October 8, 2016

Rest for the weary

In a Bible study group, I passed around a small box with a large, heavy stone inside it. The box had a piece of paper on the top that described the contents. Each person was surprised by its weight and only too eager to pass it to the next person. Then I read this passage to them and told them about the meaning of the words . . .

“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)

The first burden Jesus referred to is a heavy load, like a crate lifted unto a barge, or like the box we had just passed around. The second word is about the burden that Jesus called light. It is more like the invoice on the crate, the piece of paper on the box. He invites the heavy laden to take up His yoke, yet clearly says that He carries the heavy part whereas we carry only the invoice.

When I go to prayer, this helps me. I am easily overwhelmed by the daily news and the daily needs of the people on my heart. Children all over the world suffer from disease, loss of parents, being put out of their homes by floods, earthquakes, or fires, and are in constant danger from many threats. Entire populations suffer under corrupt leadership and bands of thieves who take whatever they want from them. Climate change is producing adverse weather patterns and storms that rip apart homes and destroys lives.

While I pray, I know that those who suffer also need to know the God who answers prayer. Suffering may never go away, but when the Prince of peace comes in, the burdens are bearable. However, most of the world seems oblivious to the power of God and His great love for us. Instead, they look at the disasters and shake their fist in His face.

Still He invites us to come — in our labor, with our heavy loads, with the cares of life big and small. He invites us to be yoked with Him, to learn from Him. He is gentle, humble, and brings rest to the soul, no matter how down-trodden and burdened that soul may feel.

Some refuse His invitations because they assume He will bring greater restraints and burdens into their lives, but this is not what Jesus says. His burdens are easy, light, and sometimes downright delightful. The enemy of our souls whispers contrary lies. The mocking world around us is blind to the beauty of Jesus. Our own reasoning and excuse-making dupes us into turning the grace of this invitation into something repulsive.

These realities also burden my heart, yet as Jesus said, it is not unbearable. My part of the yoke is to do what He asks — come to Him, give Him my load and in exchange, He gives me that invoice that tells me He has accepted the burden and will do with it as needed.

Such a simple solution to problems, mine and theirs: Come to Jesus, all who labor and are heavy laden, and He will give us rest.

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