One of the hardest commands the Lord gives us in the scriptures is one we don’t often think of: “be not weary in well-doing, for you are laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:33-34). But what happens if you are weary? What happens if you are exhausted, burned out, over-stretched, and just need a break?
The other day, I kept thinking about this scripture, remembering the talk Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave quoting this scripture, “However Long and Hard the Road.” As he expands on that scripture, Elder Holland states, "That 'great work' is you."
There are countless times that I have felt that line being whispered in my ear. Whether I'm feeling weary or just down, I hear this little whisper of "Keep at it! That 'great work' is you.” (Along with the "Don't you quit" line from another Elder Holland talk I love; I think he is my personal cheerleader.) It has helped me to get through difficult times and to keep my priorities in line with the priorities of heaven.
As a mom, I've also had the idea come to my mind of, "That 'great work' is John," "That 'great work' is Spencer," “That ‘great work’ is your husband and children.” Because, really, my eternal family the "great work" of my life.
“Be Not Weary”
I think one thing that is interesting is that the scripture doesn't just say "be not weary." Thank goodness for that, because I wouldn't be able to follow that counsel. However, adding the "in well-doing" caveat doesn't exactly make it easy.
Have you ever tried to gather kids for family prayer at the end of a long day (or even at the beginning of the day)? I'd say that is "well-doing," and oh-my-goodness it can be so easy to be weary doing that. I have a doctorate degree and am very good at taking tests, but I cannot get straight A's on the exams my boys give me. I was one of those lucky people that didn't need to study all that much in school. As a parent though, sheesh, I feel like I'm always four chapters behind and don't have any answers.
But, I try and I study the counsel that is there and I keep trying. That is all I can do and that is enough. At times, I definitely grow weary in my parenting, but I do not ever grow weary in loving my children or caring about their future and their salvation.
Seeing Long-Term Dividends
In "A Law of Increasing Returns," President Henry B. Eyring discusses short crops (where you see the fruits of your efforts quickly), and late crops (where it takes a long time—even a lifetime to see the results of your work). Work in the home is usually of the late crop variety. You can put in years and years of blood, sweat, tears, faith and hope, but it doesn't guarantee a great harvest. I do feel that every once and a while you do get a little dividend on your investment. As an example, after this past conference, our 6-year-old wrote on a sheet of paper, “I can’t stop thinking about the Holy Ghost.” It seems like he is on the right track to growing up to be good gentlemen. (Now just to keep him there . . .)
When dealing with late crops, it is easy to become weary. Thank heavens, literally, for those little dividends to keep us going. In October 2009, Elder Bednar gave a talk entitled, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home." He states, "Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable . . . our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results."
An Antidote to Weariness
Diligence seems like the antidote for weariness if you ask me. It is those small things that matter. You know, those things that are so easy to push aside because, in times of weariness, we think, "Oh, we don't have time for that today. The kids never listen anyway. We'll just put it off til next week." I know that as we are consistent in those little things we will see the blessings, even if it is not until a future time.
Have you ever compared the effort that Adam and Eve had to put into eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil vs the effort it takes to get to the Tree of Life in Lehi's vision? Adam and Eve had a bit of help of course. Satan essentially said, "Hey, do you want to eat some of this fruit? Oh, let me just go get it for you. Do you need me to peel it for you? Yes, here you go; all ready to eat. Dig in!"
In contrast, getting to the Tree of Life is somewhat akin to American Ninja Warrior. Here's this rod of iron to hold onto while you go along this filthy river of water (symbolizing the depths of hell!) through a mist of darkness and get mocked by a bunch of people. I don't think I could even handle the first two obstacles of the American Ninja Warrior course without feeling a bit weary, much less struggle through Lehi's vision in real life.
Living in such a way as to lead one (and one's family) to the Tree of Life definitely may cause at least thoughts of feeling weary and overwhelmed. Thankfully, we have the Holy Ghost to comfort us and strengthen us. We are blessed with insights and help in those times of need as long as we seek it out. As we work to not be weary, we are given extra strength and an extra spiritual boost. I find that when I am being diligent in prayer and scripture study that those things become easier for me.
