I'm tapped out. Today I have nothing to give, nothing to offer. I'm sucked dry and emptied out. Pick your metaphor of mental and physical exhaustion and that's me. And yet the demands haven't stopped. When I feel this way, it actually seems as though they intensify. Each request for help or attention or input feels like the last one I can bear. My nerves are frayed. My head is full. My body reacts to each sound and sensation and voice like a truck has hit me. I respond with complete exasperation—a shout, a look, a sigh. It isn't pleasant for anyone.
But I know I won't stay in this empty place. And if you're in a place like this right now, I want to assure you that you won't either.
'Believe me, I've been here before. And these moments (that have sometimes stretched into days and weeks) have taught me that I'm stronger than I think I am. Even when I'm at the bottom of what I think are my emotional reserves, I'm not. Because there's always something else there, something that keeps me from just shutting down. And I know it's God.
I don't mean that in a trite way. I don't even mean it in a "I've-been-taught-that-God-gives-me-strength-and-so-I-should-probably-believe-it" way. I mean that it's in these times of emptiness that I'm most fully aware of God's intimate presence in my life. I feel God holding on to me, like God's arm is stretched out in front of me to keep me from toppling off the edge of something I can't even see. This presence isn't something that comes from my head, something I tell myself to hang on to. It's just there, wired into me as a safety mechanism.
So often, we fear losing sight of God when we're struggling. But I find I'm far more likely to lose sight of God when things are going great. When I'm happy and healthy and my work is going well, I'm perfectly content to be all Carla, all the time. But I don't want to only be aware of God's presence when I have no "Carla" left. I want to find a way to feel God holding on to me even when I'm not walking toward a sinkhole.
All three of my children like to hold my hand, but they do it for different reasons. My three-year-old still reaches for me when she comes to a long staircase—she needs to know I'm there to help her navigate something she knows can be a little scary. My seven-year-old likes to hold my hand when we're walking at the mall or an amusement park—he wants to know where I am and make sure I don't get too far away from him. My eleven-year-old daughter often will hold my hand when I walk her to the school bus or when we're walking the dog—she doesn't need my help or comfort, she just likes feeling connected to me.
I don't want to be a spiritual three-year-old for the rest of my life. I want to reach for God because I like it, not because I need it. I want to be more like David, who wrote despairing cries like this one: "I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail looking for my God" (Psalm 69:3), yet also wrote songs of joy, like this one: "Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name" (Psalm 103:1). In the midst of all I try to do and accomplish, I want to feel the real source of my strength.
How do you feel God's presence in good times as well as the bad?