When You’re Weary of Doing Good Work

My earliest memories of summer include sitting in my Granddad’s blue pickup truck, barreling along the bumpety-bumpety road and over the rickety-rackety bridge to his garden. He always had a cooler filled with bottles of coke, a jar of peanut butter, a knife, and a sleeve of Ritz crackers somewhere in the front seat of the cab. We sat crowded together chewing Bazooka bubble gum, listening to his jokes, eager for an adventure in the fields. Once we reached the garden, Granddad would look us in the eyes and in his sternest voice say, “Don’t step on anything green!” He wasn’t kidding. He knew we couldn’t tell the difference between a weed and a cucumber plant. The easiest way to protect his crop was to make us avoid everything we could possibly damage.

We would help him gather vegetables—summer squash, green beans, tomatoes, corn, watermelon—whatever was in season during our visit. He would yell when we inevitably trampled on something green. We would lower our faces and apologize. Mid-morning, he would break open the cooler and crack open the coke bottles to give us our long awaited snack. When the day’s work was complete, we would climb back into the truck to head back home, where he would pile the vegetables on the old wooden cart by the side of the road in front of his house. It seemed like everyone knew my Granddad. They would come to collect their corn and tomatoes, leaving cash in the silver box, making their own change, and helping themselves to his crops. 

Continuing in the Work

I didn’t know it then, but something happened to my soul in those early days of sharing in his garden. I got to witness how hard work produces something. Through diligence and faithfulness, my Granddad worked his garden. He didn’t care how hot it was, how brittle the ground was under his feet, or how many scrapes he had on his arms from picking raspberries in the berry patch. He carefully planned, planted, watered, and weeded. And because he never gave up, eventually he reaped a bountiful harvest. 

I need this reminder to stay the course. Sometimes the weariness of mind and soul make me feel like giving up on the good work in front of me. It’s tempting to ignore my children’s squabbles in the other room. After five years of potty training, it would be nice for someone else to potty train our son. Sometimes I grumble and complain when I get interrupted and simple tasks take longer than I expected. Two years of life in a pandemic continue to take their toll. There are days when I’d like to become invisible so no one can rely upon me for anything. 

Sometimes I grow weary of doing good, and I wonder if maybe you can relate. 

But here’s the thing: we’re not supposed to give up on the good work in front of us.  God’s people aren’t allowed to be quitters. If we are in Christ, we are in it for the long-haul. And guess what? We’re not actually very good at this. (Well, maybe you are, and if you are, praise the Lord. But me? It doesn’t come naturally).

So what are we supposed to do when we don’t want to keep doing the good things in front of us

We keep doing them. 

The Outcome of Our Work

Now, before you find this insensitive, please know that I’m talking to myself. This conversation—the one where I remind myself of the importance of good, mundane, oftentimes hard work—is on repeat in my soul. Because it’s not just about the work, although the work is important (this is a conversation for another day). We persevere in our weariness because we believe in the outcome of our work. 

For my Granddad, who faithfully worked his garden, he reaped tangible results. He picked the vegetables, held them in his hand, placed them in the bins, sold them to his neighbors, and got to feel the butter run down his face while he ate corn from his fields. He saw, touched, tasted, and benefited from the fruit of his labors. 

We don’t always have this kind of tangible fruit. And I think this is often what hinders our motivation to keep moving forward. The outcome of our work is often unseen. So, we despair when a child doesn’t quickly respond to correction. We numb our pain when unpleasant circumstances persist. If a severed relationship remains in shambles, bitterness begins to choke our souls. Our anxiety medication doesn’t seem to be working and we want to throw up our hands in defeat and crawl under the covers to cover our shame. When the results don’t come when or how we hoped, we grow weary and want to give up. 

Remember This in Your Work

As we enter into the final weeks of the year, I can’t help but think many of us feel this weariness, deep in our bones. We’re looking back on the second year of a pandemic and reeling in the persisting feelings of despair and discouragement. We see glimpses of hope on the horizon, but exhaustion continues to envelop us. We want to press on, but we feel like we’re barely limping to the finish line.

So, if you are weary in mind, body, and soul, hear these words from the writer of Hebrews:

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Hebrews 6:10-12

Through faith and patience we will inherit the promises of God. All of them. And the best part? We’re called to earnestly continue by faith, but it’s not up to us.

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 6:17-20

Good News for the Weary

I’m reminded of the line from one of my favorite Christmas hymns: “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…” Do you know what strikes me from this line? It doesn’t say the weary world stops being weary. It simply says she rejoices. Perhaps the news we need at the end of 2021 is that we can rejoice in the midst of weariness.

Why? Because there’s good news for weary souls: Jesus finished the work necessary for us to receive the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Jesus continues the work necessary for us to keep moving forward by faith through his constant intercession on our behalf before the throne of grace. Jesus is the sure and steady anchor of our weary souls. 

We will grow weary in this world, because this world is not our home. We’re pilgrims and sojourners. But our journey is not in vain. We traverse this temporary world so that  we might declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his glorious light. And when we press on in whatever form of suffering we’re facing in this life, through whatever kind of weariness we can’t seem to shake, we can do it with rejoicing, because we know the outcome is secure.

One day our weary souls will be at rest in the presence of Jesus. 

Until then, when we’re weary, may we run to Jesus. May we rest in his strength. Let’s continue on in our struggle, knowing his energy is at work within us. May we faithfully participate with him in the good work of being his people, never quitting, never turning away, never abandoning any moment of mundane difficult work, because we know he’s doing something good in us.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash