In the hills of Tennessee, there is a breed of goats known as "fainting goats.” They have a genetic condition called myotonia congenita that causes them to occasionally fall over as if they are dead—just suddenly drop right where they are, with their legs stiff and sticking straight out. Despite their name, they are not really fainting. They are fully conscious when it happens. In fact, they are not hurt at all, and in only a few seconds, they are able to get up and continue on with their lives.
The goats’ condition is at times comical because of what causes them to faint. It can happen over the slightest thing. I watched a compilation video of them, and in one of the clips, a baby goat fainted when he got too excited on his way to the feeding trough. In another clip, an owner was standing in front of five or six goats and made a sudden movement with his hands—and they all fell over! It was hilarious.
Most of the time, Christians who have fainted will eventually recover and continue on. However, that state of extreme weakness leaves one vulnerable to attack, and for that reason it is dangerous.
Today I would like us to consider a condition that could be called “fainting Christians.” When the word faint is used in the Bible, it denotes a state of exhaustion, one who has grown too weary to continue, or one who has become paralyzed with fear. It is usually describing a physical state, but there is a clear spiritual parallel. In the spiritual sense, fainting refers to one who has grown weary of life, perhaps discouraged, and lacks the strength to take even one more step forward in faith. This is not a spiritual death, which would be caused by rebelling against God. Most of the time, Christians who have fainted will eventually recover and continue on. However, that state of extreme weakness leaves them vulnerable to attack, and for that reason it is dangerous.
As I was watching the Tennessee goats, I wondered how God sees Christians when we are fainting. What does He think about situations that we find overwhelming? Of course, the causes are different for every person, and some are more serious than others, but none of our problems are overwhelming to God. Sometimes, it seems that if the devil just waves his hand at us, we faint! While fainting goats may be funny, it is not funny when a Christian faints. Thankfully, the Bible gives us both the diagnosis and the cure for fainting Christians, so we do not have to live with this condition forever.
The diagnosis and the cure
Why do believers faint? It is not because of myotonia congenita, but it is a real condition and the diagnosis is given in Proverbs 24:10, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” The problem is not that our trials are too big, but that our strength is too small.
Now that we have a diagnosis, we can look to God’s Word for the cure, which we find in Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” If we are fainting, we need to wait on the Lord. When we do that, He has promised that our strength will be renewed and we will no longer be weary.
Waiting on the Lord means keeping our faith in Him when something we desire is withheld or delayed, including the resolution of a trial. This is not a simple skill that we can learn in a single Bible study or even a single experience. It is a multi-faceted skill that God teaches us over time. It involves exercising the faith that He gave us at salvation. Just like muscles have to be used and exercised in order to grow, our faith must be challenged in order for it to grow, and God allows situations for that purpose. As our faith increases, we can wait on Him for longer periods of time.
We cannot wait for our trials to end in order to find rest and be renewed. Rather, we are waiting on God to give us supernatural strength while He uses life’s trials to accomplish His purposes in His time.
It is important to understand that we cannot wait for our trials to end in order to find rest and be renewed. Rather, we are waiting on God to give us supernatural strength while He uses life’s trials to accomplish His purposes in His time. The length of our trials will not matter if God’s limitless power sustains us. So when challenges come, we cannot focus on the difficulties, the losses, or the sacrifices. We must turn our faces to God alone. Fainting does not happen when we are feeling strong and everything is going great, but in the moments when we are at our weakest. There may be tears of sorrow streaming down our faces. There may be no one to support us. Perhaps people will even try to deter us. None of this will change the outcome as long as we are waiting on God and looking to Him. He will supply as much strength as we need.
Individuals who do not wait on the Lord are those who choose to move forward with their own plans, their own wisdom, and ultimately their own strength. They will soon find out that their strength is limited, and it is only a matter of time before they faint spiritually. They may give up on church, blame fellow believers, question God—these are all the signs of a fainting spell. But anyone can break free from the cycle of fainting through the cure found in God’s Word.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about this cure is that it is in our own power to use it when we need it. As with medicine to treat a physical condition, just knowing about it, or even buying it, will not accomplish anything if we do not administer it. The cure for fainting Christians will work for any situation that could cause one to faint, but we must follow through and actually wait on God. When this becomes difficult, the cry of our hearts must become, “Teach me, Lord, to wait!” If we are deeply committed to learning, God will help us. Then we will truly be able to run and not grow weary, through every wind of adversity.
Waiting in constant prayer
If we find ourselves fainting spiritually, we must check our prayer life, because prayer and communion with God is a source of strength for us. Even though God knows all things, He wants us to tell Him our needs, our requests, our thanks, our praises, and all of our concerns. Times of communion with Him become an opportunity for Him to teach us and change our perspective in ways that will help us through difficulties. Discouraging situations will not bring us down if we take them to the Lord in prayer.
This communication with God must be a daily practice. We are strengthened by a good prayer meeting, but without continued prayer, how long does that strength last? For a month? A week? A day? Eventually, it wears off. Our sense of peace that came from resting in Him diminishes, and our focus on the things of God wanes. All the while, life is still coming at us in full force! This is why we must maintain a spirit of prayer throughout the day. Luke 18:1 says, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” This verse confirms that all God’s people should be praying people, and speaking to God must be our constant daily habit.
We learn to be patient because God is patient. He is never in a hurry and never acts out of frustration.
The more we talk to God and listen to Him, the longer we can wait patiently on the Lord. We learn to be patient because God is patient. He is never in a hurry and never acts out of frustration. When we go to Him feeling overwhelmed, He is there for us, and often tells us things like, “Don’t worry, child. I’ve got this. Don’t be troubled by what others do, and don’t retaliate against attacks. Be still.”
Another benefit of regular communication with God is that we won’t be blindsided by trials. Unexpected events will still happen, but if we were talking to God moments before, He could prepare us so that we are not caught off guard. God can give us the assurance that He is in control and is working all things together for good in our lives.
We will not seek God’s face in vain. He is going to show up every time that we call on Him. Through prayer, God will settle and strengthen our spirits. Then, when the expected or the unexpected happens, we will continue to wait on Him and we will not faint.
In due season, we shall reap
God has a reward for those who do not faint. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” In this verse, “well doing” includes all types of obedience to God’s commands. The two greatest commandments that Jesus identified are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-41). Considering this, we understand that “well doing” could be spending time with God in His Word, attending church, assisting with church services, helping someone in need, sharing the Gospel with others—the list could go on and on. Loving our neighbors is a lot more than just being nice or praying for someone occasionally. It may require our time, it may cost us money, and it may make us uncomfortable. Sometimes, we may not want to do what God prompts us to do. However, it is important that we do not give up, because “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
How will we find the strength to continue in well doing? By waiting on the Lord. The key is to trust in His Word and maintain that constant communication with Him through prayer. If we do that, He has promised that we shall reap. The reward may come quickly or it may come later; that is not our concern because we are not waiting for rewards. We are waiting on God, and the reward will come “in due season” as long as we do not faint.
Imagine being able to run through our spiritual goals without growing weary—pressing on to our deeper experiences, serving God and ministering to others, and seeking His face continually. Fainting is a common problem for mankind, but today we have the cure. If we learn to wait on God, we will be able to keep going for months, years, and decades without tiring along the way. This is what God wants for us, and He will help us if we will follow the instructions He has given. When we are committed to learning to wait on Him, we will find ourselves running without growing weary, and walking without fainting.