Most of us know when our bodies are tired.

We feel weak, sluggish, sleepy, irritable and/or unable to think clearly. These cues tell us we are tired and we need to rest. As a result, we eat, we sleep, we take breaks, we take vitamins, and maybe we even exercise. Most of the time taking these measures helps our bodies get refreshed, energized, and ready to go.

But sometimes our tiredness is not physical – it’s spiritual. The Bible tells us that our souls can get tired and need rest: 

 “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 

Matthew 11:28-29 NIRV  

It is easy to believe that the rest we need from the burdens and challenges of life is purely physical or mental. Physical rest is certainly important, but Jesus teaches us that there is another kind of rest we need in order to carry the stress, pressures, and responsibilities of life. This is the rest of the soul. 

Do you know how to recognize when your soul is tired? If you don’t, you might start looking for refreshment in the wrong places and get frustrated at not being able to find the renewal you’re looking for. 

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Jesus promises that when we go to him and learn from him, he will give us the peace and the respite we are longing for. In order for us to go to Jesus, we need to take a moment to identify if our soul is tired. 

In this study, we’ll look at 10 ways to know your soul is tired, and how to take steps to find the spiritual and lasting rejuvenation you’re really looking for. 

You have a hard time believing God’s promises

And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” 9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.

Exodus 6:8-9 NIV 

In this passage, God was giving his people hope and vision for their future. He promised to take them to their own land, away from the land of Egypt where they were brutally oppressed and enslaved. 

But the Israelites did not listen to God and his promise because of their discouragement and harsh labor. 

The Israelites would certainly have been physically depleted and exhausted. But their physical exhaustion alone wasn’t what made them stop listening to God and his promises. The Bible tells us they were discouraged

To be discouraged is to be deprived of confidence or courage. It seems that the Israelites were experiencing a spiritual tiredness in addition to their physical burnout. Perhaps they were tired of believing and hoping that God would come through for them.  

God was actively moving to rescue his people through Moses and Aaron, but the Israelites were too discouraged to hear or believe God’s encouraging words. Discouragement and not believing God’s promises are signs that our soul is tired.  

Reflection questions

  • How has discouragement affected your faith?

You don’t know where to even start with prayer

Also, the Spirit helps us. We are very weak, but the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself speaks to God for us. He begs God for us, speaking to him with feelings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26-27 ERV 
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Praying is spiritual. Prayer doesn’t take a lot of physical effort; you can pray anywhere, anytime, and without even speaking out loud. But when our soul is tired, making the effort to pray can be challenging. 

We might feel weak and unsure of what to pray about or where to begin. Figuring out how to express in words what we feel, think, or need takes spiritual and emotional effort, and that can be difficult when our soul is tired.

The good news is that we don’t have to worry about exactly what to say when we pray. Romans 8 teaches us the Spirit speaks to God on our behalf “with feelings too deep for words.” That means that even when we don’t have the faith or confidence to mouth the words in prayer to God, the Spirit still speaks to God on our behalf.  

Knowing this, we don’t have to let anything stop us from praying. In our weakest moments, when we don’t even know what to say, prayer can help us connect with God and find the spiritual rest we are looking for. 

Reflection questions 

  • How would you describe your attitude toward prayer? Are you eager to pray, or do you feel overwhelmed and not sure where to begin?
  • How would it help your prayer life to remember that the Spirit will help you even if you don’t know what to say?

You are people-focused

Do you think I care about the approval of men or about the approval of God? Do you think I am on a mission to please people? If I am still spinning my wheels trying to please men, then there is no way I can be a servant of the Anointed One, the Liberating King.

Galatians 1:10 Voice
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Living to please other people is a tiring and futile exercise, which this translation describes as “spinning our wheels.” 

It takes a lot of emotional energy to try to please everyone around us. We worry a lot about what people think, overthink the things we say and do, and even compromise what we believe to get the approval of others. And in the end, we can’t even control whether other people approve of us or not. 

So if living for the approval of people is so tiring, why do we do it? There are probably many reasons, but one big one is instant gratification. When your soul is tired, it’s hard to keep believing in the unseen and waiting for your heavenly reward. It’s much easier to live for a quick fix of attention from people. 

Jesus warns of the allure of admiration in Matthew 6:

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. [2] When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. [3] But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Matthew 6:1-3 NLT

The problem is that this attention and approval is temporary and unsatisfying. It results from and causes spiritual tiredness. 

What’s the antidote? Don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Start doing things you don’t tell anyone about. Practice being behind the scenes. 

It may seem counterintuitive that serving behind the scenes would be refreshing, but perhaps getting off the hamster wheel of people-pleasing is more rejuvenating than we often realize. 

Reflection questions

  • How is being people-focused tiring your soul?

You are settling

17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” 18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

Genesis 19:17-20 NIV
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God had a destiny for Lot and his family. In order to get to this destiny, God told him to go big (the mountains). But Lot settled for a more convenient and easier life (the plain). This choice had a major impact on his life and his family.

God has a destiny for each and every one of us. But when we are empty of faith and soul tired, we can settle for what is comfortable and familiar.

How have you settled?

