A Glass Darkly

Uncertainty Fatigue

A friend recently mentioned that he has been feeling fatigued. He thought his body was signaling something his mind hadn’t noticed. Margie and I have noticed the same thing. We are living in a time that is wearisome to our souls.

That’s counterintuitive because the pandemic has slowed most of us down, restricting choices and limiting busyness. Instead of slogging through grocery store aisles we order and pay online, pick it up or have it delivered, contact free. Rather than attending meetings across town, dealing with traffic and parking, we sit in our living rooms, click and Zoom. Even Sundays have changed for believers: no need to get dressed and corral the kids; now we can sit in our bathrobe and worship virtually or watch it later.

On the other hand, change, even good change is stressful. All of us have had our ordinary made abnormal, our familiar unfamiliar, routines disrupted, dreams and plans interrupted, and relationships made difficult. And not all the change we’ve endured with the pandemic and civil unrest has been good. Many have experienced financial loss. Some of us have lost friends or loved ones to COVID-19. Not being able to visit them in hospital or to be present with the family at their memorials is a bitter thing. And we all feel a loss of control. I’m the sort of person that begins each day by reviewing my calendar. I like feeling that I know what’s coming, have planned for it and am in control. I’m definitely not in control.

Another irritating stress is friends not following the medical protocols recommended by epidemiologists. Acting normal during a pandemic is not an act of love.

Add it all together and it is wearisome. Occasionally I’ve needed to vent. It may not be admirable, but it does relieve stress. Not enough to erase my weariness of soul, but still it’s something. The fatigue remains.

It would be interesting to hear what people are doing as a result of the fatigue that flows from the uncertainty of life during this time. Even a nap can help. Or a weekend away if we can manage it. Some uninterrupted solitude with Scripture and prayer. Gardening.

If we think of weariness as a debit, such efforts at rest can bring our negative balance closer to zero. A necessary move but insufficient. We need a positive balance to function in joy and to reside in hope.

It is beauty that refreshes the soul. Just as all truth is God’s truth, so all beauty is an expression of God’s glory. “For as God is infinitely the greatest Being,” Jonathan Edwards said in The Nature of True Virtue, “so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory; God… is the foundation and fountain of all being and beauty.” It’s lovely to learn about the Milky Way but being entranced at the grandeur of the night sky makes my heart burst with wonder and delight.

Rest moves the balance in our feeble, weary account from debit to zero, and beauty—in art and nature—the outpouring of God’s glory can flood us, flowing out in hope and joy.

Do you remember the story of Job? A man weary unto death, his life interrupted, his family suffering, his resources shattered, his world upended. There has been 37 long, dense chapters of inquiry and philosophy, theology and reasoning. All important, and in the centuries since, extraordinary thinkers and ordinary mortals have lingered in that conversation in a search for wisdom.

And then in the end is beauty.

God brings Job out of the ash heap and tells him to look around. The sea and the stars, the weather and the wild beasts, the trees and rivers—a creation that stuns with beauty and incredible order, and still fits who we are in space and time.

Beauty is a divine resourcefulness that disperses itself into human creativity and longing. Art is born and in painting and poem, limerick and sculpture, drawing and song, creatures made in God’s image share in glory unspeakable and eternal.

Make time for beauty in art and nature. Glory is the only cure for uncertainty fatigue.

Photo credit: Photo by Артём Мякинник on Unsplash