Dave Dunham|10:00 PM CT

The Value of a Tired Soul

If you've been in ministry for more than five minutes you know how wearisome it can be. We face the daunting daily task of helping people wrestle through crisis in a way that continues to honor God, even as we ourselves wrestle through crisis. Pastoral care can at times be exhausting. Counseling cases can fall apart. Church members can pass away. Key leaders can abandon the church. Some days I go into the office just plain tired. Tired of late nights and early mornings. Tired of phone calls and texts messages. Tired of loss and heartbreak. Tired of being tired. But I am convinced that for all Christians there is real value in a tired soul.

I can imagine how that sounds. After all, a "tired soul" sounds like a soul on the verge of giving up. Such a soul hardly seems valuable. Truth is, so many of us have been baptized into the American culture of safety and comfort that the thought of sorrow and weariness having value seems absurd. Only that which feels good is actually good, we tell ourselves. A tired soul can, however, have real value if we are willing to reflect on it and not simply run from it.

Way of Escape

Think for a moment about what a tired soul is saying. It is saying, "No more!" It is looking for a way of escape. It is looking for the nearest exit from the pain and difficulties. It's a plea for rescue. A tired soul reminds us we need to be rescued. Without a tired soul I think we would forget. I think we would become content and complacent in this world and in our own lives. But Scripture says this is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), and that this broken world needs restoring (Romans 8:18-23). Without a tired soul I am prone to ignore these realities and live in my own little bubble.

Think too of what a tired soul allows you to say to others. Death makes people awkward. Well-intentioned people, thinking they must say something, end up saying unhelpful things. Like the lady who, shaking my hand in the receiving line at my grandfather's funeral, pointed at me and said to her husband, "His dad's dead too." It was an innocent statement. It was a dumb statement. And, of course, suffering brings out the host of clichés like no other event. They are legion at funerals. "All things work together for good." "There's a reason for everything." "Death has lost its sting." "Time heals all wounds."

Don't get me wrong, I really do believe in the sovereignty of God over all events. I also believe in tact and sensitivity. A tired soul knows the difference. A tired soul allows us to sympathize with one another, cry with one another. A tired soul understands another person's hurt and pain, and doesn't question the enduring sorrow. A tired soul never expects someone to just "get over" loss. It never assumes that someone's theology is bad because he grieves and aches. A tired soul is tired for a reason: because it has been through heartbreak, too. It understands.

Think about how we can share our heartbreaks. That may seem like a strange value, but a tired soul learns to appreciate the shared aches we experience. A deep bond connects people who share suffering and sorrow. The band Sleeping At Last sings, "Remember who we are: unconditionally loved by those who share our broken hearts." I recall with surprising joy the tears my wife and I shared as we waited for our 2-year old to go through spinal surgery. It's the same way I feel when I remember clutching my kid brother in the back of a van after learning of our father's death. These scenes, and countless others, break my heart afresh each time I dwell on them. Yet, with each one, I think of the deep love I feel for those who have shared my broken heart.

We Need Each Other

I am tired, tired of so much. There are days where I just want to give up and crawl back in to bed. People in our church die, or abandon the faith. I am tired. A friend succumbs to meth addiction. Another is diagnosed with a brain tumor. A family member dies. I am tired. But of course thinking about all of this reminds me of others. It reminds me of what my family has endured. It reminds me of the people at my church and the losses they've suffered. I am not the only one tired. I see it on the faces of the people I counsel, the people I pray with, the people I kiss in the morning before I leave for work. So I get out of bed every morning. The floor is cold. I am tired. I can't give up; it's not because they need me—at least not in the sense that I am a pastor and have all the answers. The need is much more mutual. We need each other.

Paul tells the church at Rome, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15).  I suspect that in much of the church we aren't good at following this command. At least I'm not. But my tired soul is helping me to change. There's some value in a tired soul, if we're willing to look for it.

Dave Dunham is associate pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He blogs at Christ in the City.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    Beautiful. I'm just hitting a spot in my ministry where the weariness is really catching up with me. There's a lot of joy, but the toil of seeing the same folly yield the same results in the lives of my students (and, to some degree, my own) is making me tired. Death is making me tired. Waiting for something better is making me tired.

