God hasn’t left us alone in our weariness.
When Words Matter Most
By Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser
Mandy, a young mother of three who attends my (Caroline’s) church, recently called me saying she needed to talk with an older mom who could understand her situation. Although she felt awkward asking for advice, she explained that her concerned husband had urged her to call me, so she finally did. Mandy was utterly exhausted. She didn’t think she had the mental or physical energy, much less the spiritual strength, to care for her family. Mandy’s children are young and close in age, requiring her constant attention. In addition, Mandy is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of managing her home during this stage of motherhood. There seems to be no end or rest in sight.
Mandy’s nights are often interrupted by changing sheets for a child who still wets the bed or by comforting another who doesn’t sleep well. Her youngest won’t let her take a shower without crying at the bathroom door. The middle one has a temper and needs to be watched carefully when playing with the other children. Mandy’s oldest, a second-grader, is often uncooperative, already isolating himself behind an electronic device. And then there are the mounds of laundry, the constant messes, and the preparation of meals for picky eaters. It all feels like too much.
“I didn’t expect motherhood to be so hard,” Mandy said quietly. “I feel strung out with nothing to give. I want to be a good mom, but each day ends with regret, guilt, and exhaustion. I don’t think I have it in me to do this.” By now Mandy was close to tears: “I don’t have any ‘me’ time. It’s like I’m shriveling up, and as much as I love my kids, I don’t think I can cope anymore.”
Although my own three boys are grown, I can remember what it’s like to be in Mandy’s shoes as if it were yesterday. Sometimes when you’re a young mother, the world narrows down to the four walls of your house. Current events and trends in the culture occur without notice. You rarely feel like you’ve done enough, even though you’re busy from morning to night. A few moments alone become a cherished commodity, and having an adult conversation can be surprisingly uplifting.
Mandy asked me for some helpful tips. I gave her a few practical suggestions that could make her days and nights run more smoothly, but I also knew she required spiritual encouragement as well. Instead of platitudes and motivational clichés, Mandy needed the hope and strength that only God through his word can provide—something solid to hold onto and remember when she was weary. Before we got off the phone, I read Isaiah 40:27–31 to Mandy and shared with her what the Lord had taught me from those verses about persevering in my own weariness. Mandy was grateful for the encouragement, and after I prayed for her on the phone, we set up a time for me to stop by to talk with her more the following week.
Uphold the Weary
As you know, mothers of young children aren’t the only ones who become weary. At some point, everyone experiences a prolonged and burdensome situation that seems to push the limits of what the body or spirit—or both—can endure. A friend of yours awakes every morning with chronic pain. Your cousin faces another round of chemotherapy. A coworker juggles a couple of jobs, trying to make ends meet for herself and her children. A middle-aged neighbor cares for a disabled child or an elderly parent. A senior citizen restarts motherhood by taking in her neglected grandchildren. Maybe you have a strained relationship with a family member, and it never seems to get better no matter what you do. In circumstances like these, physical or spiritual weariness can become the norm and a deep discouragement can settle in.
In the Bible, to be weary means to be faint, to lose heart, or to be discouraged. As we discussed in a previous chapter, the weary are the fainthearted mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, . . . encourage the fainthearted.” We’re to come alongside the weary with hope-filled words and compassionate action, not with impatience or thoughtless reprimands. They have a long and difficult road to travel, a lengthy test of faith. Serve them with love, cover them with prayer, and fortify them with truth from God’s word.
Weariness is not sin, yet it’s tempting to respond sinfully to God, others, and our circumstances when we’re weary. Our defenses against sin are weakened, and we feel the strong downward pull of worry, anger, selfishness, or despair. But as children of a kind and loving heavenly Father, we must remember that he hasn’t left us alone in our weariness. We have Christ who identifies and sympathizes with our weaknesses, and through him we approach the throne of grace for help in our time of need (Heb. 4:15–16).
From that throne of grace, God fulfills his promise to help us endure any hardship that comes our way: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be [tested] beyond your ability, but with the [testing] he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Endurance is the “ability to remain under tremendous weight and pressure without succumbing.” It’s a patient perseverance that’s produced in us by the Spirit of God. The Lord uses our trials and weariness to build our endurance, to refine our character, to teach us to hope, and to assure us of his love (Rom. 5:3–5). These are the spiritual blessings given to the weary one who trusts in him. They are the fruit that grows in the heart pruned by trials and watered with the word.
Excerpted from When Words Matter Most: Speaking Truth with Grace to Those You Love by Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser, ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway.