The end of the school year is a stressful time for students and parents alike. We face final projects, final exams, extracurriculars, end-of-year events, summer commitments, and many of us are also facing major life transitions looming in the fall. In the best of circumstances this is an exhausting time of year. After the past 18 months, many of us are struggling to keep going. Many of us are at or near a breaking point, and we need help and hope.
In battle there is an official last line of defense. It’s the place where those in the fight gather together when there are no other options and things have not gone the way they had hoped. This is the place where they gather together as one, remember who they are and what they are fighting for, and it is where they make their stand. For the parent running on fumes at the end of one of the hardest years in living memory, our last line of defense is to remember our first love.
God gives good gifts to his children and is working all things for the good of those who love him. To the exhausted Christian parent, the good gift he gives is himself. Our hope and our identity are secure in him no matter what our circumstances. In our exhaustion, we can look to Christ who is our rock, our unshakable foundation, and our sure hope.
How can we cling to God in our exhaustion? We can start by doing the same as anyone in a battle who has been pushed back to their last line of defense: we regroup, reorient, and hold fast to what is most important.
We never outgrow the ordinary means of grace God has given us. In Acts 2:42 we read about three key means of grace in a single sentence: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” We never outgrow the Word of God, prayer, or the fellowship of other believers. Specifically, it is not good for human beings to be alone—and that truth is not only meant for marriage. We are created to be in fellowship and community. In our times of busyness and exhaustion, however, we often miss out on being built up by our fellow believers.
We need a regular regrouping with our brothers and sisters in Christ in order to experience the Colossians 3:14-16 kind of support God designed for us: to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (v. 16).
The Christian seeking to grind out life on his or her own without the fellowship of believers is like a gazelle leaving the herd to confront the lion alone. God has designed us to live in community with fellow believers. The pandemic has taken many of us away from our communities in varying degrees over the past year. We must remember that the loss of fellowship is a serious matter. We must seek to connect with each other and build each other up in the love and truth of God in every possible way available to us.
This world is disorienting. There has never been more information available, nor have there ever been more voices telling us what we should think and do. There has never been more pressure, or the sense of more standards to meet. If our hope, rest, and peace are going to be found in satisfying all the voices or meeting the standards of others, we will have no hope, rest, or peace. Praise God that meeting the world’s ever-changing and ever-increasing standards is not our job.
In Christ, we have a purpose and an identity that silences competing voices. There is nothing you will accomplish in this world that will surpass the pearl of great price that you already possess in Christ. You will not be more loved than you are loved in Christ. You will not be more called to a purpose than you are in Christ. You will not be more forgiven and accepted than you are in Christ.
Remember the greeting and doxology of Jude’s epistle: “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. . . Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
When doubts and fears descend and you feel you have nothing left to give, remember that you are not able to sustain yourself. Your hope is not in your perfect strength to satisfy all the voices in the world. But in Christ you find mercy, peace, and love multiplied to you—his called, beloved, and kept one. It is in him and in his strength that your hope resides – not your own energy and efforts.
Even with the fellowship of believers and our hope firmly rooted in the strength and love of Christ, life is hard. In a sermon series on the basics of the Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson once reflected on his initial disappointment reading Ephesians 6:13. He was disappointed that Christians could take up the whole armor of God and all they would do is “stand firm.” He said it was only later in life he realized it was a beautiful thing that someone could journey through this life with all of its trials and tribulations and still stand firm in the Lord.
Like battered compatriots standing firm in their last line of defense, sometimes holding fast to Christ and standing firm is the most significant thing we can do. The good news of the gospel is that we do not hold fast through our own efforts or stand firm in our own strength. We rest in Christ who holds fast to us and stands firm for us.
In Christ we rely not upon our strength or accomplishments, but rather his truth, righteousness, and gospel peace. We hope in his salvation, his gift of faith, and his Word of truth. Yes, we hold fast and stand firm, but only in and through him. Life in Christ is not “do more better.” Life in Christ is “go to him, he is gentle and lowly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light.” Our holding fast and standing firm looks like surrendering to him, dwelling with him in prayer and through his Word, being built up by the fellowship of his believers, and being ministered to and equipped by him through his Spirit.
When we are running on fumes, we can look to Hebrews 12 to remind us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in heaven. These are not witnesses who watch us toil and strive and tell us to work harder, but witnesses who testify to us that we have a sure hope and a sure foundation in Christ. Witnesses who assure us that we can endure even when we have nothing left to give because it is Christ who upholds us. It is then, in our exhaustion and weakness, that we can truly understand Paul when he says that the grace of Christ is sufficient and in him we can do all things.