    And yet, I'm forced to wait more and more on the Lord who renews my strength according to his purposes. If for no other reason than to push me deeper into God's strength, I'll struggle to accept being "tired."

  • http://www.thecalvinistcaroller.blogspot.com Adam Cummings

    Good article. I help lead music in our church sometimes, but, really, others in the church do much more than I do. However, I can definitely understand being tired. This last year, my own sin and the death of my dad were enough to kind of drive me into a little world of my own. It's a crazy, death filled, sinful world out there; but, like Ecclesiastes, I guess the realization of that does drive us to two extremes: 1) ourselves and our despair, or 2) Christ and the hope of His salvation.

    Trusting in option 2...


  • David E.

    As a matter of fact, I was exhausted this morning. Awake by 4 and tossing around, plenty of ministry stuff to be concerned about... A very helpful, 2 Corinthians-type article. Paul, the apostle of exhaustion, was also triumphant in Christ. This post was an encouragement to my wife as well. Thanks much!!

  • Noreen

    Thank you very much for this article. I too have reached a point where I am very tired. I have learned over the past few years to appreciate the value of being tired. It has helped me reach out to those who are hurting and strengthed relationships as I have walked through difficult times with people. Still learning to push into God's strength to help me continue on instead of relying on others. Appreciate the article.

  • Sarah Dale

    Thank you so much for this.
    It's a huge encouragement, like a drink of cool water on a hot day.
    It's good to be reminded we are made for another world and we are not alone.

  • Pingback: Tapas & Dim Sum « A Bold Joy

  • Ken

    Good piece. I notice from your website that you are quite young. I wrote my first piece about being tired many years ago. I was thirty and had been pastoring for 6 years. I am - older now. I am still tired and have grown to be more tired of me than the host of others who used to be the guilty ones. I am tired of being tired. But this world is indeed not my home and I am thankful for the God who never tires not needing me to be not tired in order to use me for His purposes. I am thankful that He grants me energy in the midst of fatigue. It's a virtual miracle. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Joel

    Just what the Dr. ordered for today. Tired but not lone in tiredness.


  • http://www.sharingourlives.wordpress.com Jen

    "I am tired, tired of so much. There are days where I just want to give up and crawl back in to bed." Dave, I appreciate your thoughts and words about a tired soul. You said things I haven't considered about the tiredness I sometimes feel in ministry. However, do you think God could be using your tiredness to ask you to slowdown or to consider changing something in your life/ministry to create more space for him (or your family, or, off time)? I am continuing to learn about being tired and having feelings of 'giving up,' and in my experience God has used me changing something or slowing down to grow me and show me more of himself. However, the tiredness doesn't totally go away, it just changes and life feels more sustainable. One of your readers reminds us aright- we are not made for this world.

  • Chad

    I really appreciate your words. I work in hospice and we see so much heartache, death, and difficulty that it sometimes feels overwhelming. I totally connect with the concept of the tired soul being driven to find peace and comfort in the arms of our savior, and in the community of believers. There is something freeing about being able to admit that ministry is exhausting and difficult. It is a constant reminder that "I need thee every hour." I am consistently reminded of my frailty and need for Christ.

  • Pingback: News of Note | Santa Monica Church Blog

  • Pingback: First Links — 2.6.13 » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  • Pingback: Are You Tired? « Pastor's Blog

  • Mary Sargent

    Very special article. Thanks for your openness. It speaks to so many places in our Christian lives. Though my circumstances of "battle fatigue" have a couple of different ingredients, I am reminded that "we need each other". I have been too alone and being better connected is just what the Doctor ordered. Thanks.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife Owen

    Eloquent writing. Needed truth. Very nice, David.

  • Pingback: Weekly Links (2/8/2013) | The Beacon

  • Pingback: This Week’s Good Reads | Pastor Dave Online

  • Yessica A.

    Thank you for this.

  • Pingback: A reminder to the discouraged pastor… and some other great links. | Evangelicals Now

  • Pingback: Uncomfortable Grace: Sometimes It Hurts – Pastor Dave Online