Maybe it’s because I’m pushing 50, but I’m just now realizing I don’t bounce back like I used to (insert knowing laughter of all 50+ year olds, and bored groans of anyone younger). I can do pretty much everything I could before; still have a ton of energy. It just takes me more than one night’s sleep to bounce back. Most days I am just spiritually and physically wiped out. When I do, I reflect on Oswald Chambers.
Is there any more incredible, enduring devotional than “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers? It’s like Scripture; I’ve been through it 100 times, and each time something new captures my attention. Chambers speaks of spiritual exhaustion in a way I know resonates with all parents, and anyone who’s “in the fight.”
Chambers notes that spiritual exhaustion never comes through sin, but only through service. It comes from being broken and poured out, serving as bread and wine for others who have not yet learned to feed on God. Before others learn to draw life directly from Jesus, they must do it through you. This means sucking you dry.
Parents and teachers understand Chambers’ words better than anyone. As much as we love the little suckers under our care, it seems at times they’re like little vampires, drawing from us every ounce of spiritual energy we have, not to mention our emotional and physical reserves. Whether they are very young and not saved, or saved but immature, kids and those around us who don’t know Jesus (or just met him) draw their spiritual strength from us, until they learn to draw directly from the wellspring of Christ. So, at the end of a long, hard day, we fall into bed, exhausted, praying for the energy and strength to do it all again tomorrow…
…which is the whole point. You were created, saved, and sanctified by the blood of Christ to be a living sacrifice for those around you, whether they are your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, or your neighbors. That’s what it means when everyone talks about living “on mission.” Your great purpose is to be used up, drained out, drunk dry. Your spiritual reserves aren’t to be hoarded, or stored, or saved up for another day, or really used for you at all; they are to be exhausted in the service to your Lord and to others, every day. All the men I know who get themselves in trouble have either too much time or too much money on their hands, or both. They’re hoarders (that’s probably true for women, too, just a different kind of trouble). It’s not normal for Jesus-lovers to be well rested all the time. The people I know who are making something of their lives for God’s Kingdom go to bed very, very tired.
Spiritual exhaustion isn’t the end for us, however. Jesus promises an endless supply of new resources. John Piper notes that, when Jesus says “whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never thirst” in John 4:14, He doesn’t mean “never thirst” in the sense one’s thirst is destroyed forever. If that were true, we’d be self-sufficient, which Christ doesn’t want for us. Instead, when we drink of the living water, it creates a new spring within us. This spring doesn’t eliminate our need for water, but it is always there to give us water every time we thirst. We “never thirst,” because our thirst is always immediately quenched. Constantly, over and over, as we draw on the Lord.
Whether it’s our kids, our spouse, our neighbors or co-workers, we’ve been saved and sanctified to be emptied every day, and to be refilled each night, from the spring that always nourishes, and never runs dry- in the continual knowledge, love, and presence of Christ. If you feel exhausted and not refreshed, the problem is not that you’re being drained- that’s the goal. The problem is you’re not drinking from the well every night. Drink deeply, beloved. We need it more than water and oxygen.
Jay Ferguson writes regularly on his blog, The Head and The Heart.