God’s blessings in this life often come with greater burdens.
We grow older, and we care for those who are younger. With each season, each month, each sunrise even, we’re responsible for a little more. Our friendships. Our church tasks. Our homes. Our work. Our children. Our spouses. And we carry them on our shoulders. We’re deeply invested in them. Our gut feelings are tied up in our “dependents,” however they depend on us.
A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping rain. . . . He who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 19:13; 23:24)
We are woven into a single fabric, a single place — together with those we love, and with whom we labor — where God dwells, and where he works: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).
Our tasks correlate and accumulate with the number who need us — to provide, to comfort, to give space, to move closer, to be obedient, to speak up, to hold our tongues, to protect, to let go, to pay for medical expenses, to buy gifts, to forgive mistakes. And there is no end in sight. There is no dream date, even in retirement, at which the world will say, “You have given enough.”
As we care for more and more people, we’re tempted to begin building a temple for ourselves. At one time, we proclaimed to those who rely on us, “Christ Jesus himself [is] the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). But as time went on, after mounting little pressures growing more every day, life doesn’t seem so different than being the cornerstone ourselves. We feel the weight of those around us piling up on our backs, not on the back of our Jesus.
We feel the weight of our families, our churches, our relationships, like an unforgiving dumbbell of duty, loaded with weighted plates of specific obligations, bending our spines to the point of breaking. The weight and consequences of crumbling boundaries tap our strength. And, after a while, we feel the task of divine perfection tempting us — and we would give it, if we could. We know that our dependents are gifts from God. Yet we increasingly feel like we are racing around the track with the gas light on.
The Life Spent on Others
It would be indulgent to pray for youth again — careless, free, without responsibility; without burden or brokenness. “I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:13). That feat never quite seems to end, even for the old men.
But God, understanding in his compassion and intimate in his wisdom, offers us grace in his knowledge of our feeling overwhelmed: “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:30–31).
What does that mean? Is it a trite dismissal of exhaustion? Does God just give us another task — faith — on top of our heap of responsibilities, the burdens and expectations of those around us? “You’re exhausted? Believe God is enough.” No. It is not a further requirement:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29–31)
The tribes of the earth — the captains of industry, the earthly-minded, the self-livers, the others-blamers, the indulgent, the wolves, the servant-abusing — they will mourn, because the great shepherd has come to gather his elect, to name the faithful, to harvest his fruit. He brings great joy to the weary who have spent their lives for others in his name.
These are not merely complex verses about the end times — this is Jesus flipping to the final chapter of your life, and saying to you, the weary unrelenting servants, “I’m going to shatter this earthly projection screen that so easily hypnotizes the faithful with visions of lesser glories.”
A Coming Sabbath for Servants
The coming of the Son of Man is unique, not because Jesus does something different than he does every day, but because he makes it clear to everyone what he has already been doing every day — busting down the cosmic doors of the universe into our lives to rescue us from worthless tasks and to reveal the beauty of our everyday service that has grown dim and dingy in our weariness.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” (Matthew 24:32–33)
To the not-spring-chickens, to the gray-heads, to the balding, to the wrinkling, to the check-writers, to chair-stackers, to pray-ers, to the parents, to the foster parents, to adopting parents, to the forgiving friends, to the thankless task-doers, the last days are happening in your life today.
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). And until that day, we will not grow weary in doing “good to everyone, and especially [not] to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
On that day, when Jesus comes, he will show everyone that your works in his name were not in vain, to the praise of his glory, for which you labor: “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Timothy 4:10). Every sacrifice will be repaid in full (Luke 14:14).
When life requires us to push harder, to protect more vigilantly, to give more freely, to expend unavailable energies, to accomplish impossible tasks, God offers us his sustaining love, his gentle concern, his guiding sovereignty.
We are not alone as we bear the burdens of those around us, because God joyfully bears us up with him each day with exactly what we need — his sustaining grace, more than ever on the days when we don’t feel it. When Christ returns, we will witness a global mourning among those who have recklessly cast aside the free offer of Christ’s grace in this life. And the unseen faithful and generous servants will finally rest.