Tag: burden

a boulder in the ocean

Psalm 93

I walk around with a boulder on my shoulders.

Its weight is familiar. I am accustomed to carrying it. I can’t imagine how my arms would feel without this weight pressing down upon them.

I wonder if I can put it down somewhere, for just a little bit of relief. But I can’t do that, can I? After all, it is mine. Could someone else actually handle its weight? It seems I was the one meant to bear this load.

Sometimes I look around and feel proud. My boulder seems bigger than other people’s rocks. I bet they couldn’t handle the size of this load. I must be important if I’m the one who’s been trusted to carry something like this.

Then, I hear a whisper.

“Yes, this rock was given to you. But not so you could carry it, so you could throw it.”

I make my way to the ocean, build up the courage, and heave the stone into the water. What seemed gigantic on my shoulders gets swallowed up in the vastness of the sea.

And it begins to shrink.

A boulder may be large and heavy, but it is no match for the rhythmic force of the waves beating against its side. It will shrink and shrink and shrink until it becomes just one of the many pebbles dotting the shore.

The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.

– Psalm 93


That was my reflection on Psalm 93. Link up with your thoughts below. And stop back next week with thoughts on Psalm 94.

Come and Deny, Follow and Rest

 

Is there anything in this world that calls us to deny ourselves?

 

We buy what we want, fight for what we don’t have, and clamor to make it to the top. The more we have, the happier we will be, right? Doesn’t true contentment come with the fulfillment of our desires?

 

The problem is, our desires are insatiable. And we exhaust ourselves trying to fill up on them.

 

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have never been thin, and have cycled between overweight and average-sized as I have walked through different seasons. When I have been on the larger side of that spectrum, I have looked at pictures of the smaller me and been filled with “if only” thoughts. If only I could be that size again I would be so much happier.

 

But when I was that size did I actually feel happier? No. I wanted to be smaller.

 

When we achieve what we desire, we only become more aware of the next lurking hunger. Contentment often waits just outside our grasp, taunting us to reach further in order to find it.

 

The story is told that when John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, was asked how much money was enough, he replied: “A little bit more.”

 

Enter the words of Jesus,

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

In the context of our me-centric world, this call sounds so radical. And it brings with it a question:

 

Is it worth it?

 

What if following Jesus makes our lives miserable? His demands are too high. It seems like too much.

 

But then I think of something else Jesus said.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

 

What if we intertwined these verses? This call to come and this call to follow? Would we see the give and take a little differently?

 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 and Matthew 16:24-26

 

Our souls are lost. Drifting and weary from the burden of looking out for ourselves.

 

There is a peace found in the confidence of letting go. When we trust in a God who became one of us in order to demonstrate the depth of His love.

 

strivingWe can stop striving. And worrying. And clamoring. And pushing others down. And working ourselves to exhaustion as we try to prove that we are good enough.

 

We are loved. We can rest in that and focus our energy on loving others.

 

When we follow Jesus, we can deny ourselves not because we should, but because we want to.

 

Counter-intuitively, the burden of living for Jesus is lighter than the burden of living for ourselves.  This light burden does not mean our life will always be easy. This is not a promise of happiness, but of peace.

 

It is possible to find rest for our souls.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

What does it mean to be gentle and humble, anyway?

Being self-centered is exhausting.

I’m not sure if you can relate. Maybe not. Maybe you’re not as self-centered as I am.

When I get dressed in the morning, I worry about what others will think of the outfit I choose. When I’m out with my kids, I worry about what others will think of their behavior. When I blog, I worry about what others will think of my writing.

When I get to the end of my day, I get stressed if I was not able to do everything I wanted to do. When I go to the store, I get discontent if I am not able to buy everything I want. When I think about friendships, I get frustrated if I feel like someone hasn’t contacted me in awhile.

Me, me, me.
I consume my own thoughts.

Reaching higher. Striving for more. Seeking validation. Maintaining appearances.  

Worry. Stress. Discontentment.

It all makes me tired. And it becomes a heavy burden to bear.

To those like me, Jesus makes an offer.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you 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.” –Matthew 11:28-30

First, Jesus wants to remind us that we don’t need to earn God’s grace. We don’t need to work harder, be better, or keep up happy appearances in order for God to love us. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t need to strive. We need only believe. We can rest in what has already been done.

But I believe Jesus is offering more than rest for our eternal souls. I believe He is offering rest for our daily living. An escape from the weight of our own self-centeredness.

Jesus’ “I am” statement in this verse is “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Gentle is often misunderstood. We often think it means passive. But that cannot be true if Jesus used that word to describe Himself. In other places, we see that Jesus was not afraid to rebuke and start fights when necessary.

Gentle is the Greek word “praos,” closely related to the word translated “meek” in the Sermon on the Mount. This idea of gentleness or meekness has to do with our attitude towards God. It means we accept what God does without resisting. We trust that God is good. We rely on God’s strength and not our own.

Humility is also often misunderstood. Many think of humility as meaning we don’t think well of ourselves. But that cannot be true if Jesus used this word to describe Himself. In other places, we see Jesus being confident in His identity, and confident in the role His Father called Him to play.

C.S. Lewis gives a great definition of humility,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

Jesus says, I am gentle and humble. Learn from Me.

Learn to trust what God does.
Learn to follow what God says.
Learn to notice what God sees.
Learn to love what God loves.

And in this, find rest.

To be honest, this concept is still a struggle for me. But I have had glimpses. Some of my happiest days have been ones when I have set aside my own agenda. Some of my most meaningful days have been ones when I have looked for ways to help others.

I have felt the lightness of the gentle and humble yoke.

But then I worry, and take my heavy and self-centered yoke back.

But I think that’s okay. Jesus says “learn from me.” That means there’s a journey. After all, if we take this analogy further, an ox doesn’t wear the yoke 24-7. Each day, the master puts it back on. Each day, I have the choice of which yoke to take.

Hopefully, I can be smart enough to take the light one more often than not.

This is what Jesus saying “I am gentle and humble in heart.” reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, Have you ever been an outsider?

*Photo Credit: Drongowski on Flickr Creative Commons.

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