This post is an excerpt from my book, Too Tired. The book is designed to help you recognize the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that accompany fatigue–and will give you strategies to cope, before it gets worse.
The Bible says that every single human being is born wanting to live by the “lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). What does this mean?
It means that our physical bodies have some “lusts” or cravings. A lust isn’t just a sexual desire; it’s a desire for anything at all that the body needs. In fact, a lust of the “flesh” isn’t even necessarily wrong. It can be a real need.
- Glucose for the brain
- Love and affection
- and so on…
These fleshly, bodily lusts or desires are experienced by all. The problem comes when the needs of our bodies take over and drive all our choices and decisions.
I studied the history of Jacob and Esau last week, and I was reminded that Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. A momentary hunger took over his common sense and affected his choices and decisions. It’s easy for me to judge Esau for his poor judgment, but I often act the same way.
That certainly happens in fatigue, doesn’t it? Even if I wouldn’t normally react in anger around loud noises, if a spoon is dropped on the floor and the sound makes me hit the ceiling because my body doesn’t have enough reserves to react correctly, I am living by the “lusts of the flesh” that my fatigue brought out.
In that moment, two different desires need to be met:
- Desires of the flesh – These are the physical responses I was born with.
- Desires of the mind – These are the mental/emotional responses I learned by my thinking patterns over my lifetime. They are practiced responses, thought patterns of the mind.
When a spoon is dropped on the floor and startles me, I jump. That’s a desire of the flesh. I was born with this reflex, and there isn’t much I can do about it.
However, if all my life I have learned to react to startling events with a soft, quiet answer, I am likely to respond with this practiced response to the spoon. If all my life, I allowed myself to react in relatively UN-stressful times with impatience and frustration, my practiced response to the spoon will be much more extreme.
Why are some elderly people mean and grumpy, while others (who may be suffering similar or even worse symptoms of old age) are sweet and kind?
Both have desires of the flesh, such as achy joints and diseases of old age.
Both have “practiced” mental responses over seventy or eighty years. The practiced response is what shows up in the nursing home.
The Bible lists many “practiced responses” that will make you easy to live with:
- Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23)
In fact, the Bible goes so far as to say that doing what God says will bring health to your body!
“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity” (Proverbs 3:1-2).
“Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many” (Proverbs 4:10).
“My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20-22).
“Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8).
“A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones” (Proverbs 15:30).
“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Don’t be alarmed, though, when you discover that a “cheerful heart” and other proper responses don’t come naturally to you. It’s not in your nature to do right. It’s in your nature to do wrong. Doing right has to be practiced and learned. In fact, the Bible says you’ll need a new nature from God to succeed!
You’re born with the “desires of the mind” to think in one of two ways:
The Bible clearly lists SEVEN ways to think to replace the old patterns:
- If anything is excellent or praiseworthy
…think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
In your journal, you need to identify the times that you respond to stressful situations with anger or fear. You then need to have “systems” in place that will remind you of proper ways to respond instead. Finally, you will need to practice these responses in non-stressful times, over and over again, so that they require little brain energy during times of extreme fatigue.
Dr. Hans Selye, a famed researcher on stress, writes,
“Not only our mental, but even our bodily defense reactions may become stereotyped if we are faced with the same kind of problem again and again. A man can hurt himself by reacting to every proposition according to a set pattern: say, by habitually ridiculing, complaining, agreeing, or disagreeing. Prejudice is the most common basis for such “pre-judged,” stereotyped mental response patterns. Everybody is aware of this, but it less well-known that out bodily defense reactions can also fall into a groove, for instance, by always responding with the same exaggerated hormonal response, whether it is appropriate to the situation or not.
A child or a hysterical person can snap out of a tantrum if you splash cold water in his face. The body of a patient can also be shaken out of habitually responding in the same senseless manner if you expose it to the stress of some intense shock therapy, such as electroshock…” (Hans Selye, The Stress of Life, pp. 402-403).
Next week, I’ll give you 5 ways God wants to help you practice right responses in times of fatigue and stress.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Looking forward to next week’s article!