had I told that to my patients? I humbly had to admit, “The pain has been unrelenting and it finally brought out the very ugly mom and wife in me.” How could I have let that happen? I knew better. I gently taught about this very issue to my patients repeatedly.
I had to chuckle at her response: “It’s because the ugly mom is crying out for a break. Please take a break. Remember saying the same thing to me recently? Now it’s your turn to listen to your own doctor wisdom and stop pushing so hard!”
I sighed. How could I argue with that? I remembered sharing with my friend in her own moment of pain how God taught me that lesson. Years ago my body finally broke and said “No more” and left me unable to do, unable to achieve, unable to drive it to the type-A, perfectionistic extremes I was used to pushing it to achieve.
I wish I could say I finally learned my lesson. My body wishes the same thing. Pain is the signal that it’s time for a refresher course. But it never comes at a convenient time. That’s part of the lesson. If we don’t listen to our body’s signals, it will fight to be heard, and not when it’s convenient.
I sat back and glanced in every direction I could see:
-patient files needed reports written for next week’s feedback sessions
-a manuscript beckoned me from my desk waiting for edits
-my blog post calendar had dates that needed posts to fill
-manila folders piled high on my cabinet asked to be filed
-an email glared back at me from my computer screen awaiting my reply to a request to head the next committee season
-a sea of boxes from our recent move stacked high in every room begged to be unpacked
-a pad of paper on my nightstand sat waiting for me to complete the meal menu for company that was arriving the next week
-travel brochures reminded me of the reservations that still needed to be made if we were going to take that family vacation we talked about
-the grocery list told the status of the near-empty refrigerator and mouths to feed
-laundry piled high taunted me with the job that never quite seemed to get done before the cycle started all over again
-my son’s camp registration lay waiting to be sent off with its deposit
-and on and on
How many times in the past couple of weeks had I lamented to my husband about how overwhelmed I felt and how the to-do list scaled higher than the available time to complete it? It left me feeling weary.
That should’ve been my first clue. I knew and taught that weariness is a sign that we’ve been carrying something we were never meant to carry. Jesus offered to carry those worries for us. He offered to take our cares and give us rest in return.
So why do we insist on going it alone? Trying to do it all ourselves? Pushing our body to the limits?
I knew the answer but I didn’t want to hear it. God’s word exclaims that the curse does not come without a cause. My body was responding to the curse. What was the cause?
Sometimes pride and a spirit of self-sufficiency screamed that I should do it all myself, or worse yet that I didn’t need others’ or God’s help.
Other times a spirit of fear led the pack, asking “If I don’t do it, who will?”
At times we give in to society’s message that exhaustion is the newest status symbol, just begging “pity me.”
In further conversation my dear friend and I discussed the need to hold each other accountable. For without it, we were both prone to pushing ourselves beyond our reasonable limits. Beyond what God asks or expects, and in fact, contrary to His word to “cast all your burdens” on Him, and to “come all who are weary and heavy-burdened” to find rest in Him.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28 MSG)
The Lord impressed upon my heart that we cannot possibly live a full and abundant life, drawing others to Him, when we’re practically immobile or broken down because we’ve tried to ignore His mandates.
A broken boat doesn’t sail, any more than a broken body truly lives and thrives.
Yet, if we will heed His commands, we can have His peace, joy, and the abundant life He came to give.
A life surrendered to His ways truly lives.
The fundamental question comes back to, Will we trust Him?
Will we rest in His strength and in turn receive His joy?
Or will we continue to carry the burden alone…the burden we were never meant to carry?
“Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ and who maketh manifest through us the savor of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
What have you been carrying that you need to give to Him today in exchange for His rest, peace, and joy?