June 11, 2016

Rest from burdens

Because I’m feeling extremely tired, today’s verse is a welcome Word from the Lord.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Jesus gives this invitation without a specific context. That is, there is no mention of what kind of labor or heavy load He is talking about. Is it physical work? Is it an emotional burden? Is He talking about those who labor to earn their salvation?

He does not say. Some apply it to spiritual matters only. Others look at it more broadly. I tend toward the latter approach, but Chambers seems to think this passage is about dealing with the burden of sin. Again, Jesus says, “Come to me” without saying why, only describing that burdened people can do that, and should do that.

As for me, I’m applying it to my physical situation. I’m fresh from a procedure that restored normal rhythm to my heart using electricity. It left me feeling as anyone would feel after being electrocuted. I have the red marks to show where the current jolted me. Also, my heart-related symptoms became worse when I expected them to improve. This might be impatience, but there is an addition burden of fluid retention. It is increasing, not decreasing. Again, I might be impatient, but “labor and heavy laden” resonates.

Aside from the normal response of “what do I do now?” and questions about going to the clinic, or the ER, or to my regular doctor, I’m asking, “How does Jesus want me to think in this onerous situation?” What does He want me to do?

As I look at the verse, it seems clear that He wants me to live with this in His state of mind, with Him alongside me, not filled with anxiety and weighed down into greater fatigue. If there is sin involved, it is the sin of trying to carry this load by myself, which is futile when the everlasting God offers to share my load.

As the verse says, when I am yoked with Jesus and learning about Him, I will rediscover that He is gentle (meek, mild, not feisty) and lowly in heart (humble, not arrogant or prideful) and His burden is light (pleasantly easy to carry).

The other point of this statement is in the meaning of ‘rest.’ It cannot be interpreted as ‘living without working’ or getting a vacation. Obviously, Jesus does not think like we do or approach problems the same way. People who are tired out by their work generally think the solution is a break from work. Jesus does not talk that way. His solution is sharing the work with Him, learning how He thinks about the difficult tasks, and taking on the work with His attitude instead of our own.

This is about trust, not about a change in the burden. Instead, our sense of well-being comes from God, not from a lighter load, or no load at all. Nehemiah says that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and Isaiah says “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

I came to Jesus this morning wanting Him to ‘fix it’ but now realize that is not always part of His plan. Sometimes He wants me to rise above the burdens and heavy loads. In any case, He will guide my decisions. If He wants me to go to my doctor, He will push me in that direction. If He wants me to have a nap, He will make that clear too.

Today, I am reminded again that as I trust Him, He puts peace and joy in my heart — and with it His lighter burden and His greater strength.

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