I was exhausted. Not the kind that is easily remedied by a quick nap. For several weeks, I’d faced one stress, one disappointment after another. I was pushed to the limits tired. Stressed. Drained. Completely used up.
So, the timing was perfect. I’d signed up to attend a silence retreat months ago, before the line of dominoes fell creating my personal sense of overwhelming fatigue mixed with hopelessness. As an extrovert, I approached a day of complete silence with its own sensation of apprehension. No talking for hours upon hours? How would I ever survive? Because I like to talk so much, my friends laughed and doubted I’d complete the day, but my heart promised I needed this. (And besides, I reasoned, if I really couldn’t handle the silence, I knew where my car was parked and could beat a hasty departure.)
At first, it wasn’t easy – just sitting alone. I had positioned myself in the warmth of the bright sunlight near a beautiful fountain. As I closed my eyes listening to the water gurgle from one level to the next, I felt lonely and a little angry with myself. A silence retreat isn’t about loneliness, it is about solitude. It wasn’t about remoteness from God; it was about wrapping yourself in the nearness of God. Why didn’t I feel God near?
At the beginning of the retreat, the director gave us some suggestions on activities that would assist us in making the best of our time. One of them was to concentrate on a verse, just one verse. Frustrated with my isolation from God, I picked one of my favorites: Ephesians 3:20 – 21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask of imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
My first thought was selfish – “I don’t know; I can imagine and ask for a lot…” But then it struck me. The simple truth was my exhaustion can’t be solved without God. And even though concentrating on one verse was the goal, my mind couldn’t help but wander through a host of people in Scripture who lamented about their tired souls. David, for example, wrote countless Psalms about being weary. Elijah got so exhausted after standing up to Jezebel’s gods, he sank into a deep depression and prayed for death. Even Jesus often went off to a solitary place to pray.
Opening up my eyes to watch the regal palm trees sway in the wind, a thought softly landed in my heart. On my journey of faith, Jesus is the only one who gives unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. The more I ask of Him, the more He gives. Silently I cried out to Him and imagined myself sitting exhausted at His feet. But instead of feeling drained, I felt Him filling me up with His love. Throughout my life, God has taken everything I have brought to Him – the screams, the questions, the tears, the lack of confidence – and handled it. He gave me grace. He brought me strength, He fashioned a way out of torment into His peace. And even though I hadn’t originally felt Him with me that day, He was there. He has always filled my days with His presence for nothing can separate us from His love.
While my exhaustion had deep, physical causes, I also realized a component was a lack of trust in God. When I’ve approached Him with reverence, when I’ve honestly told him the concerns of my heart, God has shown me time and again, He is faithful and true no matter what is happening in my life. During the hardest moments in my life, I’ve felt Him enfolding me. During my emotional letdowns, I’ve learned if I trust Him, He gives me insurmountable peace and joy.
And on that day, the silence wasn’t dreadful, but inviting. For in my solitude with God, He reminded me He will use my story, with both its heartbreaks and victories, to bring glory back to Him. He will use my life as a blessing to others. He will teach me how to live freely and lightly in every challenge by focusing on Him.
The day ended far too soon. The silence had been loud. For I left encouraged knowing God will make my paths straight and use me for His purposes. With my eyes wide open and my heart receptive to Him, I will rest in my Heavenly Father despite what life may bring.