People carry things in various odd ways. In the last 3 weeks, in three separate countries, I have seen people carry kids – on their shoulders, in front or backpacks, and in a giant sling on their mom’s front or back. I saw the ordinary stuff – people carrying handbags, briefcases, and backpacks. Then I saw the out-of-the-ordinary: a bike being carried with a shoulder strap, men carrying 180 lb sandbags as they leaned forward like pack-mules, and women with GIANT loads on their heads, usually while simultaneously holding a bag in one hand, having one child strapped to their front, one to their back, and one child holding the remaining hand!
Different cultures have different ways of carrying things. Some people use straps and bags, some sticks or a “yoke” across their shoulders with baskets tied to each side so that it resembles weight scales. Some people bend at the waist very far forward with the weight of their burden on top of their back. Some pile things on their heads. No matter how things are carried, it weighs down the carrier. Some burdens are lighter and easier to bear, but they all impact the one carrying the load.
The impacts of our burdens can be physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual. Some things are easier to carry, and we are able to operate as though unaffected. Some are so heavy, that our whole demeanor, posture, and gait change.
Physical examples of a burden’s impact: A street vendor carried things on her back for so many years that she could no longer walk upright. She walked at a 90-degree angle to the ground, even when she wasn’t carrying anything. A fisherman couldn’t straighten his neck because he carried so many baskets of fish, for so long, on his left shoulder that his head permanently leaned to the right. I recently met a mom that has carried her disabled son for 10 years which has caused a permanent curvature in her back.
In addition to physical, there are emotional and spiritual loads that we bear. These can change our mental posture and the way we carry on through life. Some of us see the world in a more cynical light, or with a distrustful eye. Some are permanently hurt or angry because of the hand they have been dealt. Some are just so weary that everything seems a chore.
The thought of burdens that change us spoke especially loudly to me as I walked the Via Dolorosa in Israel. This pathway that Jesus took from the fortress Antonia, where Jesus was released to the Roman soldiers by Pilate for the purpose of being crucified (Matthew 27:26), to Golgotha, the hill on which he was crucified, was a narrow (about 10 feet wide), uneven, uphill, 0.4-mile trek. The day I walked it was a crowded, hot day. There were tiny one-room shops on either side of the way. I was jostled as I trudged upward, breathing a little heavy from the effort. The thought occurred to me: I AM NOT CARRYING A CROSS! I am not slipping on my own blood, under the weight of a cross beam, flesh shredded by flogging, head throbbing from a crown of thorns, nor being abused by soldiers and onlookers…but I should be! I should be carrying that cross to pay for my sins! That was what they cost Jesus. But as my Savior traversed that road, paying my debt, my burden was shifted to Him. He did it for me. I am able to walk this path unencumbered because of HIM.
Jesus gives this instruction for our current life as well as our eternal one. “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)
When we tether ourselves to Jesus, we trust Him to do the heavy lifting in all of the burdensome things in our life. We embrace the fact that He will not waste our pain. We look for the good that will come, as He promises in Romans 8:28 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”
Chapter 8 in Romans describes a personal loving God who knows us so well because of His Spirit inside of us.
- He helps us when we are weak.
- He interprets the groans of our hearts and holds us up as we endure them.
- He puts a salve on our wounds and binds up our broken hearts.
- He makes the thought of eternity in heaven with Him, so real in our minds that it overwhelms the circumstances dragging us down.
- Then He reminds us that NOTHING will separate us from His love which makes us MORE than conquerors of everything that threatens to crush us!
When we have a kink in our posture, physically, mentally or spiritually from things difficult to navigate, we need to remember that if we have Jesus as our Savior and Lord, He took our cross. And He is willing to take our burdens. We have only to relinquish them.