‘I’m prepared for school.’ My 7-year-old daughter stares at me. ‘I’m ready for school, mom. How many minutes?’
I’m not prepared for her school. Oh, I have the books and the supplies and the lesson—but I am not prepared. I’m tired, I’m only halfway through this French press of glorious black coffee, and I’m resistant to starting my week. Why? Who knows. Unlike most people, Monday is my favorite day of the week.
This Monday, however, is the first week in three that I’m expected to return to ‘real-life’ or my pre-COVID existence. I have to take my other daughter to school at 8 a.m. I will soon return to transporting my non-driving epileptic to his job at 4 a.m. Another child to his job at 5 p.m. since his vehicle is throwing a temper tantrum. Then there’s picking them all up, volleyball, robotics, piano, and many other large-family responsibilities and obligations.
But I’m tired. What do we do when life makes demands we can’t possibly fulfill? Some people will tell you to prioritize, let some things go, perhaps take a day off—and while all these may be possible for some people sometimes, they aren’t usually an option for me. Life doesn’t just stop because I’m sick or because I am having a ‘day.’
‘How many minutes?’ My daughter peers around the wall from the dining room. I close my eyes and breathe long and deep. Exhale. In those twenty seconds, I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer, imagined nesting in a bed bursting with pillows and blankets, mentally karate-chopped the aether, and opened my eyes. Exhale.
‘Now is good,’ I tell her.
I think sometimes life feels too demanding because we’ve agreed to commitments beyond what is feasible for a person to sustain. Often the motivations are guilt saying ‘no,’ parental desires to give our children the best despite what it costs us to do so, or for the child-free, regular human decency which persuades us that self-denial is a contract with holiness.
We have commitments we haven’t agreed to—events life gives us to which we have to respond, often with survival or well-being on the line. A sick family member, a second (or third or fourth) job, a surprise baby (I’ve had this one several times), a death, or any number of situations that demand energy resources which are not sustainable.
So how are we maintained? How do we have spiritual ‘emergency rooms’? One option is Sabbath services or other church activities that people can attend throughout the week. Friends can help, family can help, eating well, resting, a qualified mental health expert—all these things can support, but are they indeed what makes a person capable of ‘longsuffering,’ which, according to Galatians 5:22, is ‘…the fruit of the Spirit’ (NRSV)?
For the Christian, the understanding is that to survive in this fallen world, we will need Divine help. The reason longsuffering is a spiritual fruit is its extension of spiritual grace or enablement. One of the primary reasons we turn to Christ is to acknowledge He has accomplished something on the cross we couldn’t attain ourselves—tearing apart the veil between humans and God so that communication and relationship with Him might be restored.
It is not, nor has it ever been, God’s desire ‘for the man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18, NASB).
Of course, in context, God is speaking about the creation of the female, and while I will not argue creationism vs. scientific logic here, at least in allegory, God is instituting the principle of relationships. We are made to have relationships with each other, which stems from an easily identified hole in the human soul that happens to be God-sized. The difference in relationships without God is that we always want more from them; with God, we receive enough from Him to sustain others.
A relationship with God isn’t comfortable—we have many, many distractions and needs which steal our joy, our hope, and motivation. Sadness and hopelessness, waiting for a savior to come—all these states can deplete the human condition and ‘make the heart sick’ (Proverbs 13:12, NIV).
So what do we do? When we’re tired, depressed, exhausted, what are we supposed to do? What is the practical help we can expect from God?
To start, we must understand that God wants to have a relationship with us—not one full of punishment, augmented by anger and wrath, but a healthy, compassionate, merciful bond which is not performance- or merit-based. God graces us with opened eyes to see and accept the invitation that we are His children. Recognizing the human condition and our need for God is not the same thing as who we are or what we do after receiving His incredible gift of reconciliation and relationship.
So while ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23, ESV), it is not God’s intention that we operate under anything but full revelation of unity between Himself and us, in love, without obligation. God loves us because of choice, not a duty: ‘We love Him because He first loved us’ (I John 4:19, KJV).
After recognizing—and believing—God’s intention toward us is good, we can find the promises we have received from Him. There are great theologians more qualified than I am who can help distinguish between which promises are for the Church proper, which are for Israel, and which are for individuals, but the simplest one relevant here is ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV).
There are many more promises, but the bottom line is, we have a relationship with a Divine being who guarantees His continual presence.
‘How many minutes,’ I say to God with my eyes closed, ‘until you return to get me? Until the evil in this world is ended? How many minutes will I wait today for you to reveal yourself to me so that I can make it through Monday?’
‘Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.’ – Psalm 54:4
‘My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.’ – Psalm 62:5
‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.’ – II Thessalonians 3:16
Now is good, He tells me.