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3 signs that we have settled:

  1. We stay within our comfort zones. We say “No” to anything that will cause us to live by faith and trust God over what we feel (Isaiah 30:8-11).
  2. We keep control. We make decisions based on what we think is best, not what God says. “I can’t” is the overflow of those who live by their own understanding and not God’s power (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  3. We choose convenience over destiny. What we want or what feels easiest becomes the primary focus instead of what God wants. When we live this way, we choose “small” every time (Philippians 3:19 GW).

You are unbelieving

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Mark 9:21-24 NIV
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Our faith determines the outcome of our lives! Jesus teaches that what we get will be a reflection of what we believe.  

One indicator of being soul tired is unbelief. Unbelief makes us negative, cynical, and unhappy. The great news is that when we choose to focus on Jesus, he can increase our faith.

Reflection questions

  • How is unbelief limiting you and your life?

You are angry 

21 When my heart was sad and I was angry, 22 I was senseless and stupid. I acted like an animal toward you.23 But I am always with you; you have held my hand.

Psalm 73:21-23 NCV

Anger can be a mask that hides other feelings. In these verses from Psalm 73, we learn that sometimes we get angry and act “senseless and stupid” when our hearts are sad. In the first few verses of this psalm, we learn that the author felt jealous of the “life of ease” of wicked people around him. While he was trying to keep his heart pure, others around him did whatever they wanted and seemed to prosper.

His anger was a sign of something deeper in his heart. When we learn to look past our anger by digging deeper, we often find that we have become spiritually tired. Perhaps we’ve gotten tired of praying, tired of keeping our hearts pure, tired of forgiving, or tired of believing our spiritual effort makes a difference.

In these moments, we are in need of refreshment and renewal from God.

If you’ve been angry lately, ask yourself what feelings your anger might be masking? These are a few examples we’ve seen in our own lives of what our anger masks:

  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Pain (emotional, physical, relational, spiritual)
  • Guilt
  • Disappointment

Reflection questions

  • Have you been angry and you aren’t sure why?
  • How has this anger worn you out?
  • What are some of the deeper things your anger may be masking?

You are dissatisfied

11 I’m not telling you this because I’m in need, for I have learned to be satisfied in any circumstance. 12–13 I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.

Philippians 4:11-13 TPT
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When we are soul tired, we become dissatisfied. Our dissatisfaction reveals our spiritual needs. This scripture teaches us that satisfaction has nothing to do with our outside circumstances. 

We learn to overcome our dissatisfaction by letting God teach us how to be content with his love and strength. When we have faith that God will take care of us, orchestrate everything in our lives for the good (Romans 8:28), and give us strength, we’ll find ourselves satisfied in any circumstance. 

Reflection questions

  • In what areas of your life do you feel dissatisfied?
  • What does your dissatisfaction reveal about your relationship with God?

You tend to be isolated

24 Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. 25 This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.

Hebrews 10:24-25 TPT

One of the first things we let go of when we are fatigued and tired is connection with others. We start isolating instead of being vulnerable and expressing our hearts and needs with our friends and family. This scripture teaches that we must “discover creative ways to encourage others” and “not pull away” or “neglect meeting together.”

How have you isolated yourself from relationships?  

You are insecure

7 My salvation and my significance depend ultimately on God; the core of my strength, my shelter, is in the True God.

Psalm 62:7 Voice
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When we are distant from God, we become insecure. Insecurity is a result of us searching for significance in people, possessions, and accomplishments. We think these will make us confident, but we soon become empty searching for more.  

When we choose to make God the primary relationship where we get our encouragement, love, and confidence we become internally strong and emotionally secure. We feel safer in our human relationships because we know God always loves us. 

Where do you tend to search for significance? How do you think this affects your level of insecurity?

You lack self-control

7 God gave us his Spirit. And the Spirit doesn’t make us weak and fearful. Instead, the Spirit gives us power and love. He helps us control ourselves.

2 Timothy 1:7 NIRV

Self-control is a spiritual power that comes only from God. When we choose to rely on ourselves instead of God, we’ll lack self-control and start to let ourselves go.

We might let ourselves go in our finances, our health, our emotions, in our sinful patterns, or in our thoughts.

Reflection questions 

  • Do you see any areas of your life in which you’ve let yourself go?
  • How will your relationship with God help you gain self-control?

We all experience tiredness of the soul. The key is knowing the signs and learning where to go to get replenished. The good news is the Bible promises that God is able to refresh and renew us when we see our needs and ask him for help.

31 Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired.

Isaiah 40:31 GW
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3 ways to get your soul refreshed:

  1. Persistent Prayers (Luke 11:9-10)
  2. Powerful Obedience (Psalms 19:7-11)
  3. Passionate Relationships (Philemon 1:7)

Practical tips

  • Study out the book of John to increase your faith.
  • Take time to pray and ask God for rest and renewal.
  • Share with a friend what you learned from this study and decide together to keep each other rejuvenated and full of the faith you need to keep going.

Further reading

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Scott has over two decades of experience working in the ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife Messer are raising two teenagers, while working to grow their local community through mentorship and community service.

10 Ways to Know If Your Soul Is Tired 15

Scott has over two decades of experience working in the ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife Messer are raising two teenagers, while working to grow their local community through mentorship and community service.

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