The weary Christian
Andrew Sveda | Monday, January 23, 2023
“[M]y soul is bereft of peace;” the author of Lamentations writes. “I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD’” (Lamentations 3:17-18). In these verses, the author is so discouraged that he is driven to the brink of utter despair. In such moments, the Christian life feels almost impossible, and we are tempted to lose all hope. “Why go on? What’s the point anymore?” you wonder. Or you may be quite settled that you must go on, but you resign yourself to living under this gray shadow for the rest of your life. And so you grow tired and downcast, dreading today and every coming tomorrow. How can we apply God’s Word to this situation? I will offer a few thoughts.
Firstly, in all seriousness, consider the outcome of the Christian life and the warnings against falling away. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62), but “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Your emotions try to tell you that your happiness is really all that matters, but listen to Scripture. The choice between patient endurance in faith and falling away is no less than a matter of Heaven and Hell, eternal life and eternal condemnation. Let us “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) of the Christian life with eternity in mind, not that we would conclude that our works merit or make us worthy of eternal life but that our minds would be more conformed to Scripture, where it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Perhaps you have forgotten what awaits you in Heaven and what glorification means, or you hold such a low and dark view of them that it does not excite you. Put before your mind both the necessity of perseverance and the unimaginable glories of eternal life. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap [eternal life], if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Fight, too, to remember that you do not walk this life alone. God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). All of history and all of His saints testify to His loving faithfulness. We would think it absurd if someone told us the sun will not rise tomorrow, yet that very sun will be destroyed before even one of God’s words prove false (Matthew 24:35), He forsakes His own, or He does even one thing ultimately hurtful to His children (Romans 8:28).
Yet God’s presence might mean little to us if we forget His power, sovereignty and goodness. Since Jesus bore the wrath of God our sins deserved (Romans 3:25, Isaiah 53:4-6), Christians are free from all charges of condemnation (Romans 8:1,33) and are reconciled to God and have peace with Him (Romans 5:1,10). Therefore, we can rest assured of the loving gaze of the Father and know that no suffering, not even death, comes upon us because of God’s displeasure. Instead, sufferings serve to strengthen our faith, grow us in holiness, and increase our comfort and hope (Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 1:5, 11); convert, comfort, and strengthen others (2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Timothy 2:10); and, if responded to correctly, glorify God (Philippians 1:20, 1 Peter 1:7). We are often driven to despair believing that our suffering means God no longer cares for us or that our suffering is pointless, but neither is true. God loves you, therefore He uses suffering, like the great Physician He is, to bring about His good and pleasing aims. No suffering is outside His sovereign control. Not one scrape or tear is superfluous. Understanding this, can you begin to see why the New Testament talks about “[rejoicing] in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3)? This is not to minimize the fact that suffering is real and can be excruciatingly painful and sad. But by understanding our place in Christ before a sovereign, good and loving God, we can always have hope.
Indeed, through this, we also begin to understand something else: that the Christian life, while always hard (Matthew 7:14), is ultimately not defined by defeat, death, and despair but life, praise, freedom, and victory. “[I]n all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” Paul wrote (Romans 8:37). “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal wait of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Weary Christian, do not lose heart. Remind yourself of God’s glorious work of redemption in you (Ephesians 1), how He is working in you even now (Philippians 2:13), and how He will sustain you to the end and bring you to glory (Philippians 1:6). Remind yourself who God is, for remembering God’s faithfulness and steadfast love is an invaluable support in times of weakness and discouragement (Psalm 42, 77; Lamentations 3:21-24). And remind yourself of the depravity of your own sin and the indescribable grace of God at the Cross. Without a mind and life fixated on the gospel, you will find your thinking and actions reverting to a works-based system. The gospel is what brings life, hope, and vigor to the weary and despondent soul. It is what fuels the Christian life (Galatians 2:20).
Weary Christian, put your hope in the Lord. Patiently wait for Him, for “great is [His] faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23), even in the darkest hour (Psalm 23:4). Remember Jesus’ words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Andrew Sveda is a senior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science and theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.