Being a Christian these days can be a wearying task. We fight indwelling sin, forces of spiritual darkness, and personal trials that come our way. In addition to these difficulties, we have suffered through Covid for multiple years and now watch the effects of a new war, inflation, and whatever else might come. Do you find yourself weary in doing good?
In his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives a chapter to encourage those who are “Weary in Well Doing” (190–202). His main text is Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (KJV). He describes spiritual depression from weariness in this way: “Here, the devil does something much more subtle, in that there is apparently nothing wrong at all. What happens is that people just become weary and tired, while still going in the right direction…. shuffling along with drooping heads and hands… the very antithesis of what the Christian is meant to be in this world” (191).
He then describes weariness in general and turns these thoughts to the Christian life. Life has times of youth and old age in which people are granted “compensations” to help them through these years. Between these times, however, is especially when the weariness may come: “The most difficult period of all in life is the middle period” (192). Whereas one has worked hard to get to this point, the motivation is not the same to continue in one’s success. Goals are achieved, life is routine, and the excitement of learning and discovery may vanish. The internal push for progress dissipates once one reaches life’s plateau.
Lloyd-Jones then focuses on the Christian: “Now this is equally true in the religious or the spiritual life” (192). “The initial experience… was new and surprising and wonderful and clear” (193), but “now we have become accustomed to the Christian life” (193). It seems “routine… the same thing day after day. Then this trial [weariness] arises, and we are no longer carried over it by that initial momentum which seemed to take us through it all in the early stages at the beginning…. This is the condition with which the apostle deals with here…. some kind of doldrums…. a standstill” (193). What are we to do? How can we overcome weariness in well-doing?
Lloyd-Jones warns us of three dangers and tells us what not to do. First, we may be tempted to “give up, or give way, or give in” (194). Second, a greater temptation, “The danger of the majority at this point is just to resign themselves to it and to lose heart and to lose hope” (194). Though it may seem “heroic” or ring of “loyalty” to grit our teeth and carry on, addressing our weariness in our own strength will only lead to weariness still. And third, if we are not careful, “We will resort to artificial stimulants” (195). Even in his day, Lloyd-Jones warns against drunkenness that begins with “a little alcohol to help him to carry on” or giving in to “drugs and various other things” (195).
Finally, Lloyd-Jones offers us some solutions. “The first thing must be self-examination” (196). We have to look at ourselves to discover the root of our weariness. Are we working too hard and too much and running down our bodies? Are we doing the Lord’s work in human strength alone? Also, what is our motivation for doing what we do? To been seen of men or to please God alone? Or, has “God’s work” become not “something which you do” but “something that keeps you going” (198)? Would we know what to do with ourselves if the busyness of ministry and Christian activity was taken away? Are we “being in control” or is “the thing controlling us” (198)? If the latter, “ultimately it exhausts us and depresses us” (198).
Lloyd-Jones then goes on to give three “certain great principles” to overcome weariness in well-doing (198). First, we have to remember that “there are phases in the Christian life as in the whole of life” (198). Life in general and the spiritual life begins with infancy and moves to maturity. As infants, everything is exciting, fresh, and new. In our maturity, our energy is the same but harnessed and used in different ways. We have to remember that Christian maturity will not be quite the same experience as when we first believed.
Second, he says, “It is ‘well doing’ remember,” not just doing (199). “You are set in the midst of the most glorious campaign into which a man could ever enter” (200). If we merely look at the Christian life as “doing” and not “well-doing,” then we have lost sight of who we are in Christ, what He has done in us, and what we are doing for Him.
Third, Lloyd-Jones reminds us, “The next principle is that this life of ours is but a preparatory one…. This life is but the ante-chamber of eternity and all we do in this world is but anticipatory of that” (200). This thought brings us back to Galatians 6:9: “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Lloyd-Jones closes with a number of texts to reinforce this forward look. We have not fully seen, heard, or imagined what is yet to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). We should keep our mind on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1) and thereby bound in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). As Christ saw the joy set before Him and thought nothing of His cross, so also we may suffer from time to time but will one day join Him above (Hebrews 12:2, 4; cf. Colossians 1:24). If these truths guide you through your weariness, “You will go forward still more gloriously, until eventually you will hear Him saying: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord’, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (p. 202; Matthew 25:21, 23, 34).
Are you weary? Do not give up, and do not grow weary of doing good. In due season you will reap as you persevere in serving the Lord.