In his book, The World Beyond Your Head, author Matthew Crawford muses that “Once upon a time, our problem was guilt: the feeling that you have made a mistake, with reference to something forbidden. This was felt as a stain on one’s character. [More recently it has been suggested that] the dichotomy of the forbidden and the allowed has been replaced with an axis of the possible and the impossible. The question that hovers over your character is no longer that of how good you are, but of how capable you are … With this shift comes a new pathology. The affliction of guilt has given way to weariness—weariness with the vague and unending project of having to become one’s fullest self. We call this depression.”
Crawford is not arguing against clinical depression, nor does one need to be clinically depressed to know something of the reality he identifies. It can seem, for the old, the young and those of us who fall somewhere in between, that we are trapped on a treadmill of accomplishing with little relief in sight. Fellow PCA pastor Todd Gwennap gets at this feeling with what he calls the Anti-Psalm 23:
The approbation of others is my shepherd;While penetrating, these haunting words help us to see that we cannot find rest in our accomplishments. Ultimately it is only the Gospel truths of who God is, our adoption as daughters and sons, the forgiveness and freedom we have in Christ which are truly the answer to our fatigue!
I shall always be in want.
There is no nourishment, never enough.
Anxiety and performance are my lot.
My soul is exhausted.
I must constantly be my best self for my name’s sake.
When I walk through difficulty, I must be better.
There is only fear of being found out, for I am utterly alone;
your approval and applause last as long as our eye contact.
The need for approval prepares me as a feast for my enemies;
I have no security, no abundance.
I am left to chase a moving target all the days of my life,
and I shall seek to justify my existence until I die and am forgotten.
Here are the words of Psalm 23. May they be balm to your soul as we navigate these weary days ...
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.