“My Burden is Light”: Two Opposing Responses to God’s Will for Your Life
I’m in the little years. As I write this, my oldest is four and a half, my middle child is about to turn two, and my youngest is 10 months old. All three of them are huddled around me right now, and I have a feeling it’s going to take quite some time to get this article written.
In the past, I have often considered my children’s needs, which, as all mothers know can be relentless and unforgiving at times, to be demanding interruptions of the most mundane nature. Interruptions which inhibit productivity, disrupt functionality, and, most egregiously, deter me from reaching MY goals.
We’ve all been there. Weary of the incessantness of the requirements of motherhood on our time, body, intellect, heart, mind, soul, strength, and every ounce that’s left of our dwindlingly independent selves.
If this is how you feel today, I’m here to encourage you to recognize that you are holding onto an incorrect perspective of God’s design for your life and to provide an alternate perspective that is in keeping with the Truth of God’s Word.
But before I begin, I want to be very frank: this article is going to hurt a little bit. It’s going to prick your pride and defy your sense of entitlement. It’s going to call your sin out for what it really is, and will very likely offend you, especially if you’re the kind of mom that needs her insecurities coddled and her self-love justified. After all, you do so much for so many people so often, shouldn’t I, a mother who’s walking in your shoes and knows your struggles all too well, be the first person to validate, approve, and affirm you?
The short answer is: no.
If I love you, I will tell you the Truth…God’s Truth. I won’t share only those parts of Scripture that today’s world deems appropriate, nor will I shy away from holding up the mirror of Truth against which no false image of you can stand. This article is going to be the kind of mirror that shows you how ugly your selfishness really is, that shows you all your wrinkles, and lumps, and spots, and imperfections. But guess what, that’s the very best, most loving gift I can give you. Because once you realize how ugly you are, how weak and flawed you are, how desperate and needy you are, once your sin repulses you and your heart is broken before the Lord, THEN His beauty can shine through you. It is only when you empty yourself of YOU, that God’s perfect, sovereign, comforting, timely, FULFILLING will can be experienced. So, take heart. This article is going to hurt you, but only so that it can help you.
To begin, I’d like you to image two types of luggage with me. The first type is what I’ve dubbed The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack. This backpack is large, heavy, full of tools and supplies, and self-contained. It has a finite amount of storage and gets heavier every time you add something. If you want to add something, often times you have to remove something else and it requires an expert understanding of its contents. The only way to add or remove things is through the top – because the bottom of the backpack is made of impenetrable, leak-proof steel – and you are the only person able to do the adding or removing. It isn’t good for much besides hiking and you would feel out of place lugging it around in any other setting.
The second type of luggage is very different. I call it The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. It is light-weight, has an inexhaustible amount of internal storage space (just like Mary Poppins’), is flexible, travels well, is virtually invisible, its contents freely funnel out the bottom and can be utilized by everyone exposed to it, and it is capable of receiving input from many sources, not just one.
As you can tell, the first type of luggage is not the “good guy” in this scenario. And yet, this is often the type of luggage we carry around with us – spiritually speaking. We wake up one day, look behind us, and stagger beneath the weight of an enormous burden we feel utterly ill-equipped to bear. We are exhausted, our feet hurt, our back aches, our spirit is low, our self-esteem is shattered, and every time our husband, or children, or parents, or friends demand something of us, we have to find a way to make room in an already overly-stuffed backpack. To do this we need to ditch something that’s already in the pack, and, to our shame, that something is usually our time with the Lord, in prayer, or some other Godly pursuit. Over the years, we have amassed a huge store of Biblical Truths, tools and supplies that are meant to equip us for the path we have been called to tread, and yet, so often we don’t know how to apply those Truths, and so we cannot reap their benefits. We trudge along under the weight of our burden, selflessly serving our families, ministering in our churches, faithfully fulfilling our various obligations, clinging to the expectation that at some point during the day we will be able to shed our burden, put some distance between it and ourselves, and arbitrarily grant ourselves the respite we have so rightfully earned. We draw ourselves a bath, droop lifelessly into that much-needed, muscle-relaxing warm water, close our eyes, and exhale deeply.
“Ahhhhhh,” we think to ourselves. “This me time is JUST what I need.”
And then, seconds after we embark on our glorious, self-pampering detox journey…WEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHH! One of our littles begins to scream. Our eyes bolt open, the serenity of the moment is hurtled into oblivion, and we leeringly make our way back over to our backpack, donning it ruefully – it and all its daily, weekly, monthly, yearly demands.
Technically, the tools we need to handle our disappintment graciously are in the backpack. Even the tools we need to honor God and bring Him glory in this (or any other) trial are stowed away somewhere within its labyrinthian interior. But we’re exhausted. We’re beat. The last thing we want to do is wage a war we can’t fathom winning with a behemoth bag that does little more than break our backs every waking moment of our lives.
And so we ignore God’s Truth, ignore His help, ignore His will, and we simply…trudge on. A frown marks our every feeble attempt at joyful faithfulness, and the truth is, we’re fooling no one. Not even ourselves. In this perspective, honoring God is miserable and we are miserably failing as we attempt it.
Is this you? Is this how you feel as you struggle to live this life well? To look after your husband, children, and home well, day in and day out, without so much as a word of appreciation? I’ll be honest with you, this perspective is what marked my life for many, many years – marriage and motherhood only fanned the flames of this incorrect view of God’s will for my life. And I’ll be even more honest with you: I have often looked at God, pointed my finger at Him obstinately, and blamed Him – BLAMED Him! – for being the one who put that burden on my back in the first place. At times I have been so angry at God for filling my backpack with tools and supplies that I didn’t know how to use, couldn’t access when the need arose, or felt ill-equipped to master. In addition to that, I have accused Him of cramming relational, monetary, physical, familial, emotional, professional, and health issues into my backpack when neither my will nor my legs were strong enough to bear them.
Regardless of how much empathy I feel for those of you viewing God’s will this way; as easy as it would be for me to tell you that your perspective is justified and you deserve to feel discouraged or downtrodden, that simply will not do. Why? Because to view God’s will for your life in this way is to sin against Him by calling Him a lair, something that it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be.
Matthew 11:28-30 says:
“Come to Me, all you 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.”
The context of these verses in chapter eleven is Jesus condemning the cities to which His prophets had paved the way for His coming, and yet they still chose to refuse Him. John the Baptist had been heralding the coming of Christ for years but it wasn’t until Jesus began His miraculous ministry that some cities began to repent. Even then, with visible proof of Christ’s power, with eye-witness experiences of the very Truth of God’s Word, there were still cities that refused to repent and honor Jesus as the prophesied Savior.
After Jesus condemns and curses the flagrant rebellion of these cities, He expands His message to all those who would hear Him. He preached the Truth about His ultimate will for their lives, juxtaposing it with the pharisaical, works-based religious system that had blasphemously taken up residence in His house. Jesus was making it very clear that true dependence on Him, true repentance from sin, and true submission to His will looked vastly different than what people had come to view as devout religiosity under the pharisaical system. The false religions operating at that time were contingent upon “right” behavior, not sincere faith. They were man-centered, not Christ-centered. They lacked absolution because they were based on finite principles, whereas Jesus’ Truth was (and is) based on the inexhaustible well-spring of that which Almighty God expresses about Himself: that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”
To view His will in any other way is to call God a lair, and to call God a liar is to sin. Worse still is how easy it is to justify this sin and minimize its egregiousness in God’s sight. If you are viewing God’s will for your life as an exhausting, tedious, demanding intrusion on your personal plans, one that drains and discourages you, you are making yourself the center of all your pursuits. If you are prone to feeling sorry for yourself or contentiously punishing your husband and/or children for not appreciating all you do, you are engaging in self-worship, which is also a sin against your holy God. God alone is God, not you, not your pride, not your needs, not your desires, not your aching joints, not even your well-meaning ministerial or evangelistic endeavors. Nothing and no one is God, but God, and to defy this Truth is to defy God Himself.
