Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary. . . . He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might, he increases strength. – Isaiah 40:28-29 (ESV)
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. – Proverbs 11:25 (ESV)
Earlier this week we looked at God’s sustaining grace in the midst of new beginnings—times that can bring both excitement and anxiety. We see excitement build for new areas of study, new students and colleagues, perhaps even a new location to explore and begin to call home. But then the semester quickly progresses and becomes filled with to-do lists, committee meetings, teaching, and writing. We find ourselves buried under assignments and deadlines and the excitement and passion for scholarship and study often shifts into autopilot and survival mode.
During these busy seasons, it is more important than ever to rely on God’s strength and to maintain time in His Word. He reminds us in Isaiah 40 that He does not faint or grow weary, and we should draw strength from spending time with Him and in His Word. I have found that it is equally important to maintain close, regular fellowship with a body of local believers. Although it may feel like you can’t afford the time, fellowship is critical to maintaining a healthy balance and to avoid quickly burning out in the midst of pressures, demands and deadlines.
I remember struggling with staying connected during my second year of graduate school. Though I was feeling more settled into the area and to graduate studies, I still desired a Bible study with deeper connections, one that was focused on intentional community throughout the week. Unfortunately, many Bible studies in the area did not fit what I was looking for or were offered at times when I had classes or other obligations. During times of prayer, I would ask God to lead me to an established group that wanted to be intentional and invested in the lives of each group member. As time went on without the desired answer to my prayers, I grew impatient with God. I was frustrated and felt dry and in need of refreshment, friendship, and community. “God—you know how much I need this! Why are you not answering this prayer?” became the frequent theme of my devotional time. One day as I was praying, I felt like God was asking me “Why don’t you start a Bible study? You have a great location and space to do it!” My initial reaction was “Did I just hear you correctly? Where will I find the time for this? Don’t you see how busy I am? And for that matter, I have no energy left to do this in the midst of research, classes, and studying for prelims!”
Throughout that next week, God kept bringing Isaiah 40 to mind and reminding me that He has strength for the weary. Isaiah also reminds us that even youths grow tired and weary, but God’s followers will mount up with wings as eagles. Ultimately, I decided that if God was calling me, then I would trust Him for the strength to start and host a Bible study in my home. My roommate and I started the Bible study from the outset with the mission of intentional community and encouraging one another both in Bible study and throughout the week. The results were amazing and unexpected! The members of that group quickly became close friends and constantly encouraged each other through prayer for our work and for people in our workplaces and on campus.
Each week I looked forward to meeting with the group and drew such encouragement and refreshment from our study and fun times to just hang out and de-stress. This group encouraged me to look at my studies in a different light and to recognize that I was in graduate school not just for the degree, but also to be a light to others who needed friendship and encouragement. It was about a year later that I came across Proverbs 11:25 and realized that it had become true in my own life. Even though I felt dry and weary, God gave me the strength when it was needed to pour into the lives of those around me. Through watering, I myself had been watered.
Questions and Additional Reflection
In what areas of your life do you need God’s strength and power to be made manifest? How can you reach out and water others?
Even though you may not be called to start a Bible study, consider how you might show hospitality (xenia) and bring blessings to others. Perhaps you can bring cookies to a neighbor, offer rides to international students without a car, or invite someone for coffee that you would like to get to know better. Look for ways to practice xenia even when you are tired and weary, and watch for ways in which you will be watered as you bring blessing to others.
Father God, you are mighty and powerful, a refuge from the storm. Please remind us that You are our source of strength, and even though we grow tired and weary, you never slumber or sleep. You are always watching over us and preparing us for even greater things ahead. Show us ways in which we can encourage and water others, thereby bringing your hope and light into our studies and our communities.
Kelly Seaton lives in Durham, North Carolina (go Duke!), where she is an HIV vaccine researcher. She is a graduate of Messiah College and Penn State University-Hershey. Her cross-cultural experience includes studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, as well as traveling to Haiti and South Africa. She loves the movies Emma and The Shawshank Redemption. Outside of work, she loves hanging with friends, playing volleyball, and any and all outdoors. Her post Finding a Postdoc in the Sciences: Nailing the Interview is the most visited ESN blog post.