Four-and-a-half years ago an autoimmune condition slipped into my system. Like Troy’s Trojan horse, it unleashed a stealth attack. And the battle that ensued left me battling bouts of exhaustion and extreme fatigue.
When our bodies don’t work like we want them to, we’re often left searching for a new normal. Yet as we embrace the journey, we learn to acknowledge our humanness, rest in God’s presence, and ultimately find new life.
Listen Deeply: It requires attentiveness to acknowledge the changing needs within us. We may notice our need for more sleep, cravings for solitude, or longings for better health. And only as we pay attention, can we give ourselves permission to ease up, take a break, and make the necessary adjustments.
When my illness began, I had just stepped down from a demanding church position. I planned to rest, write, and then reenter the workplace. Instead I found myself filling my calendar with endless doctor visits and battling bouts of fatigue.
At first I pushed through the pain, until I realized something deeper simmered within my soul. For months I had disregarded my desire for silence and solitude. For years I had tossed and turned through anxious, sleepless nights. Soon I recognized that my physical symptoms reflected my internal state.
Sometimes we’re afraid to slow down. We feel guilty about our limitations, and we ignore our exhaustion. But sooner or later, the pressure shows. We can either keep running or see the signals as God’s invitation to admit our humanness and seek his rest.
Adjust Rhythms: As we allow ourselves to slow down, we begin to discover afresh what invigorates us, drains us, and gives us joy. Slowly we’re able develop new rhythms that honor the pace we can sustain in this season and make space for the activities that bring life and healing.
Once I started listening to my body, I began scheduling things that nourished me physically and emotionally—I made time for exercise; I learned how to cook nourishing meals; and I sought out community in a few trusted girlfriends. Eventually, I found a pace that promoted peace instead of hurriedness and anxiety.
Our lives are ever-changing, so we must always be adjusting. Practically that means we can’t do everything that gives us life all at one time—but we can do something. Prioritize, streamline, and pick the one or two things that heal and refresh the most.
Accept Limitations: As we acknowledged the changes taking place within and around us, we slowly learn to accept ourselves and our new healthier pace. For most of us, this is an endless battle as we’re ever adjusting and asking for grace.
In four-and-a-half years, I’ve made great strides toward better health and life balance. But I still can’t keep the pace my younger, healthier self could once manage. And honestly, it still frustrates me.
I’ve found that the practices of Sabbath and daily review help me acknowledge my limitations and invite God into my broken places. I need a day—or at least half of one—where I can nap, read, or make an unhurried meal. Most weeks my husband and I set aside Sunday afternoons for this, but figure out what works best for you.
Many spiritual directors also advocate a daily review as a way to help us attend to God’s presence more consistently. At the conclusion of your day, take ten minutes to look back over your activities. Talk with God about the life-giving and draining parts. Invite his Spirit to surface longings or insecurities. Confess sin, surrender worries, and rest.
Engaging with God on a daily and weekly basis allows us to operate from a place of security and less out of stress. We sense his approval of us, regardless of how much we accomplished that day or week. We serve and share from his abundance, instead of our own exhaustion. And we embrace the present as the place where God is with us and providing for us.
How have you learned to accept limitations and find life in your current season?