How can we possibly rejoice when we are weary?
I felt it before I even got out of bed the other morning. The heaviness in my bones, the familiar fog of depression closing in on my thinking. I moved slowly, and if I am being honest, I didn’t want to move at all. The quilt in my room seemed like a much more comforting environment than my desk chair under fluorescent lights.
“No, please, Lord. Not this year.”
My body knows what it is now, but for years, I wrestled with the darkness of seasonal depression and thought there was something severely wrong with me. I know now that I am not alone– that “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD,” (also sometimes known as the ‘winter blues’). The numbers for major depression and generalized anxiety are even higher.
I am on high alert as fall shifts into cold weather. After years of research and work in therapy, I still know that I need to be faithful in taking that small pink pill each morning. I reach out to my friends for prayer. I make a gratitude list. I take a walk. I go to my weekly recovery meeting. But sometimes, all of the “right” actions in the world cannot prevent this weary darkness from coming through in the biology of my body- down to my cells and my neurotransmitters that know winter is here.
This is not a diary entry about my annual bouts of depression. This is to let you know that even as God has brought healing into my life, I still struggle at times. And whatever you are walking through, I know that you most likely have an area of tender pain that aches for God’s healing.
On this earth, this broken and beautiful world is not as God originally designed it to be. Because of the sinful choices of humanity, we live in a fallen world that sin, sickness, and pain entered long ago. If not for Christ, we would be destined to eternal darkness and suffering. But Christ DID come, as promised, to serve as our redemption and ransom. He made it possible for us to taste glory and one day be joined with our Heavenly Father in eternity.
As we wait longingly for Christ’s second coming and for ALL to be redeemed, the earth groans for that full wholeness and healing. I love this passage from Romans 8:18-25 (NLT):
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.
We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently).
So here we are. Christmas Day. In the midst of our pain, suffering, weariness, we are encouraged to rejoice. How can we?
For those of you struggling right now with fear, anxiety, depression, heartache, insecurities, physical limitations, a mountain of debt, job insecurity, loss… I grieve with you. Christ grieves with us. He is acquainted with sorrow. In the midst of your weariness, you may not feel like showing great joy or delight. But Christ is with us.
Before we sing that “the weary world rejoices,” we sing of the thrill of hope. The world can rejoice BECAUSE of Christ’s birth and because Emmanuel is finally with us. HE is our hope.
The more we read His word, the more we can see the Bible as one story pointing us again and again to Jesus Christ. A great story of God’s love for us–those in suffering, the weary ones.
O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
When we can step back from our weariness to remember the whole picture–the overarching story of God chasing after those who are lost, lifting the heads of the downtrodden, and sending our Savior to walk among us–we can hopefully remember that He is a God of redemption. We can praise Him for being our hope. We can rest our weary souls in the quiet of a new and glorious morning.
Sweet and weary friends, I am praying for you today.
I originally shared this as a spoken word piece at my church’s Storyteller event. I came across it today and thought it might speak to someone in this form, here. Soon I hope to record a few of these pieces so you can hear the way these words sound in my head 😉 In the meantime, know that even in this broken world, redemption is coming.
…Once upon a time, there was a tiny little bird. He was young and hopeful, but oh so tiny! The tiny bird often looked out to the big, strong birds and wished he could soar like them. The expanse of sky beyond his tiny nest made him feel far too small to conquer flying. One day, watching the other birds, he convinced himself he needed to soar to feel big and strong like them. The tiny bird made a giant leap, and soon felt himself falling, falling, falling. He landed hard on a branch below and looked down at his wounded wing. “Now I will never conquer the sky,” he cried. “And I will never soar like the other birds.”
…Once upon a time a widowed woman, lonely and tired, sat in a quiet blue chair missing her husband. She often sat there looking at the beautiful urn on the mantle that held his ash and longed to pick it up and hold it, to sift through death’s dust, just to be closer to her love. She left it there but stared each day. She ached in loneliness, aware of the giant hole left by his life. The silence was deafening and the pain made her heart often feel that it would stop altogether. During the afternoons, she turned off the lights to dull the brightness of day, waiting for night and sleep to come so her heart could get some rest from the aching. But during the days, blue chair, staring at the mantle, heart aching.
…Once upon a time, there was a man who had it all. The perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect family. He wondered what he did to deserve such bountiful blessings. But one day, the man received news that he would be let go from his perfect job, and his purpose as a provider seemed to break beneath him. Soon, they had to sell the perfect house and the perfect car, and his perfect marriage was shaken. He felt that nothing was certain anymore, the castle was crumbling, and he was grasping at straws to feel secure—but nothing seemed to work. Years went by and the man felt as though he lost it all as he became the shell of the man he once was.
– – –
Wings wounded. Hearts hurting. Identities shaken. The “once upon a time” is a war-stricken country, with children covered in ash and no longer able to cry. The “once upon a time” is the illness fallen upon an innocent child. The “once upon a time” is a wildfire that destroys whole homes and whole cities. It’s divorce and a family broken apart. It’s the woman with scars she dares not speak of, in shame of what’s been done to her. It’s the son who turns away and chooses to live life on his own terms, far away from the family and faith he once knew.
The pain is too much to bear. We realize we can’t conquer the sky, or see light and joy, or imagine how life will be made right again.
But listen. Beat… beat… beat. The heart still pumps on. Life flows through the veins. In the winter cold where death seems to reside over the trees and earth, a tiny bud pushes through the hard ground and begins to show that spring will come again.
You see, this is the story of a mighty king who takes our broken things, and makes something magnificent out of the meek.
This is a story of brilliant light piercing through darkness and death.
This is a story of rebuilding the ruins that were shattered around and beneath us.
This is a once upon a time, that WILL end in redemption. Even if earth shows us hurt, and sin overtakes us, and paradise is lost, He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. Listen…
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Beat… beat… beat.
– – –
After days of struggling to fly again, that tiny little bird hears the whisper: “My child, come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” The tiny bird rests and day by day, his strength grows and when it is time, he finally soars. Restoration for what was once broken.
One evening, the widow finally decides to lift the urn from the mantle to move it closer to her blue chair. Her hands shake and she drops the vase, and the ashes scatter everywhere. She weeps as she kneels in the dark next to the urn’s broken pieces. She is struck with the idea to glue them back together, shattered piece by shattered piece. Though there are cracks and holes, she places a candle inside, where her husband’s ashes once lay. The light breaks through her darkness and she feels some relief in her aching. Beauty where there were once ashes.
The man who lost it all finally gets it. His wholeness cannot possibly come from cars and homes and jobs and material things, or even from those around him. He is humbled and looks upward, and even though the pieces aren’t back together, the ground beneath him is sturdy. He is planted like an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His glory. Rebuilding where there was once ruin.
In our pain, in our sorrow, in our grief, in our times of waiting, His wounds will walk us through our brokenness. Healing is coming. He washes over our wounds in grace upon grace upon restorative, brilliant, mighty, precious, amazing grace.
– – –
Friend, if you are in a season of hurting, waiting or brokenness, can I pray for you?
I am here and would love to pray for you this week. Let me know whats on your heart here.
P.S. Thank you so much to Kari Shea, Hide Obara, and Megha Ajith (all of the Unsplash community) for the images to accompany this piece.