The question of human suffering is an age old source of angst and reflection. Philosophers, theologians and a multitude of learned pastors and rabbis have tackled the problem of why we suffer when there is a loving God. I would not begin to offer any new or relevant thoughts on such a tough subject. However, it has been my experience that we can find comfort and ways to cope with human suffering. This article is geared to coping with emotional fatigue or spiritual depletion rather than trying to find explanations for our episodes of suffering.
My assumption is that from time to time we all have to deal with emotional fatigue and spiritual depletion. In my own recent experience several events combined to drain my reserves. We have friends who are struggling with progressively debilitating illness. A neighbor recently lost a daughter who was in her early 20s. A young person in our church has suffered a painful breakup with a significant other. The crisis that looms before us in Syria has taken a toll on my emotions. You are likely to identify with such situations and have your own list.
In order to find comfort and peace despite problems, we need to have spiritual tools that can bolster our sagging spirits.
Recently, I made use of a favorite Scripture and the comforting words from a couple of old hymns to help me rise above my fatigue and depletion. The scripture is Psalm 121. It starts with familiar words:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills-from where will my help come?
“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
“He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
No matter what is going on around you or me, God is “on duty,” so to speak. He is our support 24/7. For any event that may drag us down, God is there willing and able to lift the burden. All we have to do is ask and be willing to let go. It is not that grief will not have to be dealt with or stressful events will not occur. But, the effects are lessened when we entrust God with them. God is the perfect companion.
Often people tell me they find rejuvenation from music. In my recent experience, a couple of older hymns came to mind. One was “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine” and the other was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” In “Blessed Assurance” it is the tune itself that lifts my spirits. And, in “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” we are reminded that we can carry “everything to God in prayer.” Jesus is the faithful friend with whom we can share all of our sorrows and burdens.
Now, you may have other music that triggers comfort. Not all of us have hymns as part of our church music background, especially with the emergence of contemporary music. However we do have favorites that lift our spirits and speak to our souls. Just like some memorized Scripture, phrases from music come to us in times of need.
These “tools” remind us of the constant presence of God. We need only to bring them into our awareness in order to receive the comfort that we seek. There is wisdom in memorizing Scripture, songs and prayers; they can become the spiritual tools that help rebuild sagging spirits. It would be well for us to pass this habit on to the children we know. As they get older, they, too, can benefit from favorite Scripture, songs and prayers.
There is one caveat to my “spiritual tools.” At times we may need to seek the advice from a pastor, a counselor or trusted friend. We need not hesitate to consult others, especially when the burdens feel overwhelming. God is still present in these situations and indeed may prod us to reach out beyond ourselves.