“Come unto me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
The beginning of this week was a really tough time for me. I felt the weariness of the last few months burdening my heart and soul. I just wanted to sleep. Try as I might, I couldn’t conjure up any feeling of joy or hope. I felt defeated, purposeless, and exhausted.
I write a weekly email to our wonderful women at the church. Usually this email tells a little story from my life and I try to encourage them in some way, then I ask them how I can be praying. This week, however, I couldn’t do that. As I tried time and time again to write something I finally heard the Spirit tell me to just be honest. So I did something different and asked the women to pray for me this week. I let them know where I was at and just asked them to lift us up.
While I know that there were some people who were not quite sure how to respond to that, for the most part I had people tell me they were praying. And over the course of the next few days it was like a fog lifted from my heart and mind. I could see clearly again and my energy levels were back to normal. In the middle of all of this I spent a day with a stomach bug that left me in bed where I slept for hours over the course of a couple days – something that apparently my body needed. Who knew a bug could be the answer to prayer? Between restorative sleep and the prayers of my friends I knew that I had passed through this most recent battle and was on the other side, and I was thankful.
Have you ever felt this way?
As I talked with friends this week I admitted that I have been prone to times of depression in my life. There have been times when I have been on medicine and many times of seeing a counselor regularly. I have no shame about this – I think they are amazing resources that are available for us when we need them. However, as Shawn and I talked about this time (because he was also experiencing it) we knew in our hearts that this was not a physical thing or chemical imbalance – this was a spiritual battle. And we knew that we were not in a place where we could fight it alone.
Let me back up a minute. We know that we are not truly alone, right? When we are down and we have lost the ability to fight back because our sword is thrown off to the side and the enemy is on top of us peering down into our eyes with a look of pure hatred, we are not alone. We are still wear the breastplate of righteousness that guards our heart from the attacks of the evil one. We know as his children that we are covered in the blood of Jesus and that we are made righteous because of the work he did on the cross. This is true no matter where our thoughts or emotions take us. Once we become his children there is no one or nothing that can separate us from the love of God. So we know that while we may feel alone, we are not truly alone.
But that doesn’t stop us from living as though we are sometimes, right?
This week I felt alone and I knew that I needed my people to fight on my behalf. A friend sent me a text saying she was picturing the prayers of people lifting up our arms like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17. (“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”) When I asked the women to pray for us and for the other pastor’s family at church I knew it was because we needed someone to hold our arms up for a little while because our own strength was gone and we were shaking and feeble. I wasn’t asking for them to fix the situation, to give me platitudes, or even to assure me that it would be ok, but just to stand alongside me and hold my arms while I rested. I had to come to Jesus because I was weary and burdened, and he gave me the rest I needed in the form of friends who came alongside me in battle.
I am thankful for this reminder this week, even though I did not love feeling sick and depressed. God knew what I needed, and he knew that the friends who lifted me this week needed to be a part of it. He continues to shape us in love and compassion and make us more like him even as he pursues us right where we are at. If you are in the place I was this week, may you be humble enough to let others bless you. If you are doing the arm holding – thank you for battling and loving well and keeping the arms steady, even if you don’t fully understand it.