Taking Care of Burdens
By Charles F. Stanley
We were not designed to carry the weight of our own struggles.
Have you ever watched people endure painful burdens and heartache in life? If so, you might have noticed that some face trials with a remarkably positive attitude while others are shattered by their difficulties. Since no one's life is entirely free of hardships, it is important to understand how God wants us to bear them.
There are three different sources for the struggles we encounter. Sometimes they are situations we bring upon ourselves, while other times they are purely the work of the Devil. Some tests, meanwhile, come directly from God's hand.
Our challenges vary greatly: a single Christian mom may have the awesome responsibility of raising children in an ungodly world that seeks to destroy them; an angry misunderstanding may leave the head of a household without a job; or a past sin can result in deep scars of guilt that weigh a person down. Regardless of the type of problem or its source, the question is, How are we to handle the burdens that come our way?
Jesus never vows to totally remove our difficulty, but He promises to deal with our trial in such a way that we no longer have to carry its weight. Some distressing situations—like terminal illness, caring for a disabled relative, or the death of a loved one—are permanent, as far as this life is concerned. Some people might find the idea of an ongoing trial discouraging, but the Christian must remember that we are not to handle these matters in our own strength. God wants to lift our load and carry it for us. He personally invites every one of us who is weary to find refreshment in Him. (1 John 5:3)
Of course, all of us would prefer to bypass painful circumstances, but the Lord knows that our hardships and heartaches—the things we are unable to handle on our own—form the fertile soil for our spiritual growth and increasing dependence upon Him. How can we know Jesus Christ as the burden-bearer unless we get under a burden ourselves, try to deal with it our own way, and then experience the relief of letting Him carry its weight?
Oftentimes, the difficulties God has sent or allowed in my life have been so unpleasant that I prayed He would remove them. However, when I looked back later and realized all that my suffering had taught me about the Lord, I prayed, "Thank You that You knew better than I did. Thank You for not making it easy."
It goes without saying that we all prefer a comfortable and trouble-free life, but what we have to ask is, Do I want what the flesh wants, which is ease, comfort, and pleasure, or do I want to become the godly person God wants me to be? It's a choice all believers have to make.
At the same time, while hardships are to be expected, we should recognize God never intended that the Christian life itself be difficult. (John 16:33) He wants us to know that, no matter what our burden is, when we come to Him, He will lift the weight of it if we allow Him to do so.
Whenever you are dealing with a heavy burden, turn to Matthew 11:28-30 for God's wisdom on how to proceed: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." From this passage, we can learn four steps to take.
Humble Yourself. It is humbling to admit you are struggling with a problem you cannot handle. Some people will not let down their façade of being in control; they insist they can and will handle the situation, no matter what. But there are burdens in life that no person in his or her own strength can bear successfully. Why do you think drugs are so prevalent and bars are full? There is nothing happy about "Happy Hour," which caters to people trying to run from inescapable burdens. The world's answer is often to seek help by means of substances, a new relationship, or perhaps a dishonest act or statement—none of these work.
God's solution, on the other hand, is simply "Come." Christ is the one-stop place for burdens—He and He alone is able to deal with your affliction, but first you must admit that you have the problem. True humility, in fact, occasionally involves more than opening up to the Lord; He may also want you to share your burden with someone He has sent to help you carry it. Oftentimes the barrier to God's help is that we are too proud.
Submit. After talking about our being heavy-laden, Jesus says, "Take My yoke upon you." His audience's first reaction must have been, "Wait a minute! He is making His appeal to people who feel burdened under the weight of life's cares, and He says to take a yoke upon us?" The piece of equipment described here was a wood log shaped to harness two oxen and keep them locked together so that they share the load being carried. In the Scriptures, a yoke also implied slavery or an obligation. But Jesus is not speaking of adding to our burden. Instead, He is telling us to submit to His will; then, when we get in the yoke with Him, we can walk together and pull together. In fact, when we submit to Christ, our load will lighten because our omnipotent Lord will bear the weight of it.
However, we cannot simply cast our care upon the Lord and walk away, free of the burden—that is not how God works. We must also submit ourselves to Him. After all, what are burdens? They are not just problems that can be surgically eliminated from our life; rather, they are the way we think and the feelings that weigh us down. The only way the Lord will lift your burden is by getting under the load with you; then when you submit yourself to Him, He will begin to control you! The weight of your problem will eventually disappear because you will start responding to your situation in a totally different fashion. If you want Him to take your burden, He must have all of you, not simply the problem you want removed. As you allow Christ to control you, He will, in fact, be dealing with your burden.
Learn of Him. Jesus tells us that He wants us to walk in unison with Him under His yoke of love. We can move in step with the Lord only as we learn about who He is, which is prerequisite to our being able to obey Him. It would be a terrible contradiction to think that we could unload our heartaches and problems on God and then proceed to live any sinful way we want. The reason we keep living under the weight of burdens is that we are not submissive to Him, but rather insist on having our own way.
If a Christian sins against the Lord, the Holy Spirit will convict that person of wrongdoing. All of a sudden, there will be no peace, no joy, and no fellowship with the heavenly Father. It becomes painfully obvious that something is wrong as the child of God feels a burden of conviction. In order to be released from the weight of that load, the believer may need to make a specific decision to end a behavior that he or she would prefer to continue.
Trust. While God does not say He will remove the burden, verse 29 promises what He will give: rest for our soul. Lugging around a weighty problem is like taking a mountain hike with a 100-pound knapsack strapped to our back—before long, we become fatigued and discouraged, and we can easily start to despair. Our caring Father offers relief so that we will no longer be worn and weary. As you trust God and begin to act on His most generous offer, you place yourself in a position to receive His promised blessings.
Trusting God with our burden does not mean we will never give another thought to the situation. Rather, we will start thinking about it in a new light: the light of the person of Jesus Christ, who is our sufficiency; the light of the promises of God, who has pledged not to let the righteous be shaken (Psalm 55:22); the light of His power, which allows you to tackle the challenge and keep going. Trusting God lessens our load.
Are you carrying an oppressive burden today? Jesus Christ is offering you another way. Remember that His yoke is light. It will not bend you, break you, or destroy you. On the contrary, submission to the Lord will actually lift you up. Let God take the weight of the burden you were never meant to carry by yourself. In exchange, He will give you the Holy Spirit's power to enable you to face any of life's challenges.
Have you ever considered how the intangible baggage of past experiences and sin hinders your journey with Christ? Hebrews 12:1-3 compares the Christian life to a race and encourages believers to "lay aside" those things that impede their progress. (Watch Unloading Your Baggage.)
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