The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place (Mark 6:30-32 TNIV). [Emphasis added.]
How do you restore your energies after you have reached the spiritual exhaustion point?
What do you do when the fatigue debt has mounted so high in every dimension of your life — physical, emotional, and spiritual — that you do not think you can do one more thing?
Where do you go for renewal when plenty of sleep won't relieve the bone-weariness that pulses through every fiber of your being?
These are not hypothetical questions. You probably know that from personal experience. There is a kind of tiredness that nothing seems to relieve. This kind of exhaustion comes at the end of a long spiritual battle or from being the long-term caregiver for a loved one or from ministering to people repeatedly until you are completely depleted or from battling a long and debilitating illness or from ...
For many of us who have found ourselves in such wearisome conditions, retreat and rest are often prescribed. They are also much desired. Yet many find such restful retreats remedy their weariness for just a short time, only to learn its return has left them feeling completely and perpetually "burned out."
Elijah's example of rest and refreshment after his exhaustion is a good one. Food and rest were not enough for Elijah to be renewed (1 Kings 19:1-7), although they were part of his healing. What Elijah needed most, however, was to be in the presence of God. He needed to have God minister to him and speak directly to his heart (1 Kings 19:8-18). God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) and called Elijah back into service, reminding him there were others out there still serving the LORD God (1 Kings 19:18). One of these in particular needed Elijah to prepare him to lead God's people (1 Kings 19:15-17).
I am not surprised that when Jesus saw the weariness of his apostles, the Lord not only told them to go away to a quiet place, but he also called them to be with him. Getting away wasn't enough. Resting and being alone, far away from the crowd, wouldn't rekindle the holy fire they needed to minister. No matter how restful retreat from the maddening rush may seem at the time, getting away by itself will not restore what is spent. Only the presence of the Lord can renew, restore, revitalize, reinvigorate, and re-establish our spirits. Only the Spirit of God, the breath of heaven, can make dry bones rise again (Ezekiel 37:1-13).
So for the next week or so, I'm away from all the stuff that consumes me and my busy life of ministry. My ministry at the Southern Hills Church and my work with Heartlight and my concern for people I love have left me exhausted and depleted. There are still plenty of things to do.
But, I am not getting away to be alone. I am with my wife, Donna, to share in sweet moments of a proven grace together — for more on Donna check out her blog and her ministry group, listed in the links below. And we have both pulled away from the "busyness" in our lives to be with the Lord ... in prayer ... in reading the Gospels ... in asking for his wisdom and guidance ... in trying to hear his voice ... in letting him have our priorities ... in seeking to learn how to better lead, equip, and empower others for ministry. Most of all, we have withdrawn to quiet places just to BE with the Lord. And when we return home to the hectic pace of ministry, jobs, friendships, and families, we will need to carve out some sacred space and some holy time to renew our acquaintance with our Savior and get away to spend some time each day with him.
So, as you face the challenges of your life, please, carve out some sacred space and some holy time to withdraw from the maddening rush, if only for a brief respite. But, don't just withdraw, draw close to the only one who can restore your soul!
Where do you go to be alone with Jesus? What do you do to listen for his voice and draw close to his presence? I'd love to hear from you on my blog on a related entry called, "Exhausted" which can be found online: