Have you ever had one of those days, weeks or even years when you can’t seem to catch a break? From the moment you wake up, life just rushes at you unrelentingly. You seem to be putting out one fire after another, barely pausing for a breath, and by the end of the day, you are physically and mentally exhausted. In some cases, you are praying, hoping, wishing for a miracle and the breakthrough doesn’t come. In fact, the opposite seems to happen, anything that can go wrong goes wrong. Whether it is just missing a train or bus, being stuck in traffic at the worst possible time or something much worse. Sometimes, we are simply overwhelmed by life and if you are like me, you want to crawl into bed and just shut it out. Sadly, it can get so bad you consider taking your own life.
Morgan Scott Peck opens his wonderful book, The Road Less Travelled with these words:” life is difficult”. That statement is true whether you are the richest, most powerful, most famous or most desirable person in the world. No one has an easy ride. Yet sometimes, it can feel like everyone else is having it just that little bit easier than you. When I go through those periods, I find myself questioning God or even doubting Him. Questions like “why me Lord?”, “where are you”, “I know you are all-powerful, so this problem must be easy for you to solve, why don’t you?”, “am I doing something wrong?”, “Lord, I am earnestly trying to follow you, can I please catch a break” and so on. If you do manage to make it to church, it may seem like everyone else is living the victorious Christian life while you are depressed and spiritually weary, barely hanging on.
If any of what you have read resonates with you, hang in there and be encouraged. Many before us have gone through the same thing. Take Moses, the law-giver, a man called by God to deliver His people from slavery through mighty signs and wonders and led them to the promised land. A man with whom God spoke face to face [Exodus 33:11]. In the midst of doing what God called him to do, he got so overwhelmed that he begged God to take his life. “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” [Numbers 11:14-15 NIV]. How about Elijah? He was also a powerful prophet of great renown. Yet shortly after accomplishing one of his greatest feats [1Kings 18:20-46], he found himself running for his life and at breaking point. Just like Moses, he too asked God to take his life [1 Kings 19:4].
I find it comforting that God doesn’t rebuke either man. He responds to them with tenderness. He met both of them at their point of need. Getting overwhelmed and depressed did not discount them from serving God. I also find it interesting that when Jesus revealed glory to Peter, James and John (the transfiguration), his two celestial guests were Moses and Elijah [Mark 9:2-8]. Luke tells us they were talking about the imminent death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus [Luke 9:31]. I do wonder whether the subject of being overwhelmed or reaching breaking point came up because Jesus too would later beg His Father to find another way accomplish His will [Luke 22:42].
There are more examples of God’s chosen ones despairing of life. Jeremiah, for instance, cursed the day he was born and the man who delivered the news to his father [Jeremiah 20:14-18]. I really admire their frankness and honesty. There was no shame or guilt in telling God how they felt. One of the ways the devil can deceive us in those moments where we are barely staying afloat is to make us feel guilt and shame. After all, as God’s children, we should be walking in victory and if we are not, then something is wrong. The truth is that God’s strength in us is perfected in our weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9]. So, there is no shame or guilt in being weak. In fact, God invites us repeatedly to bring all that weighs heavy on us to Him [Psalm 55:22, Matthew 11:28-29, 1 Peter 5:7] because He knows we will struggle with life. Our struggles might be too much for us but it is never too much for Him.
My encouragement to you and a reminder for myself is to trust God with how we really feel. Say it as it is and don’t be afraid to be weak and vulnerable. I believe that the quality of our relationship with God can be measured by how much we really trust Him. The author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus knows what it is like to be human and so He can empathise with us [Hebrews 4:14-16]. We do not need to pretend life is great when it really isn’t. The pretence doesn’t help us or our neighbour who is also struggling with life. On the contrary, being vulnerable with one another can allow the power of God’s grace to transform our outlook and impact the lives of those around us. Being victorious in life isn’t something any of us is capable of achieving on our own. It is something God accomplishes in and through us. It all starts when we can boldly admit that we cannot do it on our own and we need God.