The End of Exhaustion
In a world that often drives us to the point of exhaustion, where is our ultimate hope for rest?
Exhaustion has many causes.
Physical exhaustion occurs when you show up for a leisurely twenty-mile bike ride expecting an average cruising pace of 16 MPH hour only to find out you’re riding with a bunch of recently retired military and security officers. When you reach the six-mile mark and realize your average speed is 23.7 MPH and your heart rate is 159 beats per minute, your body is already screaming at you that this is unsustainable.
Mental exhaustion comes from working for weeks on a stimulus or infrastructure plan. All the meetings, strategy sessions, coalition building, negotiating, language re-work, impact projections, and trying to consider the countless unknown variables takes its toll. Pushing it too far can often impair decision making.
Emotional exhaustion, too, has many sources. For some it is a relationship that is falling apart. For others it is the search for a relationship or constantly having to answer questions about your relationship status. Many face the daily reprocessing of childhood trauma as they attempt to navigate workplace situations which reinforce negative speech and abuses of those early years.
Over the last year, our nation has experienced three additional shared sources of exhaustion.
Those in the black and Asian communities are publicly living out their exhaustion with racial bias, discrimination, and violence. In some places that exhaustion leads to marches and, in others, violence.
All of us have spent the last year suffering through the COVID pandemic. We are exhausted from being at home and isolated, from the endless Zoom meetings, from wondering when we can get the vaccine and if it is really safe.
And then there’s the political fracturing of America. Cancel culture, ideological rhetoric, name-calling, and increased tribalism are draining us all.
Exhaustion is proof that we have physical, mental, and emotional limits. We are finite creatures. Sadly, these types of situations are likely not going away.
Thankfully, God understands our limits. In fact, exhaustion exposes our need for rest and restoration.
In the Exodus story, God tells the recently rescued slaves from Egypt,
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
The Sabbath is God’s commandment to His creation that we need rest! In fact, avoiding rest not only leads to exhaustion, but it is sin against God because it is counter to his desires for us. The Sabbath is not supposed to be the day we catch up on emails or try to get ahead of the upcoming week. It is created for us to remember that we are human and need time for restoration.
Christ declares this even more directly in Matthew 11 when he says,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-20)
Here Jesus is speaking to those who are exhausted from years of poverty, political and religious oppression, and trying to earn their way into God’s favor. Interestingly, these words come just before some extended teaching on the Sabbath.
The Gospel does not promise an end to those things which can lead to exhaustion. However, it does promise a rest that comes from realizing our physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion is often caused by trying to find the wholeness, acceptance, safety, identity, security, and hope in anything other than Christ. In the gospel, we find rest in knowing that His victory over death is the sure promise that the exhaustions of this life will someday pass away.
If you know Christ, take some time to enter His rest today. If you have never placed your faith in Christ, perhaps now is the time to enter his rest for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Rev. Michael Langer is the Associate Director for the D.C. ministry.