Call it “pandemic fatigue”. Or “burnout”. Or, simply—“tired”.
If any of these words seem to summarise your life right now, you’re not alone.
Singapore, according to a recent study reported in local news, is the “most fatigued country” in the world. This ranking takes into account things like the number of hours of sleep we get on average (not enough), the numbers of hours we work (more than most), and how much time we spend on our mobile devices and computers (too many).
Personally, I can identify with all three descriptions—pandemic fatigue, burnout, and tired. I’m tired of the uncertainty and the restrictions brought about by Covid-19, sometimes tired of working (even though I enjoy my job), and tired of trying to fulfil all the roles, responsibilities, and duties I feel obliged to perform. Sometimes, I just feel like running away from it all.
At the same time, I sometimes also feel guilty about feeling tired. Hasn’t God called me to do this? Shouldn’t I be relying on His strength? Am I being too self-centred? How could I possibly feel tired?
I wonder if great men of God in the Bible felt the same way. Moses must have frequently felt burnt out by the burden of leading and caring for an entire nation. Paul must have felt worn out from working a full-time job as a tentmaker while preaching the gospel after work. Jesus’ disciples were certainly tired out by their Master’s preaching schedule, as well as the crowds vying for their attention and pastoral care.
What I find striking is Jesus’ response: “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’ ” (Mark 6:31).
What Jesus said—and didn’t say—gave me three insights:
1. It’s okay to feel tired
God, who designed and made our minds, bodies, and souls, knows all too well our human limitations. Not only that, His own Son lived as a man, and is all too familiar with the physical, mental, and emotional sensations of exhaustion.
When Jesus saw how the ministry work was tiring His disciples, He didn’t chastise them for feeling worn out. He didn’t say: “You shouldn’t feel tired doing the Father’s work, keep going.” Instead, He saw the problem, identified what they needed, and invited them to a most practical solution . . .
2. We can take some practical actions
Jesus didn’t quickly jump to a “big-picture” spiritual analysis of the situation and urge His disciples to draw on His limitless power or something similar. Instead, He invited them to step away from their work, get a bite, and perhaps lie down for a while.
To be sure, there may be bigger reasons behind our tiredness. But sometimes, it may boil down to taking a break. As the ranking of fatigued countries suggests, we need to sleep a bit more, work a bit less, and spend less time on our screens.
3. God is always ready to refresh us
At the same time, God has promised us many times that He will refresh and strengthen us, no matter what situation we are in.
While He does not say He will deliver us from our circumstances, He promises to deliver us through them, and supply us with divine strength, stamina, and motivation to fulfil our calling and responsibilities:
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
These promises, while given in various contexts, are wonderfully encouraging and comforting. They remind me that I can go to God openly and frankly about my feelings of exhaustion, asking for wisdom to take practical action to rest while knowing that He will give me strength to go on.