I recently listed to a podcast with a popular Progressive pastor discussing the reasons Christians feel exhausted both in and out of church.
Are there really times Christians feel exhausted or depressed or disheartened? Many may not think so. Some Christians might argue that anyone who does needs to rethink their faith.
I understand the confusion. Christians always talk about the good news of Christ’s gift of salvation. That alone should keep all of us believers happy, right?
It doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid.
I listened to an episode of The Table MPLS podcast from January 21, 2019 featuring guest speaker John Pavlovitz. I’ve written about John before and he remains a favorite of mine.
He began the talk with an important question.
John immediately asked people to call out the “default setting” of their heart. In one word, he asked, how would they describe their emotional state.
Answers included tired, anxious, conflicted, despair, overwhelmed, resentful, guarded and disheartened.
Take that first one and combine nearly any other, and you have a picture of what it’s like when Christians feel exhaustion.
He spoke about every Christian reaching a point where they wonder, “How did we get here?” He didn’t mean a question about how life begins but more literally, how did we as a society and a church reach this point?
He talked about wondering why we’re still arguing over the value of black lives. He lamented about our society and the church still trying to decide whether people choose to be gay. And, stepping into politics, he spoke of a Christianity that says our current president is “sufficiently Christian.”
“I know you’re exhausted,” he said. “I know the toll these days take on you.”
Why would Christians feel exhausted?
Pavlovitz said he sees what he calls a “poverty of empathy.” Along with that comes a growing contempt for people who are not like us, people in need and people from the “outside.”
Jesus Christ told us to go out and be fishers of men. Did He mean for us to only fish for men we thought were exactly like us? Christ Himself was criticized by the overly-religious for spending time with sinners rather than the faithful.
But there are certainly Christians who will toss “thoughts and prayers” in lieu of taking any real action to help others.
Sometimes, it makes the rest of us question whether there’s something wrong with us. Are we the ones who are missing something when we try our best to care about others?
Attempting to pick up the slack for those who’ll peer over their glasses at a problem and look for something to blame can indeed be tiring.
It’s important and something I believe we’re called to do.
People offer different answers.
Listen to some modern worship music and you might think saying one little prayer turns your life into a Pollyanna perfection.
Some assume that if you’re feeling despair, pain, exhaustion or depression, that’s just a sign that you need God’s presence. (They likewise assume that you don’t have any of it in your life already; if you did, you’d feel great all the time.)
Others suggest that while you may have plenty of God’s presence in your life, it’s the enemy who comes at you with despair.
You can pray, you can read the Bible, you can go to church. But if that’s all you’re willing to do, there might be something wrong with your faith. And if you think that’s all it takes to feel happy every minute of every day, I’d sincerely recommend you not suggest that strategy to a fellow Christian who tells you they’re feeling worn out.
Their reaction, if caught at the wrong moment, might be somewhat less than…Christian.
You can still feel exhausted by what you see in the world. Maybe — just maybe — we feel that way because we might just have a better understanding of God’s word than others do. And because of that, we see how far off the mark they’re landing with their interpretation.
We may be wrong. But at least we’re trying to question what we don’t understand in a world where everyone else hates anyone who tries to question anything.
That in itself is tiring.
As John wrote on his own blog, hateful people are exhausting.
I can’t help but think of this.
If they make us feel so tired, how must they make God feel? Sure, I’m certain God has a far better coping mechanism. At least, I like to hope that He does.
But I wonder how today’s society must weigh on Him. And I wonder how much longer He’ll tolerate all the hate out there.
I think it’s all right for Christians to feel exhausted.
But I think we need to make sure we’re making use of that exhaustion. We can’t allow it to make us withdraw, even when our tired minds tell us that might be the best thing to do.
We still have a mission. And a purpose. We have to muster up the strength to be the Christ we want here on earth.
One of my favorite quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says it far better than anything I could possibly come up with:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Be light. Be love. Make it better.