About seven years ago, I cleaned out my parent’s house, my childhood home. It took about a month to declutter, box up various belongings, and then fix, paint, and re-carpet the house to sell. Through the years, I’d heard folks talk about similar circumstances and the stress that accompanies this stage in life, and while I felt sympathy, I felt little empathy. Their exhausted faces connected only as a distant reality.
But then at age 35, with three young kids in tow, it was no longer a future prospect. My father passed away, and my mother was incapacitated and needed a better environment for around the clock care.
I don’t remember a more vexing time than this. On day one of cleaning out, I was savoring every fork and every dish towel. I wanted to find a home for everything. By day fourteen, I hated all the forks. I cried over letters I found from my father, poured over old pictures of less weighty days, and debated what items were valuable. Eventually, I threw away all the forks.
When the “sold” sign was displayed in the front lawn and the last box taken to Goodwill, a friend called and said, “You need a vacation.”
I was tired, yes, and a trip out of town seemed appropriate. But the kind of rest that accompanies a vacation wasn’t ultimately the kind of rest I needed. My soul longed for deep, spiritual rest. I spent months questioning the Lord’s plan, neglecting time in His Word, and suppressing frustration toward my simultaneous responsibilities as a daughter and a young mother. In short, I was spiritually weary.
Reasons We Become Spiritually Weary
Life’s burdens can be overwhelming, but they don’t automatically lead to spiritual weariness. Because of this, it’s important to acknowledge some of the reasons we get to this point.
Neglect of Physical Rest – Jesus Himself physically rested on several occasions. He is fully God and fully man, yet without sin. So, when he fell asleep in a boat (Luke 8), and when He left the crowds to be alone to talk with His Father (Luke 5:16), Jesus was not doing anything wrong nor was He displaying weakness. The Creator did what was good and right to do.
Neglecting physical rest can too easily lead to spiritual weariness. We become so work obsessed that our computers stay open until late hours, and the hamster wheel becomes so routine, we begin to idolize our busyness. Physical rest is never a waste of time and neglecting it can leave us feeling spiritually dry.
Neglect of Sabbath Rest – God did not create a day of Sabbath rest for a random reason, and honoring it is not a mere suggestion (Exodus 20). When we get out of the routine of Sabbath rest, we begin to feel the consequences physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sabbath rest may be different for each family, but have you set aside this one day so that it looks different from the other six days of the week? Is it a day centered on relishing in your Savior? When Sunday becomes “just another day” it can certainly lead to spiritual weariness.
Neglect of Worship – When we’re facing overwhelming circumstances—a miscarriage we don’t want to talk about or depression we just want to hide— Satan uses these to keep us away from God’s house. But, in a time of spiritual weariness, we need worship. We need our church family. This institution is God’s plan for community and by the grace and mercy of God, we are fed as our hands are lifted in praise and our hearts are open to His Word. We’ve seen many become spiritually weary due to neglect of worship during COVID, and still many are staying away because watching from home has become more convenient, but we need the physical presence of the church to thrive spiritually.
Calling to the Spiritually Weary
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…” Turning to Jesus is the first step to finding healing and rest. Who should come to Him? Those who “labor and are heavy laden.” In this passage, the word “labor” describes a person weary or fatigued to the point of discouragement. And those who are “heavy laden” are ones who carry a load or burden that is unwanted.
Jesus isn’t calling those merely weighed down by physical labor but the ones feeling the heaviness and discouragement from being spiritual weary.
Whether it’s an addiction, challenges in parenting, loneliness in marriage, or an ongoing battle with unwanted sin, the calling is not to pull yourself up and find your “inner strength.” No. The calling is to cry out to Jesus for restoration and rest.
Provisions for the Spiritually Weary
What our Father promises to provide when we come to Him is simply beautiful. He continues in Matthew 11 reminding His beloved that when we come in desperate need for healing, Jesus will give us rest. And the rest He provides is not just the calm needed for a nap, but He willingly and abundantly gives rest for our souls. My pastor and husband paraphrases Matthew 11:28 as Jesus saying, “If you come to me in desperation and place your complete and utter trust in me, I will give you a sense of real peace and rest for eternity that begins right now!”
I love the words the prophet Jeremiah uses in urging Israel to follow in the ways of God: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls’” (6:16). It could be that Jesus was quoting this verse when He reminds the New Testament believers who are spiritually weary that if they come to Him with their burdens and disappointments, if they follow the ancient paths of Jesus, they will find deep and needed rest for their souls.
Every other religion asks us to carry our own burdens and work toward our own salvation. Christianity, on the other hand, reminds us that Jesus has done this for us on the cross. Are you spiritually weary? Do you have a burden that is too much to bear? Come to Jesus. He offers grace, mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love. He offers these in place of your burdens.
For the spiritually weary, our Savior provides rest.
About the Author:
Katie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity and serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee. She also spends much of her time writing, playing piano, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and has served on the board of Covenant. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com