Summary: The dangers, causes, and cures of fatigue and weariness.
This morning, I want to ask you a question. Here it is: "Why am I so tired all the time?" Not me personally, but all of us. Because we all experience fatigue and weariness. We may know them as occasional visitors, or as constant and unwelcome companions, but every one of us has made their acquaintance. You know what I mean, that sense of being constantly tired and run-down. Feeling lethargic, lacking the energy to do the things you used to enjoy. Making excuses not to participate in family activities, because you’re just too exhausted. Sitting in front of the television for hours on end, watching shows you don’t really like, because you’re too wiped out to do anything else. Or perhaps what you experience is more a kind of physical and spiritual depletion, as if your batteries were always in need of recharging.
Now admittedly, this is a complex issue. First of all, fatigue could very well have an organic cause. For example, a virus could be the culprit. I read in the paper this week that Chris Matthews, host of the talk show, "Hardball," has been diagnosed with malaria, of all things, and is flat on his back in the hospital, complaining of complete mental and physical exhaustion. [In other words, the malaria has done to him what he’s been doing to the guests on his show.] Happily, he’s predicted to be back on his feet again soon. But fatigue can be the result of illness. It can also result from other physical causes – unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, lack of exercise. It may be related to depression or stress.
This morning, I’m not going to attempt a diagnosis of any medical conditions you may have. I’m not going to analyze your diet or your sleep habits, nor will I prescribe a six-week course of aerobic exercise. But I am going to suggest another factor for you to consider – and that’s the spiritual. You may be tired for reasons that have little to do with your physical health, and much to do with your spiritual health. Of course, if there is a medical problem, it should be treated medically. But even in those cases, there’s an interrelationship between the physical and the spiritual which the medical community is now recognizing. I’m not talking about faith healing or miracle cures. I’m talking about mainstream researchers and physicians who have documented the link between spiritual health and physical health. In other words, science is finally beginning to acknowledge what we’ve known all along, which is that human beings are not merely complex biomechanical devices. We have souls as well as bodies, and they influence one another, so that a physical symptom such as fatigue can have a physical component, a spiritual component, or both. And that’s what I’m going to address this morning – the spiritual issues that can bring on exhaustion and fatigue, and what we can do to restore our strength and vigor when fatigue overtakes us.
But before I do that, I want to talk about why this is important for us as disciples of Jesus Christ. Of course, we would all like to be brimming with life and energy; no one enjoys the feeling of being tired and lethargic. But what does it have to do with following Christ? Just this: when we are weary and exhausted, we are more susceptible to temptation, more exposed to the attacks of the enemy. We are more prone to unbelief and fear and discouragement; more likely to abandon the faith, more at risk of dishonoring ourselves and our Savior. As the great coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." He was talking about football, but the principle is the same. When we’re tired, we don’t want to fight the good fight. We don’t want to persevere in the faith. We don’t want to stand our ground and resist temptation. Instead, we want to give up. And that’s a spiritually dangerous place to be.
We see this principle at work in the Old Testament book of Second Samuel. Absalom, the son of king David, has just staged a coup. He has deposed his father and installed himself as king. David has been forced to abandon Jerusalem and flee. And now, Absalom is seeking counsel from his advisers. Should he pursue David immediately? Or should he wait? In chapter seventeen we read this:
"Ahithophel said to Absalom, ’I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee.’" – 2 Samuel 17:1-2a
What was Ahithophel’s counsel? Attack now, while they’re tired and weak! As it turned out, Absalom did not follow this wise advice, and as a result David survived to retake the throne. But the principle behind the advice was sound. When we are tired and weary, we are more vulnerable to attack. And this is just as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical. As Peter warns us,