My good friend sent me a note this week. He’s in what he says are the darkest days of his life. Then he quoted Abe Lincoln, who confided to a friend, “I’ve got weary that rest can’t reach.”
I know a little of how he feels, having gone through a similar stretch. It came on me unawares, like a mist descending at day’s end, only the next day it didn’t burn off, only grew more opaque. I fought it, but finally gave up, succumbing to the referee’s standing ten count, my gloves too heavy to lift. That’s when I went into maintenance mode, hitting ministry expectations, but that’s all. Smiling bravely for staff, or students, but at home sitting in front of the TV. “What are you watching, honey?” Ginnette was patient. I would grunt, because I wasn’t watching anything, just staring into oblivion; ‘click, click, click.’ What caused this spiral, this deepening of dark? I don’t know. All I know is that my theology of pain, where trials fit and how God uses tough times to build character were all cliché’s I summarily fired from my world view. I’m not saying I stopped believing them, they just didn’t help me crawl out of the hole I found myself in.
None of us are immune to darkness, and perhaps as you read this you can relate, at least on some level to a time when the shades went down. Jesus can. He not only hung on the cross, suffering physical pain and emotional abuse, but a suffocating darkness enshrouded him. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” I imagine the earth itself trembled under that soul-rending cry. But note Whom He addressed. Too often as ‘weary’ tightens its grip we turn to others for perspective, and not the Author of hope. For me it was a wake up call. Did I believe God stood by me in darkness, as he did in the light of day? I’m not saying that was the answer, but it did point me in it’s direction, the direction of prayer. Several years later I needed that lesson.
It was 1990, working at a new high school in San Diego. God raised up a large group of freshmen students eager to grow in faith. I poured all I had into them, then tried to convince them to attend a conference at year’s end. I fought that fight right up to the morning we boarded the bus, and to my dismay not one of those rascals showed up. It’s not that I hadn’t ever worked with no results before, but something about my expectations, and their lack of interest siphoned my energy, literally gutted me. I felt weary, with no prospect of rest, since I was leading the conference, and had to perform with or without the unction needed to minister in the spirit. I lasted four days, until during an afternoon of recreation I went back to my dorm room, and knelt down on a stone tile floor. “God, I can’t go another hour, I’m done.” That was noon. It’s difficult to describe what happened next. Brennan Manning, in his Memoirs, ‘All Is Grace,’ calls a similar moment a ‘golden world’ experience. Time ceased to register, and I have no memory, except for when God broke the silence, and shouted an inaudible message, which lifted my chin. That’s when to my amazement I read 6pm on the wall clock. Where had six hours gone? I didn’t know, but I didn’t care. In a split second weary vanished, and I rose, nearly ran to dinner.
Psalm 63 states, “my soul clings to you, your right arm upholds me.” What I needed on that tile floor was a set of arms strong enough to lift me. Prayer helps us transfer whatever strength remains in us, into that right arm of His. Our humanness expressed in whatever emotion we choose, is absorbed by that power, and just as in the case of Jesus, He turns our hearts toward the direction of greater intimacy.
Can you relate to weary that rest can’t reach? Tell us about it.