There is another shortcut to misery that I know very well because I have employed it pretty often. The thought process goes something like this: My assignments/responsibilities are too big for me. I am doomed to failure because I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t like this adult world and the carrying of all these burdens.
This is a tricky one because there is a genuine condition of over-work, of one person taking on much more than their share. In Dutch we say they are “shafich”, which implies a person who stays very busy because they really enjoy it. It is possible also, to be too busy out of a sense of misplaced obligation. I am sure we all know people who consistently pick up more than their share of the work, like my friend who put herself on the school hot lunch list three times because she couldn’t think of anyone else who should do it more than once to fill in the empty blanks.
For clarity, I am not talking about “shafich” people who should be given a break. I am talking about my attitudes concerning things that are clearly my responsibility.
Since I know about momming, let’s go there. Recently Gabe and I were discussing what was probably the worst year of our lives. During that time I found my assignments so overwhelming that I just wanted to run away from them. It was a time of two boys in school, two needy tots, a nursling, a chronically ill husband who was in school and working part time whenever he could to support us. This was not a time to knuckle under, but I surely wanted to.
Just two years earlier, as we looked at what it would mean for our family with Gabe going back to school, I had said calmly, “I am not afraid.” Now I found myself every morning praying for the strength to get out of bed. Jesus said, “Just one leg at a time.” I am not kidding, and if you think Jesus can’t dumb down His instructions for our most childlike moments, you haven’t been listening. Anyway, that is what I did, and that was how I made it through the days, from the spilled milk at breakfast to the solo tucking in of tired children at bedtime, all the while bouncing a hungry baby who had to wait to eat until the drama settled down. It wasn’t a lot of profound thinking and pretty praying. This was survival, a lifeline. I prayed one sentence at a time. Sometimes I wailed and complained. Mostly I begged.”Your wisdom, Jesus. The children are fighting again… Your kindness, please!” and a few minutes later, “Your strength, Jesus. My husband is too sick to do this, so just give me Your courage.”
During this time I had a friend who was battling post-partem depression and when she told me that she implored God for the stamina just to wash the dishes, I felt oddly encouraged. It is always a relief to know that my condition is the human condition, and not just due to my own faltering inadequacies. I say these things because everybody hits an overwhelmed day/season, even if the causes look very different from what others experience. I say these things to assure you that by the grace of Jesus, you can make it!
Admittedly, there were days I felt like faking being sick, just for a change. Oh dear. I fantasized about sleeping for entire days, with room service to provide meals; about idyllic summertime walks alone for hours, just carrying a backpack with books and water; of hitting a jackpot and going shopping for hours, buying whatever I wanted. Those were the miserable times, the snifflings of a soul scorning the assigned trail, wishing for a path with a grander view, fewer boulders to scale. Yet this was clearly my assignment, this training and feeding of children, this running of a household on an extremely limited income, this supporting role to a man who was also being stretched beyond reason.
Depending entirely on a Strength not our own, Gabe and I found that impossible things were possible. It became a time of asking many times a day, and receiving more than we even expected. I remember daily singing with the children, “God will make a way when there seems to be no way,” swallowing down the tears and choosing to believe like they did, sight unseen. We look back at that time now with fondness. Gabe says we were kind of like Benjamin Bunny, “cheerful and improvident” and we feel like Somebody must have paid the bills because it doesn’t seem possible that we did it.
When we feel like God has unfairly given us too big a job, it is usually because we can’t be independent in it. That is a miserable place, feeling like we cannot possibly do well, because we know this is bigger than our abilities. Sadly, we often don’t learn to roll our burdens on Jesus until we buckle under them. People say, “You know God won’t give you more than you can handle,” but I think He does it all the time because He wants us to learn to depend on His strength instead of our own. He isn’t going to let us off the hook without doing our share of the work, but He will give us the abilities to fulfill our responsibilities. It is possible to live with a rested soul in the worst of times, and that actually makes it the best of times. In retrospect, of course. 🙂
(We were so blessed to have support all around us in our difficulties. Next post: How to help your friend in crisis.)