By Whitney Woollard
A pastor once told me that in his twenties he couldn’t fathom how his friends fell into moral failure or quit vocational ministry. But now, in his fifties, he understands the plausibility of both. I didn’t understand him then. I do now. Pressing forward in faith when you’re getting slammed with trial or temptation is exhausting.
The truth is, life is exhausting. We’re bombarded with needs from the minute we awake to a screaming baby to the last text we send to someone we’re discipling. Over time those day-to-day pressures fatigue us. We push and press until one day we’re too tired to go on.
It’s possible to continue the outward mechanics of life, but inwardly check out. Or worse still, give yourself over to soul-numbing sin. Both are common responses to what I call “soul-fatigue.” Soul-fatigue isn’t “I need another cup of coffee” fatigue. It’s “I don’t see a way forward” fatigue. And, eventually, we all experience it.
So how do we persevere when everything inside of us wants to check out of life or find relief in sin?
ASK YOUR HIGH PRIEST FOR HELP
It might seem basic, but what you need most when you’re soul-fatigued is Jesus’ help. Whether your need stems from life’s external blows or your own internal temptation, Jesus’ priestly work draws you near to the throne of grace to help you persevere in your time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16 says,
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
These verses are tucked within the larger context of Hebrews where the author is repeatedly calling his readers to persevere in the Christian faith despite persecution, temptation, and trial. They were growing weary in the faith and were tempted to give up and go back to their old way of life. They were ready to check out.
But the author urges his readers to press on in the midst of trials and temptations because Christ is superior to the angels, to Moses, to the former priests, and to the old covenant sacrificial system. Believers must not turn away. Rather, he admonishes them to look to Jesus, their great high priest. In him, they would find true rest for their souls and courage to persevere until he returns.
This truth is as true for you today as it was for them—Jesus’ priestly work draws you near to the throne of grace to help you persevere in your time of need. So, you need to ask him for help and allow him to minister to you.
3 WAYS JESUS’ PRIESTLY WORK DESTROYS SOUL-FATIGUE
The ways in which Jesus’ priestly work helps you persevere through soul-fatigue are many. Here are three that stand out to me from Hebrews 4:14-16.
1. Jesus prays for you.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus is doing in heaven until he returns at his second coming? He’s praying for you! Hebrews 4:14 says that he ascended into heaven and he now sits at the Father’s right hand (Col. 2:20) and intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34). He is exalted in this intercessory role.
Imagine the scene in the heavenly throne room. Jesus sits beside God and asks him to work on your behalf. “Father, [fill in your name] needs your help today. Increase her faith. Enable her to keep going. Send her encouragement for the moment.” Jesus prays for you, even on days you feel too weak to pray for yourself.
Meditating on this truth is one way to persevere in the faith: When you’re tempted to check out, remember that Jesus is praying for you. When you want to give up on that draining discipleship relationship, Jesus is praying for you. When you don’t know how you’re going to make your marriage work, Jesus is praying for you. When you can’t get out of bed, Jesus is praying for you.
2. Jesus “gets” you.
Not only is Jesus praying for you, Hebrews 4:15 says he’s doing so as one who “gets it.” You have a high priest who empathizes with you in all of your weaknesses. He understands the limitations of a fallen body, the sting of injustice, the loss of loved ones, the frustrations of discipleship, the abandonment and betrayal by friends, the fatigue of ministry, and the full weight of temptation (though he never succumbed and sinned). He partook of everything you endure so that he could be your sympathetic priest.
It’s easy to think that “nobody understands” your struggles. How often have you dismissively said to someone, “You wouldn’t understand”? When we grow fatigued with the life or work God assigned us, it’s tempting to feel like we’re the only ones who has ever felt this frustration. But the truth is, Jesus understands exactly what you’re going through.
Reminding yourself that Jesus took on the full weight of humanity so he could be an empathetic high priest is another way you persevere in the faith. You’re not alone! The Son of God intimately understands your struggles and lives to help you in them. That’s the third point.
3. Jesus helps you.
Hebrews 4:16 tells you that you can draw near to the throne of grace to get mercy to help in your hour of need. This is only because of Jesus’ priestly work. His sacrificial work on your behalf cleanses you of sin and enables you to approach God with boldness.
If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you can go to God and pour out your honest thoughts, requests, and needs. You don’t have to be afraid that you will be punished. And you don’t have to be ashamed to ask God for help. It doesn’t matter how embarrassing your temptation is, Jesus stands ready to pour out grace to empower you to overcome sin. He wants to help you say “no” to temptation.
He also offers grace to you when you don’t say “no” to sin. Unlike Jesus, there will be times when you give into sin. You’ll bark at your spouse because you’re frustrated with yourself. You’ll binge eat after an emotional fight with your teenager. You’ll look at a website because you want immediate relief. You will fail. And when you do Jesus is right there ready to forgive you and lift you up out of that sin. He will do so again and again until the final day when you will perfectly submit to the Father just as Jesus did.
RUN TO JESUS
That pastor was right. There’s a kind of soberness that accompanies aging. As time goes by, you see and experience things that weary you. You get tired. You go through seasons where you sit behind the steering wheel of your car and dream of driving far, far away in a one-way direction. Checking out or giving in seem like the only plausible options. (Yes, even Christians experience this.)
But they’re not. There’s an alternative—You can run to Jesus. Or, maybe limp to Jesus. The point is, go to Jesus!
You have a high priest who is dripping with compassion. He’s not waiting to shame you for being weak or weary. He wants to sit with you; to listen to you and pray for you. He’s eager to give you the ministry of his presence and to bind your wounds with his healing grace. He’s there to strengthen you and help you persevere in your time of need. It’s only when you run to him that you’ll experience the rest and relief you need in your soul-fatigue.
Whitney Woollard is passionate about equipping others to read and study God’s Word well resulting maturing affection for Christ and his glorious gospel message. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. Whitney and her husband Neal currently live in Portland, OR where they call Hinson Baptist Church home. Visit her writing homepage whitneywoollard.com.