Weariness doesn’t only occur in family life. We all face other stresses like illness, financial situations, relationship struggles and even things like a seemingly never-ending winter that can wear us down emotionally, physically and, if we aren’t careful, spiritually.
About five years ago, my husband was considering the idea of going back to school for his doctorate degree. We attended the temple to get some direction. As we were getting ready to leave, he asked if I had felt any impressions. I said, “I promise you that I was praying to know what to do about school but the answer I received was that we should have (another) child.” He had felt good about school—which also meant that I would become the breadwinner for four years—and I had felt good about a baby so we pursued both, knowing that we were just asking for weariness in abundance. When our new baby was just a few months old, I went back to work.
Thankfully, I was able to work part-time and we could make ends meet. I changed jobs a few times, trying to find the best fit for our family schedule. At one point, I’d been in line for a job that, in my opinion, would have been ideal. However, due to some miscommunication, the manager didn’t think I was interested and it was offered to someone else. I was heartbroken and frustrated when I heard the news. It wasn't until then that I realized just how much I was hoping for a change. I felt that my reasons to desire the job were righteous ones and did not understand why the change would be delayed.
Over the following days, I kept remembering a conversation I had years earlier with my mission president. It was a similar situation. I was in a difficult spot and felt that certainly, with all that was going on, that transfers would lead to a change for me. They did not. I was disappointed and frustrated. My mission president told me, "Sister Grenzebach, your day in the sun is coming. I know that this is a difficult situation for you, but the Lord needs you here right now. You have characteristics and attributes that those around you need to gain."
As those words continued to run through my mind, the answer was confirmed as the Spirit whispered, "Anne, I love you and I believe in you. I know you are frustrated and it doesn't seem to make sense to you that the job didn’t work out. Please know that there is a reason. I need you to remain in your current situation—not for you but for those around you. You can be a force for good in their lives. Will you please sacrifice your plan a bit longer so that I can use you for that purpose? Your day in the sun is coming."
We are now finally approaching that much anticipated “day in the sun” where I would get what I wanted. Graduation is a mere two weeks away. For years, I have been anticipating the opportunity to pass that bread-winner hat back to my husband. However, there is a cruel weariness-inducing irony to our current situation. My husband and I will have the same degree and work in the same field.
Currently, there are hardly any available entry-level positions for him. But, at my job, they are in need of extra help, so instead of me remaining part-time, (or further lessening my hours once my husband has a job), I am going full-time. My years-long countdown to getting to spend less time at work has been flipped at the last minute, and instead I will be spending much more time at work.
If I dwell on my frustration with the situation, it can definitely cycle around and keep bringing unhappy thoughts and feelings. However, I have felt an inherent calm that it will work out in the Lord’s time and in His way. I can have confidence in that because I have seen it before. I have desperately wanted a particular path and I was given a different path that, in retrospect, was exactly what I had needed. I am doing my best to just hang on and be not weary even though I don’t understand what the “great work” is in this case.
I know that we are up for the task at hand. I know that He who designed the task has ensured that we will succeed with His help. Be not weary in well doing. When you feel weary and too tired to pray, just pray. When you feel that everything is crashing down, pause and seek to recognize the blessings that you do have. If you are able, attend the temple to help understand an eternal perspective. Read your patriarchal blessing and recognize that Heavenly Father does have an individualized plan for you. When you are exasperated with your kids, (do your best to) continue to lay that foundation that will help them become the "great work" of your life. When the finish line gets moved or all of a sudden there is a huge hill added to the end of one of the marathons you run in life, look back at how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished. Don’t let all that effort be for not. Keep pushing and keep striving. My boys will be the first to tell you that I am far from perfect in this, but I try and I do my best and that is enough. The same goes for you.