Exhausted? Be encouraged.
“Why am I so tired?”
My hunch is that many of us regularly ask that question. During normal times, the answers are obvious: kids’ schedules, poor eating habits, lack of good sleep. But in our current pandemic shutdown, even asking this question seems odd… Activities are cut back or cancelled. Social gatherings, playdates, parties: all gone. For some, even work has slowed dramatically or stopped.
“So, why am I so tired?”
I can name a few culprits. I have found that seemingly small changes, like moving my regular meetings online, are much more draining than I anticipated. Having time to deal with my backlog of ‘someday’ projects has been overwhelming. Still, these things don’t seem to account for why I’ve been so exhausted over the last few weeks.
In God’s creative kindness, I found some help and encouragement in an unlikely place: a podcast discussing cross-cultural missions training. As I listened to Simon Gillham, Director of Mission at Moore College, talk, I found that his last ten minutes were gold in application to our current situation.
Gillham suggests that what we are going through now is similar to what he tells prospective missionaries to prepare for as they face entering the field in another country. Culture shock is defined as a time when the world you find yourself in is starkly different to what you are used to. That’s exactly what is happening to us now. And those differences make us exhausted.
He instructs missionaries to prepare for some of the following changes. You might recognize several that hit close to home.
Many of us haven’t experienced this kind of isolation before. This is something to grieve. It is sad that we don’t have opportunities to be in the same physical space as others. We are (whether we own it or not) feeling the weight of that sadness.
Loss of relationships
We are grieving the loss of former relationships. Like a missionary, we can keep up with those people back home but it is so different than it used to be. We can’t be in the same room or read their non-verbals or just ‘be’ (together).
Disruption of routine
Numerous simple daily decisions suddenly become stressful weighty decisions. Should I go to the store today? If so, what time would be best? What kind of precautions should I take? How much milk should I buy this time—if there is any?
Confusion in engaging with people
Before, if my neighbor were outside I would go over and have a five-minute chat. Should I still do that? If so, how close should I stand? If we talk, what kind of help should I offer? How comfortable am I doing certain things to help (like getting groceries and carrying them inside)?
Simon says, “We’ve all entered a new culture, but with no training”. So, if you are feeling exhausted, that is normal. It is very much to be expected. All the grief with our new incompetence in how to live is exhausting.
So, what can we do to help this?
- Be realistic about your expectations of yourself. Overseas missionaries are told that they will only work at about 60% of their normal capacity. If this is what you are feeling, be encouraged! This is normal for the first several months. Expect to be more tired than normal and don’t expect to be getting through all the work you normally do.
- Be realistic about your expectations of others. They are struggling the same way you are. Be patient and give them space and time to work through this as well.
- Remember that this will not go on forever. We don’t know when or how, but this disaster as we’re currently experiencing it will come to some kind of end. It most likely won’t pass as soon as we’d like, and it may go on for some significant time, but it will end.
- Choose thankfulness instead of anxiousness. There still are many things for which to be thankful.
In the midst of this waiting, we can be sure of something: the reality of the resurrection and the new creation. Take the time to dwell on 1 Peter 1:3-8. By swapping dwelling on the current situation for considering what is to come, we can maintain a healthy perspective and in turn have a better approach to life as we know it now.
Finally, I’d encourage you to study and pray the Lord’s Prayer regularly. Take time to unpack each line and see the richness of meaning of each phrase as it drips with Old Testament ideas that have very meaningful current applications. In God’s kindness, as you set your mind on things above, he will overwhelm your exhaustion with endurance and great hope (Rom 5:3-5).