[Today’s devotion about laying down burdens is from the Weekend Word devotional series. Come back every Saturday for fresh insights for God’s Word. To have these devotions delivered straight to your inbox, don’t forget to follow my blog via WordPress or email!]
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV).
” . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
“I should be in a better place than this by now.”
In the short skit “Trash” by onetimeblind, we see a woman desperately clinging to her “trash”: her burdens, sin, and guilt. (If you haven’t clicked the link to watch the skit, do it if you have time. Then, don’t forget to come back!) She’s having a difficult time giving it to Jesus, and even when she does let it go, she picks some of it right back up.
Imagine for a second that the trash bag is your own pain, sorrow, or guilt.
Have you ever said that same line to yourself: “I should be in a better place than this by now.”?
Is your “trash” affecting your thought patterns, the way you interact with others, and the way you do your work/ministry?
Negative experiences and trying times can stick with us. While we can and should grow from them, when we don’t have the right skills to handle these things, they can cause lasting pain and sometimes derail our lives. They become our “trash” or burdens.
These burdens are often too difficult to bear.
In Matthew chapter 11, Jesus addresses an audience that was trying to bear an impossible burden. The people of Israel were struggling to keep the arduous standards the Pharisees had imposed on them so that they could be acceptable to God. This burden, or heavy “yoke” as the passage refers to it, was too much for them.
Our burdens, when we try to bear them alone, become overwhelming. These burdens can be a multitude of things, from self-imposed guilt or shame to the hurtful words of others or a painful event. Whatever burden you’re bearing, it’s likely weighing heavily on your soul.
These burdens aren’t meant to be borne by us alone.
For years, I held onto the burden of the fear of failure. Harsh words spoken to me by a person I respected stole my confidence and clouded my perception of my ability to succeed. Through accepting this person’s words as truth, I had given them power over me and my future.
I’ve recently been reading through the book Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller. (Check it out if you get a chance!) My not-quite-does-it-justice synopsis of the book is that it teaches you how to identify parts of yourself that are causing you pain and turn them into your allies, all from a spiritual perspective.
As I read the chapter on unburdening these parts, I focused in on the part of myself that was fearing failure. I finally felt that I could unburden this part and give the fear I had been holding onto for years to Jesus.
Asking God for direction on how to release this burden, the idea came to me that I should write a letter (that I don’t plan on mailing) to the person who spoke those harsh words to me. As I laid out all my feelings in that letter with complete honesty, I began to experience a sense of lightness and freedom that I hadn’t felt before.
That night I had a dream.
In the dream, the person who hurt me no longer had power over me. Even though they kept trying to bring me down, their efforts were futile.
When I awoke in the morning, I had a sense that something was different. I thought about my future, an endeavor that frequently incited fear in my heart, and finally sensed peace. For the first time in years, I felt like I could succeed. And that even if failure occurred, I would be okay.
When the people of Israel were weighed down by the heavy yoke of the Pharisees, Jesus instructed them to take up His own yoke, a yoke that is light and easy. While they would still face trials (John 16:33), as children of God, those trials would be bearable.
How do we lay down our burdens and take up Jesus’ yoke? First Peter 5:7 gives us a clue: ” . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
All our anxieties, cares, and worries weigh us down. The Greek word for “anxieties” in this passage is merimna, and it is a cognate of the word merizó, which to my amazement, but not complete surprise, means to “divide into parts.” Our burdens are not only weighing us down but also causing inner turmoil.
Does giving your burdens to God sound like the obvious Sunday School answer? It certainly does, but even though I knew in my head that that was what I needed to do, I still held onto my burden for several years. I tried several times to put it down, but I never felt free from it.
Maybe you’ve held onto your burdens for just as long. Maybe longer.
Don’t give up. Even if it’s difficult to release it, you don’t need to bear that burden forever. Prayerfully consider how to give it to God, and let Jesus give you rest from your inner turmoil.
Today’s Thoughts: What burden are you currently bearing? Consider all the ways it might be affecting your life. Are you ready to let it go? If not, what might help you to be ready? If you are, what could you do to give that burden to Jesus? How would your life change if you could release that burden?