That’s the bad news.
But there is good news and it is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this passage – the Good News of the Gospel.
When Christ is explaining His plan of redemption He is pointing out the fact that even the most valiant efforts of decent human beings to achieve salvation count for nothing when all is said and done. His Gospel, however, is a liberating one. No more toiling to attain that which is humanly impossible. No more wondering if your works are sufficient to secure a place for you in Heaven. No more worshiping at the alter of self-justification or toiling fruitlessly toward an uncertain end.
God’s Will for Christ’s life was to do away with all of that. So perfect was this plan, and so perfectly submitted to it was He, that Christ didn’t even pray for an alternative option. As John Bunyan writes in his book, Prayer:
“As the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prays according to the will of God; so it guides by and according to the Word of God and His promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did make a stop, although His life lay at stake for it. ‘I could now pray to my Father, and He should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be (Matthew 26: 53-54).”
That is, Christ knew that God’s plan for His life was perfect and He had fully submitted Himself to that Truth, so much so that, even though He could have, He surrendered His ability to ask God to protect Him against those who sought His life. And may we praise His name forever because of it! If Jesus hadn’t willingly gone to the cross to suffer the separation from God that our sins warranted, if He hadn’t died our death, and if he hadn’t defeated sin when He rose again, we would have no other option but to carry the heavy burden of works-based righteousness and there would be no hope of relief from it.
But the cross abolished such a painstakingly uncertain system and that’s what we have to understand when we live our lives daily. We are not fighting this fight alone. We are not toiling in vain. We are not loving and looking after our families to no avail. Living in the center of God’s Will, and doing so joyfully, is a “yoke that is easy” and a “burden that is light.”
But it does need to be said that living for God and serving our families as an act of service in His Name is still a burden in that it must be carried out, it must be done. But the difference here is that we are not the one carrying the burden, Christ is.
Christ’s work on the cross has forged for us everything we need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and, in our analogy of the luggage bags, this would be The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. This small, light-weight, piece of “jewelry” is the blessed consequence of Christ’s perfect power to defeat sin and death on our behalf. And when the most dangerous of perils is overcome already, all the rest of life and living is an easy burden to bear.
But first we must admit to ourselves that living out our lives faithfully for the glory of God cannot be done without the Spirit’s enabling, whether that be wifing, or mothering, or nursing, or lawyering, or teaching, or any other calling. We can take no self-pride in that which we accomplish for God because it is only through God that we can accomplish anything at all in the first place. And when admit that we are capable of nothing, we make room for Christ to work marvelously in and through us to accomplish everything.
As Paul exclaims in Galatians 2: 20-21:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
And, so, we “bind truth around our necks” (Proverbs 3:3) and use it as the foundation for not only all that we do, but also for all of the ways we respond mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to what we do. God’s yoke is easy to carry because we are not the one carrying it. Christ carries it for us and equips us in every way to do that which pleases Him most. The necklace we wear is a seemingly insignificant trinkets, one that many people can’t even see (because they are blinded by sin or hatred of God), but one that is endlessly able to contain Truth after Truth after Truth from God’s Word, just as did Mary Poppins’ bag. And as that Truth funnels down into our hearts, it guards our every word, thought, and action, prepares us to respond rightoeusly in the case of every eventuality, gives us grace as we humble ourselves before God (James 4:6), and blesses everyone with whom we come into contact.
