Have you ever come to a place where you felt you were at the end of your strength? Couldn’t go another step or face another day? Inwardly you just had nothing left and were ready to throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps that’s where you are at this very moment.
A few years ago I was re-reading through the Chronicles of Narnia. (I know these are considered children’s books, but there’s so much that speaks to the hearts of us grown-ups. It’s like peeking through an imaginary world and seeing real world truths behind it.) There is a scene in “The Horse and His Boy” that resonated deeply with me. The main character Shasta had been on a grueling journey, running for his life from what he thought was a ferocious lion that sought to devour him. He sought the king to warn him of the enemy closing in, and finally reached what he thought was his destination, completely spent. He encounters an old man, hoping this was the king, but the old man informs him that, no, he is not the king.
“If you run now, without a moment’s rest, you will still be in time to warn King Lune.”
Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one. But all he said out loud was: “Where is the King?”
I feel ya, Shasta. I imagine perhaps what he really wanted to do was throw a hissy fit, kicking and screaming and shouting, “NO! I won’t do it! It’s not fair and you can’t make me!” Or maybe he just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep for a few days. Either way, that’s not how he responded. He saw the bigger need and all that was at stake and knew he must keep going.
I’m gonna level with you. I relate with this so much because I have so often felt this way in recent years. We have five kids and are in full time ministry (so basically two full time jobs). These last few years I’ve experienced some personal challenges, our marriage has had some growing pains, baby number five showed up unexpectedly, and then of course throw in COVID and all the challenges and complications that has brought. As delighted as we are to welcome this fifth child into our lives, it has been an adjustment. This is the first time I’ve had a job outside the home while also caring for an infant and I often feel stretched thin. There have been and are so many moments where I feel like Shasta…once I finish one good deed, the reward is to be “set to do another and harder and better one.” My insides writhe at all the demands, but in action, “out loud” I need to be what the people in my life need me to be. It often feels like I have to keep showing up for them “without a moment’s rest.” The rest I long for seems an unattainable luxury.
I know many face much harder things than this. But hard is hard, and this is my hard. What’s your hard?
(One benefit of the hard is the necessity for creativity and adaptability that it breeds. Even as I write this, I am nursing a baby while wearing earbuds playing white noise to drown out a busy household. We have five children ages 2 months to 17 years with virtual learning still happening and a too small house where we are often on top of each other – not exactly conducive to efficient blog writing. Truly I’m not even sure how I have any functioning brain cells to put some sentences together, but somehow it happens. Adaptability.)
I wish I had some great encouragement for you! And of course, there is encouragement. From God’s Word we pull promises that tell us “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), that God is in my midst and will “strengthen me when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:5). I cling to the truth that God is my provider and will give me what I need. It is these simple but powerful reminders that carry us onward.
But sometimes it is just hard, and we are weary. Let’s just take a moment and give ourselves permission to acknowledge that. That is at least part of the comfort, in knowing we don’t have to force ourselves to “just be okay,” in the kinship of knowing “the same sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood around the world” (1 Peter 5:9). And then we continue to put one foot in front of the other because there’s too much at stake to give up, others are relying on us. The King had to be warned of the enemy closing in, after all.
My prayer for you today, dear reader, is that you will be strengthened in your hard place. As Paul says in Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” The present circumstances may not change, but inwardly we can be changed. God has done this for me, many times, and I know he can do it for you. If nothing else, take heart in knowing you are not alone. When, like Shasta, your insides writhe at the unfairness of the continued demands placed on you or the hardship that you feel you can no longer bear, when you feel you lack the strength to complete the unfinished task in front of you, may God give you the courage and strength to simply say, “Where is the king?”
Also, meet a friend for coffee, or take a walk, or watch a sunrise, or soak in a bubble bath, or get a massage. Make time for a little self care…because really there’s no king in your story and anyway he can wait.