Why is my burden not light?

I believe that one of the most frustrating Scriptures in the whole Bible for many Christians is from Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus says this:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon me 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


Many Christians certainly are not carrying easy burdens or feel that being yoked together with Jesus makes their lives easy. A yoke is a thing you put between two animals, for instance oxen, to make sure that they work closely together. Jesus uses the illustration of a yoke to say that when we are abiding in him (John 15), and we’re allowing him to do his work with us and through us, our lives are easy. They are not burdensome and hard. Circumstances may be difficult, but there is a promise of peace and joy and a life where stress is not controlling us that Jesus holds in front of us.

Jesus’ secret

How do we get to that place where we can experience what Jesus talked about? If we look through a few Scriptures we see that Jesus’ secret was fairly simple, but very profound nonetheless: he knew exactly who he was! When you know who you are in Christ, you can experience the very same peace and easy life as Christ did even when circumstances are difficult and people may misunderstand or ridicule you. Philippians 2:5-8 talks about Jesus’ attitude of humility in this way: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Jesus was the perfect example of humility as he, the everlasting God and creator of everything laid down his deity and became a man totally dependent on his Father in heaven. Christ was as dependent on his Father in Heaven as we are today. He needed to hear who he really was. This took place at Jesus’ baptism, which preceded any ministry Jesus did: “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased“. We all need to hear this voice call us the Beloved. We all need to hear that God is well pleased with us. We all need to know that we are loved just the way we are, not the way we could or should be or the way we hope to become some day. 

Rest and calling

Jesus started his ministry knowing who he was. He was the Son of God, and he knew that his Father was well pleased with him. He knew where to get his strength and comfort from, and he knew that no matter what situation he would be faced with, he would never be in a place or with people that his Father didn’t want him to encounter. This was a place of safety and confidence. When you know who you truly are, you have nothing to be afraid of. It doesn’t matter what happens to you, you can trust that nothing comes your way that your Father in Heaven hasn’t got good purposes in. And you can rest in the fact that God truly knows what’s best for you and me. Jesus knew his mission on earth and proclaimed it in this way quoting the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19) When you know who you are, you’re ready to step into the particular mission God has for you. God has a calling on your life. There is something unique that God wants to do through you. And when you know who you are, you can rest in your calling no matter how scary that calling may look like. I have seen this in my own life where I know the rest I have begun to feel these past few years regarding the calling from God to lead and teach that he gave me almost six years ago. You can read more about that in my blog entry about God’s detours


Listen to what God tells you to do

Jesus was functioning like a human being while he was here on this earth. He lived in complete dependency of his Father, and he knew that he needed to connect with his Father on a regular basis to be up for all the challenges life here brought him. Hebrews 4:12 talks about that Jesus was tempted in every way just like any other man. Of course the only difference was that he never gave into these temptations and sinned against his Father. He chose perfect obedience to his Father, and he chose to always listen to what his Father was telling him to do, thus modeling for us how we are to live if we want to experience the abundant life, and the peace and rest that Jesus promised his followers: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Imagine that Jesus could be so surrendered to his Father that he could say that he did nothing by himself. We can live like this as well. When we know who we are in Christ, and we learn to recognize the voice of our Shepherd (John 10) who calls us by our new name, we can learn to be more and more dependent on him. We can learn to wait on him, and ask him to be the one guiding us into the good deeds which he has prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), and we can come to the place in our walk with God where we can pray like Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane where his fear of being tortured and killed was overcome by his willingness to trust and obey his Father’s will for him: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)

When you know that nothing in the kingdom of God is ever dependent on your abilities, strengths, weaknesses or anything that originates in you and your own strength. When you know that the life of a disciple is a life where it’s okay to admit your neediness, it’s okay to admit that you’re weak in yourself, you are free to abide and rest in Christ and accept that apart from Christ you can produce nothing of lasting, eternal value (John 15:5), and you can allow him to do his work through you. When that happens your burden is easy and your life is light. You don’t have to worry and be filled with fear about the future or even about today, because you grow in understanding that God knows best, and that he will take you to the places you need to go to in order to experience more of what is already yours. You’re already a co-heir with Christ to all the heavenly blessings, and when you rest in him, you can experience that no task is too hard for you, because success in the kingdom of God is never dependent on you and your abilities.

I have enjoyed learning more about resting in God. I have experienced more of this lightness and ease of the life of a Christian. I used to think it was terribly hard, and quite frankly I thought that Jesus was lying when he talked about this rest in the verse I began this blog entry with. Or at least I thought that this rest was only available for other people. Not for me. I thank God that he has showed me more of how a life surrendered to him looks like. And I thank God that he is not done teaching me.

Blessings, Torben

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