We have no need of shuffling things around to “make room” in our neckerpouch when new demands for our time, wisdom, affection, attention, etc. come our way because the focus is not on the task, it is on Christ. The task, in essence, is not an issue at all. The only issue is our heart before the Lord. As we “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33),” whether that’s food or clothing or healing or clarity or companionship or blessing or encouragement or any other thing. As we faithfully spend time in the Word and in sincere prayer, God remains true to His promise “never to leave us for forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).” In Him, all things are bearable. Because of Him, no illness or conflict or trial or worry or fear can ever beset us – IF WE SUBMIT TO HIM AND SURRENDER TO HIS WILL.
Yes, it’s true that The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch is a bottomless, unfathomable, expanding, treasure trove of God’s Truth, wisdom, grace, peace, mercy, love, joy, help, healing, comfort, provision, protection, and countless other of His blessings, but none of them can be accessed if one does not humbly submit her will to the Lord so that He can bestow this special grace upon her.
Our loving father is eager to bless us and teach us and heal us and help us, and His resources for doing so are infinite. But sin and pride will disable Him from being able to lavish them upon us if we are stubbornly determined to do this “life” thing our own way.
Admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about and: 1) you have either already learned this lesson and can attest that Christ’s Word is True, 2) God is trying to teach you this lesson and you keep resisting Him, heaping destruction on your own head time and time again, OR 3) you are sick of resisting Him, sick of the struggle, sick of being and feeling overwhelmed all the time, and are finally ready to confess your self-worship to God, surrender to His will, and start living under the light yoke of God’s perfect plan for your life, rather than fabricating an unnecessary and untrue version of God’s will which is entirely works-based and not at all in keeping with what God has said is True of Himself.
How much time are you spending in God’s Word? How often do you pray? How sincere is your “religion” when you are alone? If you do not know who Christ is, you cannot pray in His Name for God’s Will to be perfected through your life. As Bunyan states:
“The man that comes to God by Christ [in prayer] must first have the knowledge of Him; ‘for he that cometh to God must believe that He is (Hebrews 11:6).’ This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matthew 11:27). And to come through Christ is for the sinner to be enabled of God to hide Himself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man hides himself under a thing for safeguard.”
Isn’t that a humbling thought?! In our hearts, we want to please God, but even the desire to pray for such a thing is a gift from God. Even the ability to pray effectively at all is the work of Jesus Christ and not ourselves!
Why do we think God’s burden is heavy? Because we and we ALONE are making it so. Doing anything to please God without first humbly admitting that you cannot do it without Him is an exercise in futility. Why, then, would you choose to view His will as The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack, when, in reality, it is The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch, a beacon of Truth that does all of the heavy lifting for you and requires but one thing of you:
Oh that seemingly elusive element of Christianity that is the foundation of who we are and yet is so easily thwarted by sin.
Are you feeling neglected? Unappreciated? Hurting? Aching? Stewing? Fuming? Despairing? Complaining? Distancing yourself from your husband and/or children? Flailing? Drowning? Cursing? Defying?
If you are, there is but one path you must take: repentance. Humble yourself before God and admit that you’ve been trying to live this life your own way and for your own glory, but have had the gaul to do so in His Name. Confess that you have been self-worshiping and clinging to an incorrect view of His will for your life, even as you have been serving tirelessly so that His Name can be glorified. Read and meditate on the Truths included within this article and refuse to view God’s plan for your life as a heavy burden. Put on a correct view of God’s sovereign will for your life and praise Him for it. Learn how to thank Him for every demanding need presented by your husband, your children, your family, and your friends because you recognize that they are being used by God to strengthen your faith, grow you, mature you, humble you, and help you.
God loved you enough to allow His own Son to be killed on your behalf so that you wouldn’t have to carry the burden of the punishment your sin requires. Can you not also trust that the daily burden of living this life for His glory is one that is light because He carries it for you?
Learn from Him through the reading of His Word and in sincere prayer; Glean wisdom and understanding from godly men and women; Set an example of faith for your children; Have peace that surpasses all understanding. And most importantly: recognize that Jesus Christ is the foundation for all of these things and the reason why God’s “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”
Until Next Time My Friends,
The Taylor of All Trades