There have been times when I can identify with Bilbo. He was a hundred and eleventy years old, and he had every reason to feel like butter that had been scraped over too much bread. I suspect that most of us have been there at one time or another.
Even when you have doing your best, or perhaps, especially when you have been doing your best, that thin and stretched feeling can creep up on you. There are several contributing factors. Foremost among them is the fact that fallen humankind in a fallen world does not possess limitless energy. Mind you, I think that limitless energy was part of God’s original plan in the Garden of Eden. The curse Adam earned was, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread . . . for you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 2:19). We run out of steam because we were meant to be connected with Life Himself, and when that connection was impaired, death, and the potential for exhaustion, entered our world.
There is another factor that cannot be ignored. At the very beginning, that Arch Liar, the Serpent, fed Eve a bundle of half-truths. The central fib she was told was that she could be like God by doing things in her own way, instead of in God’s way. The only safe thing she could have said to him was, “Be gone Satan!” Make no mistake we are still in that same battle, a battle that will take its toll on our energy, and on our very lives. Jesus said as much when confronting the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). There is an Enemy who seeks to drain us of all life and energy. He is the Murderer of life, love, and joy.
There is a solution. That solution is to continually, repeatedly, return to active fellowship with the God who loves us. Isaiah asks us, “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, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
The Hebrew word for “wait” also means “to hope, to expect, and to bind together.” When we are bound together with the Lord by dwelling in His Presence in prayer, in listening for His voice in Scripture, in praise, and in fellowship with the saints, our energy gradually returns. Experience teaches us that this restoration is positive, gradual, and energizing like the charging of a battery. When we feel stretched and thin, like butter scraped over too much bread; it is then that we discover the great truth that Emmanuel is “God with us”. Then we pray with the Psalmist, “When I called, you answered me; you increased my strength of soul” [Ps. 138:3].