“There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book, and the tired man who wants a book to read.” 

(G. K. Chesterton; English writer, Christian apologist; d. 1936)

If I’m reading Chesterton correctly, he was distinguishing two types of motivation. One form of motivation comes when we’re energetic, when we have a clear schedule, and when we find something interesting. Doing what we want to do when conditions are ideal is easy.

The other form of motivation comes when we’re tired, when we don’t have a lot of time, and when we’re sorely lacking in enthusiasm. Doing what needs to be done, even if we’re not feeling it, is hard. But this is probably the highest form of motivation. We’re motivated not by external factors, but by internal forces. We’re motivated by the demands and concerns of character. We do something because it’s right, not because it’s easy.

A great illustration of this comes in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus is traveling with his apostles near a Samaritan village. He stops at Jacob’s well for a rest while the apostles go into town to buy food (v. 27, 31-33). While he’s resting, a Samaritan woman approaches the well to fill her waterpot for the day (v. 7). Jesus initiates a conversation with her by asking her for a drink (v. 7), then he steers the conversation toward the subject of living water (v. 10-14). By the end of the conversation, she leaves her waterpot behind, goes into town, and tells all her friends about Jesus (v. 28-30).

At the beginning of the story, John tells us that Jesus “wearied” from his travels (v. 6). The verb means to be spent from arduous labor. The form of the verb suggests that he had already grown weary and continued to be weary. He was exhausted. 

I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired, I don’t want to socialize. The last thing I want to do is strike up a conversation with random strangers in public places. I don’t want to think lofty, theological thoughts. I want to sit in a quiet spot and be left alone. I want to be a lump.

Jesus’ example reminds me that to love my neighbor as myself means that if I have a chance to help someone else, I should go for it. If I have an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, I should seize the moment. In other words, I should be motivated by something other than my feelings and circumstances. I should be motivated by love for God and love for my neighbor. 

I’m not saying (and neither did Jesus) that we can never take a vacation or never unplug. That’s not the case at all (see, Matthew 14.22-23; Mark 6.31; Luke 5.16). But it does remind us that when we’re tired and presented with an opportunity to do good, we mustn’t let fatigue make the decision. Whatever we decide, we should do it because it’s the right thing to do.