July 12, 2013

Down-sizing the Soul

For many, it seems to be a year to down-size. Women of all ages tell me that getting rid of their excess stuff produces a sense of freedom and lightness that they never would have imagined. Unused and unwanted possessions put a burden on our lives that we don’t realize until that burden is removed.

Sin is like that. Sometimes I’m conscious of it, like when I want to control (instead of trusting God) and pile upon myself the burden of worry. I spend all my time and energy in a mental effort to change things with that burden robbing me of sleep and making me hard to live with. I’ve even toiled to gratify some sinful desire and found that my craving was left unfilled anyway, becoming another burden.

Sin can be an unconscious burden too. For years, I’ve carried frustrations that would not be there if I was obeying God. Once aware of my disobedience, these burdens morphed into guilt, also heavy.

Another weighty burden is the effort to earn God’s blessing. While I know I cannot save myself or earn my salvation, I’ve struggled with trying to please God by being or doing what I thought He wanted. I’ve even used my “good” as a bargaining chip so He would answer my prayers, piling excess responsibility on my soul. More than once, the Lord has said to me, “Get out of My to-do list.”

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

This verse brings those burdens to mind. God doesn’t want me to carry them. Instead, He explains that His load is lighter by using two words for burden. “Heavy laden” is the Greek word for cargo or shipment, while “my burden” is the word for the invoice.

One of the most challenging results of sinning is the guilt it creates. Guilt makes most people run and hide like Adam and Eve did, toiling to cover themselves and their shame. This shows an understanding of sin’s awful nature and that it deserves punishment, but it does not give the full picture. God forgives sin because of Jesus. Jesus took our punishment by experiencing the wrath of God Himself, for our sakes. Because He died, we can live.

We can also call out this good news to others who carry that same burden…

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

Sin, if not abandoned, will have consequences. For those who do not know Christ, it is eternal.

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)

For those of us who do know Christ and have His promise of eternal life, the consequences of sin are in this life. That is, sin heaps on me burdens that I cannot bear. God’s invitation for me is the same: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

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