Recently I listened to a YouTube talk by Dr. David Jeremiah, a non-Catholic Christian, on the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall by Nehemiah. I never imagined that the account of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem has an underlying theme involving spiritual warfare. The theme Dr. Jeremiah spoke of was fatigue. It seems that while the Israelites were rebuilding the wall, the first order of business was to remove the rubble of the old wall that had been previously destroyed. Scripture records how the workers became tired and how the enemies of the Israelites from surrounding towns mingled among them to discourage and threaten them.
This story is an image of the soul’s experience amid weariness. Fatigue is not just an affliction, it is a spiritual battleground.
Enduring Trials as Discipline
Dr. Jeremiah spoke of how, when the wall was half built, the workers became fatigued. He mentioned that when things are halfway done that’s when problems seem to crop up. Could it be that way with life too? We hear of people going through a midlife crisis all the time. Although life changes and occurrences that are not pleasant may not be directly caused by the devil, he and his minions may take advantage of them. Fatigue is a great opportunity for them to make a way in.
Things that draws demons include violence, addictions, sadness, fear, discord, arguing, enmity, hatred, anger, occult practices, aridity and fatigue. They feed on these things. Demons are cowards. They prey on the vulnerable. They take advantage of the weak and their goal is destruction of the human race because God loves us. They hate Our Lady who was raised above every creature, and we as her spiritual children are equally hated. What better way to hurt a mother than to hurt her children?
People, even prayerful, religious, faithful people, who suffer fatigue for extended periods look for ways to numb what they are feeling. They may then seek “painkillers” in self-destructive behaviors. When suffering from fatigue, then, we need to protect ourselves from discouragement.
For one thing, it is important to note that suffering is not always a punishment. The August 25th Second Reading enlightened the way I look at suffering. Hebrews 12:5 exhorts us:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”…
The “endure your trial as discipline” was the line that really struck me. Here we see that if we endure our trials as discipline, the merit will be beyond compare both physically and spiritually. It is like being in Marine Boot Camp for God. We grow and learn from suffering.
None of us enjoy suffering. Hebrews states as much—“all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain”—but it goes on to say, “yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” When we suffer, we must not lose hope, but persevere and know that the trial is training us for heaven.
This is all well and good, but what about the people who are suffering so much that uplifting thoughts like these no longer help them? What are they to do?
Acts of the Will
My wife has a great saying when I am obsessing over something. She will tell me to “change the channel.” In other words, go to another thought, or, as my dear old dad used to say very simply, “happy thoughts.” For most of us that may be easy to do. For many others it is not that simple. There are people suffering from many different types of physical, mental and emotional horrors. For these people it is impossible to just change the channel or think happy thoughts. For some, their lives are a death sentence that drags on second by second.
I know people who are suffering like this. The worst thing well-meaning people do is to give unsolicited advice. Everyone wants to help, but sometimes all they really need is just someone to listen to them, cry with them and empathize with them. It may not change their circumstances, but at that moment it will bring them solace, and that is really all that counts at that moment.
If anyone reading this is suffering in a way that feels unsurmountable and every day is simply more of the same, I would like to submit some things that I do to make moments bearable in what is sometimes an unbearable world.
- Slow down. I used to rush off my commuter bus and almost run to get to my desk. I no longer do that. I walk very slowly and look around. I take notice of flowers, the clouds in the sky, or the architecture of the surrounding buildings, and I say a few words of thanks to our Father in heaven. It takes me five minutes longer, but sometimes it is the best five minutes of my day.
- Embrace your fatigue. Acknowledge that you are tired, maybe angry, and maybe sad. Realize that millions of people are too. Embrace it as okay, and then make an act of the will to find joy in small things around you.
- Be grateful for everything. Again, this is an act of the will.
- Assist someone with something. It could be as simple as saying to a coworker, “I’m going to get a cup of coffee; can I get you one too?”
- Make an act of courage. Stand up to your problems and tell them how big your God is.
Feelings are not facts, and everything we choose to do is in fact our choice. We may not be able to control what happens to us or those we love, but we have the power to control how we process it and deal with it. It is an act of the will.
Hit The Biggest One First
We have the power to rob the devil of the influence he tries to exercise while we are at our weakest points. Among the many things I learned growing up in Brooklyn was how to street fight. The devil is a street fighter too. I learned that showing up alone to a fight when you know the other guy is bringing backup is a bad idea. Never attempt spiritual warfare alone. I also learned that, when facing many adversaries, you need to hit the biggest guy first. My dad taught me that. He advised that if you take down the biggest guy first the others will be terrified. And it always worked. Think of David and Goliath.
Feeling fatigued by life? Hit the biggest guy first by placing yourself under the care and protection of Jesus in the company of all the angels and saints. As the televangelists say, “Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is!” Amen.