Depleted and Weary

“. . . forty days and nights without food . . .”

“Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.  After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, ‘If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.’

But Jesus answered, ‘The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

This week I find myself wondering about God’s work and my (our) work.  Several experiences have led me to wonder about whether or not sometimes I (we) might try to do work that only God can do.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of work that God has set before me that will keep me busy until the day I board that train for heaven. (Remember, I’m a train enthusiast so heaven must have trains.)  However, in the meantime, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s important for me to resist the temptation to overstep my bounds and try to do God’s work.  Above all else I have to let God be God.  Here’s what I mean.

The desert is a place of extreme assault on a person.  I remember driving through the desert in the picture above.  Just getting out of the car to take photos was difficult.  I could feel the desert sucking the water and life right out of my body.  Too long in a place like that and our bodies can begin to shut down.  I know there are many who feel like their lives are walks through a different kind of desert.  Through various, seemingly unending crises or ordeals, they begin to feel like their lives are being assaulted – sometimes physically, but always emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.  They feel depleted and weary, seeking help from wherever they can find it.  Unfortunately, I believe it’s at this point that those of us to whom they turn for help can be tempted to overstep our bounds by trying to do God’s work for God. 

The depleted soul in the midst of their desert suffering looks for meaning, understanding, and purpose.  When confronted with those sorts of questions our helplessness and fear prompt us to reply with platitudes and even what we consider to be well-thought out rational answers.  As we offer our best efforts, we overstep our bounds and offer “bread” instead of, “every word that God speaks.”  In other words, we try to speak for God instead of allowing God to speak.  In our bold attempts to try to explain suffering we run the risk of getting in God’s way instead of allowing God to be God.  Our efforts to be God never end well.  Instead of help, we often contribute more to isolation and hurt.

I’m convinced that there are no explanations for suffering.  By confronting my ultimate helplessness in the face of someone’s suffering and resisting the urge to try to do God’s work by offering explanations, I’m left with only one recourse – to make the leap of faith and allow God to do God’s work.  I can assure the suffering one of my loving presence and I can suggest that instead of their looking for answers they lift their voice in prayer and scream, “O God I hurt!”  When I have reached this point in my own desert walks I have felt a release from the pressure to understand and explain.  Instead, by pushing everything else aside and screaming, “O God, I hurt!” I have emptied myself and waited for God to bring God’s holy, sustaining presence.  I have moved from seeking “bread” to seeking, “every word that God speaks.”  That’s where I have found peace to carry me through.  That’s what I would offer for us all.  In order for it to happen those of us in the helping roles sometimes need to get out of God’s way. 

I pray that God will help me resist the urge to overstep my bounds, and instead, focus on the work of offering loving presence to others that God has entrusted to me.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit
My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and
Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on August 27, 2014.

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