The stresses and urgencies of tornado recovery have no more regard for human needs and limitations than did the storms that pummeled parts of Tupelo, Lee County and Itawamba County nearly a month ago. The numbness of shock has largely given way to the numbness of fatigue, an enemy that can strip away both courage and care.
The result can mean, on a tangible and immediate level, increased accidents and other health impacts during the dangerous work of cleaning up and building back. On a deeper level, it can impose ill temper, depression and even despair.
Indeed, the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi is credited as saying, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Fortunately, for most people devastating storms are a once-in-a-lifetime-or-less event. Unfortunately, it isn’t just disasters such as tornadoes and their aftermath that deal us a dose of fatigue. Chronic problems can wear us down, too – caring for a child with special needs; taking on the errands, housework and paperwork of a declining parent; dealing with our own long-term health concern; a torturously long commute or working two jobs to replace an easier or more remunerative former position; and many comparable difficulties.
Too much of a good thing can exhaust us, too.
With both divine and human natures, Jesus – the Creator of the universe, by Christian doctrine – subjected himself to limitations. As we do, Jesus had to rest, physically and spiritually.
One cruel consequence of exhaustion is that, just as it makes us increasingly ineffective or even counterproductive in our work and interactions, we may convince ourselves that we must do more, that everything depends on our abilities and efforts.
God knew what he was doing when he made us need regular rest.
An oft-quoted scripture has some of the best news for those wearied by either spiritual wanderings or physical demands.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
That’s much the same message Paul reflected in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”