Spiritual exhaustion can be better than the alternatives.
My prayer for you today is that you would find yourself spiritually exhausted.
Sounds like an odd thing to pray for, doesn’t it?
Let me explain myself before you click off this page . . .
Recently I was reading a passage in 1 Kings 19:9-18 where we see Elijah coming to the end of his rope. He had been pouring himself out for the Lord, contending spiritually with the elements of his culture—King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, the Baal worshippers—who were hostile to his faith. Elijah had experienced tremendous highs, most notably the defeat of the Baal prophets and the return of rain to Israel. Elijah had seen God’s hand move miraculously in the altar-consuming fire from heaven, and in getting his dinner brought to him by birds in the desert. Pretty cool stuff, right?
But Elijah had also been beat down a bit. After all of this success, he allowed a threat from Jezebel to send him over the edge. He ran to the wilderness, asking God to take his life. Instead of agreeing with Elijah, God led him even further through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai, the place of so many of God’s awesome displays of power over the years.
Here we see God meeting Elijah in his spiritual exhaustion.
God allowed Elijah to express his frustration, exhaustion, and feelings of defeat. And instead of harshly rebuking him, God provided a personal, peaceful reminder of His presence. God displayed His power in an earthquake, in a mighty wind, and in a great fire. But it was in the small whisper that Elijah found God’s presence.
And while Elijah’s fault might have been what seemed to be a propensity to STAY exhausted, and to remain defeated, his sin was most certainly not in being spiritually exhausted. If anything, God seemed to honor Elijah in this state, coming to him with an intimate assurance of His presence.
Which brings me back to my prayer for you . . .
I pray that you would be spiritually exhausted from living a vibrant life of conviction and purpose that constantly brings you in tension with the world.
I pray that our exhaustion would be from living on God’s mission, from devoting our spiritual energy to pursuing God’s purpose in this world and in our life.
Because there are two alternatives, both of which run counter productive to who and what God calls you to be. What are the alternatives? Glad you asked . . .
Alternative One: Physical Exhaustion
Spiritual exhaustion is very different than the physical exhaustion that results from mere busyness. As youth pastors and youth workers, you can so easily fall into the trap of your faith identity becoming defined by “doing.” Because of the demands expected of you, if you’re not careful, the physical busyness that comes with your job description can become a replacement for the discipleship, the relationship, that Christ has called you to.
The things you do in your service for Christ are vital. This is what James talked about when he described an active faith life. But the things you do for God cannot take the place of your personal devotion to God. When they do, you will almost always find yourself physically exhausted and spiritually unfulfilled. This is a tough place to be, and is very different from being spiritually poured out for God.
Alternative Two: Not Exhausted At All
The worst alternative is that we would be so complacent, so spiritually inactive, that exhaustion would be far from our minds. When we go with the flow by not standing up for our convictions, when we don’t live our lives on mission for God, when our faith is watered down, inactive, and lukewarm, exhaustion is the last thing we need to worry about. Yet for too many, this is an apt description of their faith. As those who are called to lead teenagers deeper in their relationship with Christ, we can’t be numbered with those who are unwilling to spiritually lay it all on the line.
So, again, my prayer for you is that you would find yourself spiritually exhausted from daily pouring yourself out in service of God.
And that you when you are, you would turn to God to refill and recharge you, empowering you to renew your passion for His mission.
Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”