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  • R.D. McClenagan

The Joy Inside the Sorrow: Walking in Weariness without Losing Your Soul


I feel weary.


I feel weary because I am weary. I don’t know that I can use a better word to describe how I am processing through where we are in 2020. It is a year of weariness, and it remains unrelenting. From COVID-19, to all the economic and emotional fallout from COVID-19, to racial division and injustice, to a Presidential election cycle, to the threat of murder hornets, to…whatever you want to add here in your own personal world and it is all just too much. Too much. I wrote an article years ago called “God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle” but it seems like this was the year that became more real than ever!


So I’m weary.


But in the weariness that I have felt I have experienced comfort from a truth I had not contemplated very deeply before.


Even Jesus grew weary.

Even Jesus grew tired.

Even Jesus grew exhausted.


Jesus, right before his encounter with the woman on the well decides to rest at Jacob's well.


Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, wearied as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.”

John 4:6


Even Jesus had to sit down and rest from the world for a moment before he could face what came next.


The Son of God himself grew weary and tired and had to rest, had to pray, had to sleep, had to cry, had to die.


Why? Because he was human. Because he felt the sadness of the world. He felt. He experienced the grief and sadness of others and took it into himself. When you are not centered on yourself, but on others you will feel a weariness and a burden that will lead you to weeping and exhaustion.


Tim Keller puts it masterfully is his book Walking with God through Pain & Suffering,


“Look at Jesus. He was perfect, right? And yet he goes around crying all the time. He is always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because he is perfect. Because when you are not all absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world. And therefore, what you actually have is that the joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the uncontrollable weeping. The weeping drives you into the joy, it enhances the joy, and then the joy enables you to actually feel your grief without its sinking you. In other words, you are finally emotionally healthy.”


How good is that?


The joy comes inside the sorrow. The worship comes in the midst of the weariness. The weeping is the way, not to avoid the grace of Jesus, but to truly experience the grace of Jesus.


When your identity is rooted in the deepest reality there is—union with Christ—then you are as secure as you can possibly be as a person and this allows you the ability to feel the burden of someone else’s pain, to let it into your life, to let it weary you. You can bear someone else’s burden and grief because you have a person to anchor you, to steady you, to make sure you don’t go under yourself as you are caring for others—and that’s Jesus.


Of course we are all feeling pulled under in the midst of a global pandemic and racial division and injustice and back to school choices and many others things that are rolling through our lives, but as followers of Christ we do not have to let the weariness drive us to despair, but to greater dependence on & joy in Christ. That’s the battle, to see the weariness as an opportunity to grow our dependence on Christ.


So expect weariness. It is not a sin to be weary, to be tired, to be exhausted by how the world may be breaking you. If you are weary then it means that you care, that you love, that your heart is bearing burdens far beyond yourself and far beyond normal.


But also expect that in your weariness and weakness is the very place where the power and goodness of God can be manifested most powerfully.


And Jesus Christ, now sitting at the right hand of God, never wearies of our weariness. He is never tired out by our tiredness. He is never exhausted by our exhaustion. He never tell us to quit knocking, to quit pleading, to quit praying, to quit coming to him.


He could have come as a superhero who did not need sleep or who did not weep, but he wrapped himself in the very flesh that would one day be shredded by Roman guards. There is no other religion that has a God who does this, who takes on flesh to be with us like this, who is not towering above yelling at us to get it all together, but who is wearied and weak with us gently showing us he is holding it all together for us.


He is like us.


And yet, thankfully, He is not like us.


He took on flesh, but now he has taken up his throne in heaven.

He wept, but now he dries our tears.

He suffered, but now he is highly exalted.


He is God himself, the one through whom all things were created and who has authority over all things at every moment and for all time. He can truly comfort us not by simply being with us, but because he is God himself—the comforter, the author, the ruler, the King.


In the Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins says this to Gandalf and it perfectly captures how I have felt these last several months.


"I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as I have told you before…Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: Like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.


Butter scraped over too much bread indeed. That is me! And I bet it is you as well! We all would like a true holiday, a return to the world we knew before all this, but we do not do well to long for the glory days of the past. Our hope is for the glory day that is to come, when Jesus returns to make every sad thing come untrue and every good thing fully bloom in radiant beauty.


This world will make you weary. If you are a leader, if you are a parent, if you have people who depend on you then you will feel an added level of weariness because you are trying to help others find emotional health while you are trying to find it yourself!


So don’t deny your weariness or try and fix your weariness with a quick solution, but take your weary soul to the One who has been wearied and broken by this world and who now sits joyfully and triumphantly over it inviting us to come again and again to the place of deepest rest—his very heart.


When Jesus rested at the well in Samaria he was regathering himself, taking a deep breath of the air that he himself had breathed into existence, and waiting for a woman wearied and broken by the world to come walking up with an empty bucket and even emptier heart.


When you rest in Christ, when your soul drinks deeply of the water of his well then you can lift your eyes up to see who else might be walking by—longing for living water, hoping for a safe place to dwell in a world that is breaking them. And to our hearts and theirs we hold on to these precious promises…


Living water still comes in the high noon desert.

The joy truly does comes inside the sorrow.

God can still prepare a table of grace in a wilderness of weariness.


So don't simply long for the storm to pass, long for the peace of Christ right in the middle of a world in pieces, for the better yoke, for the presence and power of Jesus to fill you up and let you proclaim even now, especially now...He's still good.


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.”

-Jesus

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