What does it mean to be weary?
Weariness is different than tired. Tired implies short term. If I’m tired I might need sleep or a short break from activity.
Weariness implies weight and length of time. It is lots of tired’s stacked together. Weary is overwhelmed, solemn, almost defeated. It encompasses not just the physical, but the mental, emotional and spiritual part of ourselves. It is the difference between taking a beating and being beaten down.
Weariness is writing your resume in 2019 and then rewriting it in 2020. It is trying to solve the same problem so many times that it consumes you. It is being forced to move from a place that you love. It is the shear exhaustion of continuing to work while being isolated from family and friends and then also having to become your kid’s teacher at home all at the same time. Weariness is looking around and being overwhelmed at the prospect of doing anything.
There is an activity that I have used when speaking to groups where I ask 2 audience members to volunteer. I usually pick the first one and then tell them that for the 2nd person, I need the strongest person in the room, to which I usually end up with an older teenager who clearly lifts weights. I hand them each a text book and tell them to hold it out in front of them with their arms straight while sitting next to me on the stage. The book only weighs a few pounds, so they both can accomplish this easily. Then I tell them to hold it there while I go on to talk about whatever the topic of the day is.
After a few minutes, they are usually both starting to sweat, but the strong guy is trying not to show it. I ask the other person if they would like to ask one of their friends to come out of the audience and help them, to which they always respond yes! Their friend comes down and puts their hands under the book and helps them hold it up. After another few minutes of me talking, the strong guy is almost always in distress. I remind him that a few minutes ago he said the book was easy to hold.
“Well it’s not now,” he usually says.
“I haven’t added any books,” I remind him.
“I don’t know. It just got heavier,” he responds.
I thank and excuse them both.
Isn’t that how weariness works? We carry something that we think don’t think is heavy enough to ask for help with, and so we don’t. But once we carry it for long enough, it becomes overwhelming. There are several applications to the exercise above; the power of asking for help, the power of helping others and also the fact that teamwork doesn’t change the load, just the way we carry it.
I look around and I see weariness on the faces of people I know and even people that I don’t. There is a heaviness around the eyes, a slumping of the shoulders, a slowness in their step. The physical manifestation of weariness is easy to see. The mental, emotional and spiritual signs might be less obvious, but you can see if them if you look. Mentally it is hard to have a complete thought or even make a plan. Emotionally you might be all over the place, waffling between crying and laughing. Or you might be one step further and have trouble feeling any emotion at all. Spiritually, it is hard to feel blessed and equally hard to feel hope.
So how do we fix it? How do we move beyond weary? Where do we find the strength to go on?
In the example above, the burden became lighter when the person asked for help. The sense of weariness was immediately lifted when people came alongside them. There is a sense determination and encouragement that we can only derive from others. For a runner in a distance race, cheers from the crowd are great, but having another runner come alongside them is even better. Their head lifts, their gate lengthens and they move easier down the route. We all need people; people to encourage us and people for us to encourage.
In the Bible, Jesus tells that the answer to weariness is rest. But it’s not rest in the form of a vacation or a nap. He offers us the opportunity to “take his yoke and learn” from him. At first glance, this seems ridiculous. Why in the world when I’m already burdened by so much, would I want to take on anything else? I would like to suggest that he is not asking you to add to your burdens. He is asking you to exchange them. He is asking you to give him your worries, your cares and all the things that keep you up at night and make you feel helpless. In exchange, he will give you his “yoke.”
A yoke is a type of harness that gets put on oxen that are plowing a field. It allows them to be steered so that they are headed in the right direction and 2 oxen carry it together. Following this example, the yoke that Jesus offers will provide guidance to help us head in the right direction and he will carry it with us.
The full passage from the book of Matthew reads, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So if you’re feeling weary, do a few more things:
- Take a breath
- Take a step back and evaluate
- Count your blessings
- Ask for help
- Give your problems to God
- Ask him for direction
- Wait for the answer
Press on weary traveler! See you in 2021!