Happy Friday! Thanks to Jill for sending this great question in and for giving me patience while I try to get to it!
“What does it mean when my Christian life starts to feel more like a chore than anything else?”
Boy, does that question resonate. Anyone else around here feeling a little weary?
I was at dinner a few weeks ago with a new friend. She shared that in her early years as a believer, she and her husband had walked through a season in life when everything just felt kind of hard. In the midst of that time she began to think: oh, this is what life is supposed to be like. All the joy and happiness I had previously was just a function of ignorance. Life is heavy and weary and hard.
I think my heart physically shifted in my chest. What she was saying connected with me in deep places that are supposed to stay quiet, especially at dinners with new friends. After all, I know the life I’m called to is one of unfailing joy.
The problem is, life is hard. And perseverance is a fight. That’s a certainty.
But Jesus died to give us life. And not just normal life, but life abundant. And that life isn’t defined by weariness and fatigue and that awful overwhelming feeling that makes us have meltdowns.
When the folks in the Bible talk about their lives, they describe them as energizing and life-giving and joyful. When they get persecuted, they end up “rejoicing they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor.”
Maybe the reason we’re weary is not because we’re pouring our lives out for others, but because we aren’t.
Life can feel like a chore if we aren’t on mission.
Don’t get me wrong, that makes ZERO sense to me. I’m so tired and overwhelmed that most days I don’t feel like I have any capacity for mission. Pouring myself out is the last thing I need. It’s the last thing that’s going to give me energy. What I need is to be poured into, right?
God thinks differently:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:6-11)
There are a lot of ‘if…then’ statements in that passage. Want to be refreshed? Want to be like a watered garden? Want to be satisfied and guided continually? Care about people. Pour yourself out for them.
It’s not logical, but it is biblical.
What if God ordained mission for us; to provide energy and joy; and what if satan has kept us from that great stream of grace by convincing us that mission is a threat to our energy and joy?
Or, maybe there’s another way Satan could sabotage the design of mission. There are no shortage of us who are pouring ourselves out without the promised result in Isaiah because when we do engage in mission, we act as if we’re doing God a favor.
Life feels like a chore because we serve out of duty and not delight.
There is a way to serve God that will rob us of joy and faith in ministry.
If we’re not careful, we can start to view our service as a means of giving back to God, instead of evidence that we are getting from God.
If you and I get through today and live radically on mission and serve well, we have not ‘repaid’ one drop of the grace He has given us. Instead, we owe God more; He has given us extra grace.
There are two ways to serve:
(1) in your strength, out of a desire to ‘do good’ for God or for people. This usually leads to exhaustion and frustration. If you get thanks you are filled, but if you go unrecognized then you are irritated or at best disappointed.
(2) in the strength that God supplies. You serve, out of an overflow of getting from God and out of a desire to get more of God.
I can’t lie to you and tell you that I know what that practically looks like, but I do know where it starts: faith. Pray through Isaiah 58 and beg for faith to believe what is written.
I do believe. Help my unbelief.