The Blessing of Burdens
Many moons ago, I lived and worked seasonally in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. My job was simple and menial – I sold overpriced food and camping supplies to tourists coming through Sequoia National Park. No one there came for the job, though. Most of us were hikers and climbers, searching for the special community that forms in and around hundreds of miles of trails and square footage of rock faces. Our schedule afforded us a full two days off in a row every week and we took advantage of this time to explore the vastness of the park in all its beauty. The rivers that rushed down from the snow pack high above the tree line, the massive meadows covered in grass and wildflowers, the remote lakes that were freezing in the middle of the summer and offered a chilling respite from the heat of a long hike – these places were our playground, our home.
On workdays we would sometimes go on shorter hikes in the afternoon. While these jaunts were nice, you really needed to get out a few miles to get to the splendors of the backcountry. The crowds were much smaller and the views were much more spectacular when you got at least a full day’s hike out from the trailhead. To do this, though, our packs were necessarily much heavier. We had food, clothes, sleeping bags, and other supplies needed for nights in the wilderness. Even if we kept it minimal, our packs weighed a good bit if we were going out for multiple days. To go deeper in the wilderness, we needed more weight in our packs.
Like those packs, we often carry burdens of all kinds through our lives. They can be varied for each person; some may weigh heavier for you than they would for your neighbor. That sin you can’t seem to let go of? Put it in the pack. The judgement with which you look at other people? Put it in the pack. The prodigal child that has been off in the borderlands for years with no return in sight? Put it in. A childhood picture of God with no compassion or grace, only wrath? Put it in. The broken relationship with someone you love dearly but don’t like all that much right now? Put it on in. The addiction that seems to control your every waking moment? Put it in. The list of burdens that we carry is too long begin naming them all.
On top of the burdens we carry, many people have the idea that these are the very things that we can’t bring to the Lord! Many feel as though they have to be cleansed and pure of heart before they walk into church or go to Jesus in prayer. The reality of God is the amazing fact that just the opposite is true. In Matthew, Jesus calls to us – the sinner – with words that tell us just how much he loves us. “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” (Matt. 11:28-30). You don’t need to be free of your burdens to answer Jesus’ call to come to him – your burden is actually what qualifies you to come! When we come to Christ in humility, torn wide open by trying to save ourselves and heal ourselves, then our discipleship truly begins. It’s at this moment that our cries are honest and open, and this is when the healing and transformation begins in ways that are deeper than we could have ever imagined. This is the beginning of freedom, by God’s grace.
On those hikes when our packs were heavy with the weight of all the stuff we carried, we were able to go deeper into the woods and experience the Sierra Nevada in new ways. The terrain we covered was often unknown and exciting, and we weren’t always sure of our destination. When we recognize what we have in our spiritual packs – all of the burdens we’re carrying through our days and weeks, the fears and anxiety of a future unknown, the loss of a job – and know in our hearts that Jesus wants to walk with us and help us lessen the load, then we begin to know and see him as Savior. Our relationship with God and our neighbor deepens. Pray today that Jesus’ words enlighten your heart and know that God offers your restless mind and soul rest from the worries of the day, even if for a moment.