Fighting Soul Fatigue
The Bible uses the word easy only once. It came from Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
‘Easy’ is a soul word, not a circumstance word. The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke. And yet our souls seem to suffer fatigue.
There is a kind of fatigue that attacks the body. When we stay up too late and rise too early; when we try to fuel ourselves for the day with coffee and a donut in the morning and Red Bull in the afternoon; when we refuse to take the time to exercise and eat foods that clog our brains and arteries; when we constantly try to guess which line at the grocery store will move faster and which parking space is closest to the mall, our bodies grow weary.
There is a kind of fatigue that attacks the mind. When we are bombarded by information all day at work… When multiple screens are always clamoring for our attention… When we carry around mental lists of errands not yet done and bills not yet paid and e-mails not yet replied to… When we try to push unpleasant emotions under the surface like holding beach balls under the water at a swimming pool… our minds grow weary.
There is a kind of fatigue that attacks the will. We have so many decisions to make. When we are trying to decide what clothes will create the best possible impression, which foods will bring us the most pleasure, which tasks at work will bring us the most success, which entertainment options will make us the most happy, which events me must attend, even what vacation destination will be the most enjoyable, the need to make decisions overwhelm us. Our will grows weary with so many choices.
These categories of fatigue are difficult enough in and of themselves. But they combine to make us feel separated from God, separated from ourselves, and distanced from what we love most about life and creation.
This is soul-fatigue. Jesus engaged in certain practices which allowed God’s grace to keep replenishing his spirit. He prayed, he participated in community with his disciples, he engaged in corporate worship, he meditated on scripture, he enjoyed God’s creation. These spiritual practices rested his soul. A common problem is that people think of spiritual practices as obligations that will actually drain them. Sometimes I may need to engage in a practice like giving generously, or serving humbly, which my sinful side resists. But generally I need to engage in practices that connect me to God’s grace and energy and joy.
The soul craves rest. Our wills sometimes rejoice in striving; our bodies were made to (at least sometimes) know the exhilaration of tremendous challenge; our minds get stretched when they must focus even when tired. But the soul craves rest. The soul knows only borrowed strength. The soul was made to rest in God the way a tree rests in soil.
One of the challenges of soul-fatigue is that it does not have the same obvious signs as physical fatigue. If you’ve run a marathon, your body lets you know it’s finished. Our souls were not made to run on empty. But the soul doesn’t come with a gauge. The indicators of soul-fatigue are more subtle:
- Things seem to bother you more than they should.
- It’s hard to make your mind up about even simple decisions.
- Impulses to eat or drink or spend or crave will be harder to resist than they otherwise would.
- You are more likely to favor short-term gains in ways that will leave you with long-term costs.
- You judgment suffers.
- You have less courage.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
When you give your soul rest, you open it to the peace Jesus intends for you. A rested soul is an easy yoke.