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 11:28-30 (MSG)
I had spent the morning flat on my back in my bed, pain radiating from hip to shoulder and every movement worsened by the limbs of a small child pressed into my ribs. He had crept in sometime in the early morning hours when the world was still tucked gently under darkness like a warm comforter. I don’t know if it was a nightmare that spooked him, but I lifted the blanket like an invitation and he scampered up my side and nestled in.
Around 3 am, I heard the moaning, that deep guttural pain that comes when insides are not working as they should. My girl came in with her hands pressed to her guts like she could absorb the pain into her palms, extract it like poison, and offer it to me to take from her. Oh, how I would’ve if it were possible.
But we didn’t know why she kept having stomach pain. Old diagnoses and remedies weren’t helping. We kept returning to the doctor hoping for better answers. We were a week in with hives and itching and stomach aches that stretched through the night as she curled into herself, and there was no remedy but enduring.
Sometimes you’re pulling groceries from the car and you hit an icy spot and you know you’re going to hit the ground so hard but you don’t, and just when you’re about to whisper thanks, you feel it — that shock of pain like friction along the wires of your nerves and you know you’re going to hurt after all. No broken bones or casts but the inside stuff, the pain no one can see. The pain that’s hard to explain.
Sometimes that’s the worst kind, the invisible burden of pain, because it hurts to explain again and again how you hurt and why. It’s easier to just pretend sometimes, isn’t it? I wonder how many of us do.
How many of us just hobble along with our nerves burning holes in our bodies, with our minds a hive of stinging pests, and with our souls dragging behind us like a weary rag, worn out from too much wear?
How many of us want to live with great expectations but find we settle for enduring because it’s the only choice we have?
Maybe it’s because I pulled out my back when I had such a wide hope for this month and had dusted off my spin bike and was just getting it broken in again. For a moment I recalled the girl whose body didn’t feel like a trap, whose mind didn’t feel like a tangle of webs and who believed this is what it must feel like to be normal, and no wonder normal people can get so much done! And when my muscles ached those first few weeks back on the bike, it felt good and right to hurt. It didn’t feel like a burden of pain but a gift of promise.
Maybe it’s that I’ve been feeling so much better, had more energy, and started dreaming again. But even when I dream a bit, I’m tethered to the intersection of brokenness of this world, to the brokenness in me. And I am never the remedy for that.
Maybe some days there is no remedy but enduring. Maybe self-care on these days is relenting to the great waves of things undone, to the hollow of disruption, and to the disappointment of open ends. And for this burden of pain, both the seen and unseen things, I can only pray for abundance in my lack, for the holy to enter my broken, and for the strength to rest here without excuses, living into grace.
So for those of you who are there with me today, on those days that are soul-weary, would you pray with me?
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Lord, let the burden of pain be bearable not because of our own strength but because of Yours.
When we grow weary, lead us back to Your presence. Help us to know You don’t give trials we cannot face because we never face them alone. When we’re desperate for You, You are our help and our comfort, our strength when we fall down.
You are the God who identifies with every discouragement, every agony, every broken part of us — and You came for us anyway. You lift our spirits and when we are crushed, when we despair, when we are so frustrated and tired, discouraged and empty, You promise us life and a great, wild, ridiculous hope. Let the unanswerable things quiet and the knowing of You and Your goodness bring us peace when our minds rally against us. When our bodies fail, let us feel Your touch. You are the God who sees and we belong to You. Calm our timid hearts and bring rest to the weary places. Help us remember Your promise that You are with us even to the end. Even on the weary days, and especially to the weary ones, You are our God.