I have to laugh when kids come dragging into school in the morning complaining that they’re still tired from things that happened two days ago. Every day is recovery from the day before, and every mistake made is simply blamed on being tired – regardless of having more energy at this age than they ever will have again. In our college naiveté we used to dream of the days when we could “set our own schedule” and sleep ten hours a night and not have to be responsible for twenty-seven things at the same time. (We’re still dreaming.) And life is busy and frankly exhausting, if you’re living it well. “Tired” is a fact of life, whether you’re a student, a mother, a caregiver, an employee, or anything else. In a proper cycle of expending and restoring energy, it’s a good thing.
But when the cycle is unbalanced for too long and we end up overworked, sleep-deprived, and bumbling like zombies from one task to the next, the brain starts doing some odd things. You make
questionable leaps of logic and put a pan of biscuits in the dishwasher. (True story.) You forget critical things like paying bills or administering someone else’s medicine. You’re statistically as dangerous behind a steering wheel as a drunk driver. The longer it drags on, the worse it gets – crankiness, hyper-sensitivity, paranoia. This isn’t merely caffeine deprivation on a Monday morning; it’s total exhaustion. It can stack up over days or weeks, or it can accrue in a matter of hours.
In Mark 6, Jesus has sent His disciples on ahead to Bethsaida. These were mostly fishermen, accustomed to the Sea of Galilee in all its moods, and there was no storm involved – but there was a “boisterous” and “contrary” wind. Tedious, back-breaking, endless hours later, they’re still rowing. They’re not in any peril yet – unless they quit rowing. They’re wearing out. “About the fourth watch of the night,” that is, between 3am and 6am, “he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.” He’s going to Bethsaida like they originally planned, just going about His business as usual. They knew He was coming eventually. They’ve seen Him perform so many miracles, nothing will surprise them now. Surely they realized that this Man Who just got done feeding thousands of people with a single sack lunch would have a more efficient way of crossing the water than, say, renting a canoe. So when they see someone walking on the water, they naturally assume it’s… a ghost.
You see, weariness pulls any shred of plausible thought from your brain, and plunks you down on your default settings. Your core beliefs, your instinctive fears, your knee-jerk reactions. “They considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” Wide-awake, they were beginning to see Him as the Son of God, but stripped down to their instincts, He didn’t even cross their minds until He called out to them. The parallel passage in Matthew 14 tells us that this is when Peter, thrilled with this cool new superpower, walks on water himself. He’s doing fine as long as he’s focused on Jesus – but when that default fear kicks in again, he begins to sink. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Obviously Peter had enough faith in Jesus’s power for this moment, but he has yet to settle it in his heart that Jesus has total, obvious, take-it-for-granted power.
When you’re worn out, when you have been at the daily grind or in crisis mode so long that you start seeing things, what do you see on the water? Can you rest in the knowledge that you’re simply doing what He told you to do, that He knows your effort and your challenges, and that He is still a part of your labor even as He is busy about His own? Or does every new development bring a fresh wave of fear? Some folks love surprises, but I deeply dislike surprises and sudden changes of any kind; they leave me no room to plan my response, and my mind bolts its doors and prepares for nuclear war. And when the Lord is working on something close to me and I see His movement out of the corner of my eye, I confess I’ve mistaken Him for something to be feared. I’m learning now to expect the incomprehensible, and to take heart in the knowledge that He is close by.
What are you tired of? Where is your difficulty not actual peril, but weariness? Literal physical exhaustion? Labor in the ministry and its repercussions? A frustrating home life? Being single? A thankless job? When I’m fearful of every new development, frustrated by unexpected challenges, I can be sure that there is something the Lord is trying to get done that I’m missing altogether. I’m seeing ghosts where I should be seeing God.
Until next time, let’s examine the core values we fall back on.
- If I’m stressing as if I have to do all this in my own power, weariness will topple me.
- When Jesus exists merely as a spiritual placeholder in my life, capable of working miracles but surely not under these circumstances, I’m fast approaching apathy.
- If I’m convinced that Jesus is my “blessings ATM” and exists solely to work miracles in my life, I’m sailing straight into disillusionment.
He is busy about His own business and has the power to make it happen, whether I notice Him walking by or not. Keep your eyes peeled, sailors. That’s not a ghost out there; it’s the One Who has the power to defy logic and work whatever miracles He needs to get His work accomplished.