“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. Matthew 11:28-30
It is not a mystery to you that life is a weighty matter. How could it not be with what life expects from you? The normal demands of life are seldom a cakewalk. We joke about Murphy’s Law as little things go wrong, but the big things are not a joke. And many of the big things are not a two day worry; some are a lifetime worry. Many learn to roll with the punches. “That’s life is the common refrain. But the statistics tell us that not everyone is able to just “roll with the punches indefinitely; the house of our own psyche can and will come tumbling down in one form or another. The human mind and body is remarkable in its construct to withstand pain and to repair itself over and over, but there are those who fall by the wayside or do not recover completely.
Life is weighty in two ways: It is a proposition of great seriousness and glory (the weight of glory), yet its very nature places heavy psychological, physical, and/or spiritual burdens on your back. You bear responsibilities for others and others bear responsibilities for you; no man is an island. Though 48% of us by poll say we are very stressed, it is more likely that all of us feel the burden of stress in one fashion or another. Every 16 seconds, one of your American neighbors will take their life because the burdens of living are too great. The use of antidepressants has grown by 400% over the last fifteen years. The social causes for which people protest as alleged victims of some injustice or discrimination have proliferated astronomically to the point that all of society is adversely impacted. Additionally, all of us bear on our backs the burdens of the circumstances of our lives, whether physical, economical, relational, or spiritual. The burdens are real, and they are unrelentingly wearying to the body and soul.
In many of our lives, there are oases of comfort, solace, and rest, but they do not pretend to be a condition of the whole. No man is care-free in his sojourn; even those who have experienced the freeing grace of the forgiveness of sins through a relationship with Jesus Christ are faced with the battlefield that is raging in this world, as well as the tests to their faith, purposed to purify them in the crucible of affliction. Half a millennium ago, John Bunyan wrote an allegory of life’s pilgrimage concerning a man, Pilgrim, who left his home with a heavy burden on his back. It was a burden that all of us bear from birth until, at the foot of the cross, the burden of sin fell off. Still, as Christian (Pilgrim) continued his journey through life, he had to battle the continuous attackers who incessantly tried to divert him from the path that led to his eternal home. (John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most read books in English literature, second to the Bible.) The burdens of this life are undeniable, so Jesus has a universal audience when he addresses those who are weary and burdened, and he says, “Come unto me.
The promise of relief and rest is not a promise of the removal of the yoke of this life’s responsibilities incumbent upon you, but it is the exchange of yokes from yours to his. Yours is heavy to the point of exhaustion; his is in comparison easy, and his burden is a light one. The one who guides his yoke on you is gentle and humble. Before exchanging for his, your yoke is proud and irascible; it is harsh and unforgiving; it is wearying to the point of breakdown; it is, in a word, “unbearable!
The exchange of yokes is a matter of faith, genuine and earnest, not flippant or “take it or leave it, which essentially is no faith at all. Still, the offer of Jesus is a serious one; it is an authentic, open-arms offer with transformational power. You have to taste it to see it and believe it. It is no trial and error concern; rather, it is “all or nothing. Your burdens are no laughing matter; neither is his offer. It is the most serious thing you have to do within your life, and it needs to be treated as such. Your lack of commitment to such an offer from the true God shows you place no weight in his free offer. The verse prior to Jesus’ offer of relief from your burdens reads, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Will he choose to reveal God the Father to you? The answer to that is simple: Will you take him at his word and commit your whole life into his hands? This is what faith is.
“If I ask him to receive me, will he say me nay? Not till earth and not till heaven pass away.
“Finding, following, keeping, struggling is he sure to bless? Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs answer ‘Yes!’
(Last two verses of John Mason Neale’s hymn, “Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid, 1862)
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