Paul’s letter to the Galatians has long been a favorite of mine. When I needed them the most, his equally comforting and urgent exhortations for the Galatians to realize their freedom in Christ clicked into place and made so much refreshing sense. I’ve gone back to Chapters 5 and 6 several times through the years, much like you would re-read your company’s mission statement or remind yourself of what it is you believe, what you stand for…and what holds you in place.
There’s a verse in Chapter 6 that I think I probably memorized the very first time I saw it. I was struggling so in my walk with the Lord – for security, for affirmation, for evidence that I belonged to Him, that my faith was real. Round and round I went in this search for the answer to a question that no person on earth can definitively answer for me. And I was getting tired. Until I read it:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9)
Okay, I thought. I can do that. Flint-set face, shoulders squared, I kept moving. God was so faithful to bless my dogged determination during those days. His answers were kind, his provision generous. He allowed me to reap a harvest.
Years later, I find myself wrestling with another question that no one can answer. One I can’t even answer. Even though sometimes I think I should be able to. But I can’t. So I sit quietly, and I wait. And in the silence I hear: let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Let us not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Let us not…it goes on and on, a whispered refrain ringing in my head, and I know that it’s not giving me any answer other than: do not grow weary in doing good. Regardless of the struggle. Regardless of the pain, of the one hundred ways my heart has stretched and crashed and shattered. Regardless of what might happen tomorrow, regardless of the worst case scenario and all the sorrow it may haul in with it. Regardless of what you are asked to give, to sacrifice. Do not. Grow weary. In doing good.
In this verse as well as the verses just before it, Paul is using an analogy to farming, of course, because that was one of the most relevant parallels during that time. And while I’ve never worked on a farm, I do at least know enough about the process to surmise a few things. If my research is correct (and here’s the disclaimer that it may or may not be), the Greek word for ‘grow weary’ is ‘enkakomen’ which has as a root word (do they have root words in Greek?) ‘enkakeo’, meaning ‘to despair’. ‘Enkakomen’ can be seen as the act of giving in to evil, or giving in to difficulty. Interesting, right? I thought so.
So Paul isn’t just urging the Galatians (and us, hallelujah) to avoid becoming weary – he’s urging them not to give up, and for a very specific reason – because giving up is giving in – to evil, to difficulty, to despair. It is the antithesis of faith. Not just that, when we grow weary, we abandon the work. The problem there is this: we’re always sowing something. So if we stop sowing to please the Spirit, we start sowing to please ourselves. It’s inevitable. And that, my friends, is not a pretty harvest at all (Gal 6:8).
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Paul’s emphasis on avoiding spiritual fatigue is placed on the act of sowing rather than the other elements of the farming process. I’m sure modern technology has made sowing a simpler task than it used to be, but 2,000 years ago, sowing was most likely the hardest part, the most tiring. Grown men bent over endless rows of dirt, stooping to put tee-tiny little seeds in the ground, stepping gingerly between the rows to the left and the right, taking care not to disturb anything already planted. If they could just keep at it, despite their aching backs and sunburned necks, they’d have the privilege of waiting, then watching, then reaping the harvest once it was full grown. But they had to do the work first.
I know that this is the hardest part of the work. But I know that if I keep going, something beautiful will eventually spring out of the ground. Because He makes beautiful things. So I’ll head back out with a handful of seeds, knowing that I am promised a harvest of righteousness and peace and that He who called me is faithful. And that is plenty enough for me.