I've been wanting to write about exhaustion for some time now, but I was just too tired. Now, I'm still tired. but at least I can feel like I accomplished something.
As I once again start my day before the sun, because my boys couldn't possibly lay in their beds and relax, they have to start fighting once again, I feel my shoulders slump just a little.
Life, frankly, can be tough. I make my way through the day, navigating the cultural whirlpools and grammatical rapids, vocabulary waterfalls and synonym tsunamis....(how was that for vivid language-learning imagery? I thought it was cool, but maybe I'm just tired)...By the end of the day, I don't have much left in the tank.
My wife and I talk about this---one of our big concerns is, we work all day on doing ministry and keeping our children from starting World War III in the basement, and sometimes it seems like there's not a lot left for God and Spouse.
We truly believe we are where God wants us to be right now. But that doesn't make it easy.
One thing that has in a way helped (but could also just freak us out) is learning more about Missionary Stress. There have been studies about the long-term effects of major stress, and it's an important thing to think about. (It's not just for missionaries, I know that military families, those who have lost a job, loved one, or are going through sickness or other hard times could benefit from understanding how stress can affect the body)
The blog post Just how Stressed are Missionaries? gives a good overview. Information on the long-term study is also available with the above article.
This is a quote from their post:
"In Holmes and Rahe’s original study, they found that if you reached a level of 200 on the scale in a year, the cumulative stress would have consequences for some time to come. In fact, they found that 50% of those who reached this level were hospitalized within two years. The reasons included heart attack, diabetes, cancer, and other severe illness.
If ever the level reached 300, the person was almost certain to end up in the hospital within two years...
The typical missionary had not just peaking levels above 300 – they had sustained levels over 300 – - – year after year.
The typical missionary, in fact, had double that level – 600 on the scale!"
Ok, that explains the tired parts of my life a bit.
But, regardless of location, we all deal with exhaustion. What do we do with it?
Well, in ourselves, apparently we are on a one way trip to the ER. We might as well make sure our passports aren't expired, buy some tickets and head back to the US tomorrow. Of course, traveling internationally with four little kids? That makes me tired just thinking about it.
But, we can't and shouldn't try to do our missionary job (or any job) in our own strength.
Colossians 1:11 NLT, kind of sums up what I need. Paul says: "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with Joy."
Endurance. Patience. Joy.
God's got it. He's happy to share it. I need to ask for it.
Exhaustion may be a part of life---He's got the cure. But God isn't in the business of making life easy.
He makes it Possible.