Battle Fatigue

A long term war is different than a short one. Short battles are episodes of rallying, crises, and extraordinary moments where people rise to the occasion. It is easy to respond to an emergency when there are only a few.

A long term series of battles changes the scope of responses, and changes the person. What begins as something taking extraordinary effort becomes a wearying grind, where no resources remain to rise to the occasion. A constant state of crisis soon becomes a way of life, the highs and lows blending into a long and blurred train of apathetic responses. A crisis is no longer an urgent thing. The person feels that all resources to cope are gone, and each new crisis simply overwhelms to the point of inaction. There is not enough left to appropriately respond, no matter how responsible they feel to respond.

Dark circles appear under the eyes of the soul, and brightness of mind dulls with fatigue. The outlook on life is colored with the vision of war. A heavy weariness settles in, along with the feeling that it can never be removed. That this war will continue, and no battle is winnable. It batters the heart, and sucks life from the living, even while they go through the motions of trying to continue to fight.

Some simply give up. They refuse to rise one day, and refuse to go to do battle one more time – a kind of shock sets in which renders them completely unable to function. Others struggle on, mechanically responding to the demands of the day, unable to do more than is absolutely required, devoid of the joy and innocence they remember dimly, but cannot quite believe in anymore. Somehow, they remember there was once a different reality. But they can’t quite remember what the essence of it was, the present so overshadows it.

The thing about war, is that the individual soldier usually has very little control over the course of the battles. They find themselves in the middle of a war they did not ask for, fighting battles they could not defer or influence in any way. Caught in the grip of something bigger than life, and powerless to control the force that moves it.

The military calls this state “Battle Fatigue”. It can happen in situations other than a protracted war. Sometimes life is a battle outside of the war zones. For new or lifelong followers of Christ, it really IS a war. A war with Satan, whose desire is to crush us utterly. These times WILL come. And they will last long past the point where we feel that we have reached our limits.

Jesus Christ really has felt our pain, discouragement, and frustration. He truly does understand what it is like to be faced with problems that are bigger than we are. He, too, cried out for deliverance, when the job was bigger than He thought it would be. His example of submitting, even though He wished He did not have to, shows us the pattern for what is expected when we face things bigger than our ability to cope.

There is no way to make it easy. But we can reach a point where we can turn these problems over to the Lord. It does not mean they’ll be solved in a way we want them to be solved. But it does mean we can free the time and energy that we spend on worrying, and focus it on things that are more productive – attending to our families, meeting the day to day demands that are achievable, and wisely using the resources we do have even if they are not enough.

Peace is possible even in the middle of chaos. Solutions to the problems may not always come as we hope. But we will survive in spite of it, and come out stronger. The Lord is forging us into the people whom He wishes us to be. The process is often painful, nigh unto being unendurable. But we CAN endure, we can remain obedient, and we can come through with increased strength and spiritual power.

The prize is worth winning. The fight is worth fighting. It is worth getting up, one more time, to face what we feel completely inadequate to cope with. As we do, we’ll begin to gain something precious, and “angels cannot be restrained from being (our) companion(s)”.

2 Responses to Battle Fatigue

  • Jan Verhoeff says:

    Thanks for the reminder to give it to God. It’s amazing how much we try to carry ourselves. When it simply takes handing it off to allow God to take care of the problem. 😉


  • Laura says:

    It is hard to define what it means to “hand off” things to God. I don’t necessarily think it means we can wash our hands of our problems. There are times when it is appropriate to do so, and call it “giving it to God”, but it is often human nature to try to do so when it isn’t appropriate. I mean, sometimes that is an excuse to NOT do our part completely. We really have to be willing to do our part, no matter how difficult, and even when we know we can’t do more, to be willing to listen in case we are instructed to do “one more thing”. I think we have to give all before we can expect God to do the rest – sometimes what we think of as our best really isn’t – God knows we are capable of more, so He demands it.

    Giving it to Him is more a matter of having the faith that He won’t abandon us. That in the end, no matter how ugly it gets, it will work for our good, and that He will keep his Promises.

    Sometimes we really HAVE done everything we can, and we have to WAIT on God – that is when we give it to Him and say, “If you want it to be different, please affect a change, and if you want me to do more, please let me know WHAT.” The hard thing then is the waiting – because His time is not what ours is. Usually He waits just a little longer than we think we can stand before an answer is provided. That makes us stretch and grow, even though it is often painful when it happens.

    I think that “giving it to God” is often misunderstood. We can do that with things we CAN’T control – issues with our grown children, unpleasant people who just won’t stop, etc. We are still responsible for OUR actions toward them, but we don’t try to fix them anymore. Giving THAT to God is really just an acknowledgment of the freedom of the other person to choose their own actions, and trusting that God knows how to reach them to help them if we cannot.

    But with problems that we DO have control over, we often need to step up to the next level of effort, to make sure we have TRULY done all we can, and THEN we find that God pitches in to make up the difference. I don’t think we CAN give that kind of thing to Him until we are sure we have done all we can, and then we need to be ready to step up again if we hand it to Him and He hands it back to us and asks us to do a little more! 🙂

    When Christ was in Gethsemane, He was strengthened by his Father, but at the last, the Father withdrew, and Jesus still had to finish the job himself. I think sometimes we want to hand it off and then not take anything back if it is required. We think that if we hand it to God that we won’t have to COPE with it anymore, and much of the time we WILL have to continue to endure, and be willing to take up appropriate action again if things change so that we can do so. We move forward then, in partnership with God, wearing His yolk, and doing what He requires us to do.

    So the tendency to hang onto things isn’t a negative thing – it is a necessary thing. We HAVE to be sure we have done all. Sometimes, we think, “Gee, I could have given this to the Lord sooner, and had peace sooner.” But I’m not sure we COULD do that, because the time it takes us to get to that point is NECESSARY time, of effort, of self-improvement, of growth.

    I don’t know where the balance is between trying to do it all myself and relying on grace to make up the difference. I don’t know if there is such a thing as balance in that. I just know I can’t ask God to do for me what I am capable but unwilling to do for myself – but AFTER I have done all, my cries to Him for deliverance won’t be ignored.

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