Five Burdens You Need Not Carry
Five Burdens You Need Not Carry
At the end of his life, Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened!’
Churchill was speaking about the burden of worries that never materialise. However, there are many different types of ‘burdens’ in life, and some of them are very real. Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).
A yoke is something Jesus would have made in a carpenter’s shop. It is a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make the burden easier to carry.
I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly’ (vv.28–30).
1. AnxietyPsalm 68:15-20
In his book Affluenza, the psychologist Oliver James points out that ‘almost a quarter of Britain suffers serious emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety, and another quarter are on the verge thereof’.
David praises God ‘who daily bears our burdens’ (v.19). Burdens here may include many things. One of the burdens that God bears for us daily is the weight of worry, stress and anxiety.
John Newton said, ‘We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.’
Each day, you can commit to God your fears, worries and anxieties. It makes all the difference. He daily bears your ‘burdens’ (v.19).
Thank you, Lord, that today I can come to you and bring to you all my burdens, worries and anxieties…
2. FailureJohn 18:25-40
The great apostle Peter is asked, ‘“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not”’ (v.25). This is his second denial. Then a third time, Peter is challenged and denies knowing Jesus (v.26). At that moment a cock began to crow (v.27) – just as Jesus had predicted.
Peter realised, as most of us do from time to time, that he had failed Jesus. A sense of failure can be a great burden.
This passage is not the end of Peter’s story. After his resurrection, Jesus met with Peter and reinstated him, forgiving him for this failure and commissioning him once more (21:15–25). With Jesus, failure is never final.
Although Peter failed him, Jesus took the burden of his failure, forgave him, reinstated him and used him as powerfully as anyone in human history.
One of the many things that Jesus had to bear was a totally unjust trial. It is a basic principle of every fair system of justice that it is up to the prosecution to prove the case against the defendant. It is on them that the ‘burden of proof’ lies. Therefore, every fair judicial system needs to overcome the basic prejudice that because a person is on trial they must be guilty.
When Pilate asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’ (v.29) they replied, ‘If he were not a criminal… we would not have handed him over to you’ (v.30). In saying this, Jesus’ accusers were unjustly attempting to reverse the burden of proof.
Pilate also unjustly denied Jesus the right to silence. He said, ‘What is it you have done?’ (v.35c). He tried to get Jesus to condemn himself out of his own mouth. Jesus says that he came into the world ‘to testify to the truth’ (v.37b). Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ (v.38a).
It is almost as if Pilate seems to be questioning (as our post-modern society does) whether there is such a thing as ‘truth’ (that is, absolute truth). However, Pilate is face-to-face with the Truth himself, Jesus Christ – who endured an unjust trial – and, far worse, the unfair penalty of crucifixion and death – for you and me.
Despite this unjust trial, Pilate concludes, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ (v.38b). Jesus is completely innocent. Pilate wants to release him but the crowd shouts, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion’ (v.40). Jesus, the innocent, is condemned to crucifixion. Barabbas, the sinful, goes free.
The symbolism is clear. On the cross, Jesus, the innocent, died so that we, the sinful, may go free. He bore this burden of our sin.
‘Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour… our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death’ (Psalm 68:19–20).
5. Guilt1 Samuel 24:1-25:44
Guilt is a horrible burden. A guest in one of our Alpha small groups described the physical feeling of guilt as being like ‘a very bad case of indigestion’. But guilt is more than just a physical feeling. It has even more serious emotional and spiritual consequences.
God has given us all a moral sense – a conscience. Often, we feel guilty because we have done something that we know is wrong. However, our consciences, as fallen human beings, are not perfect. Sometimes we experience false guilt. We feel guilty about things that are not actually our fault. We need our conscience to be educated by the word of God.
At other times we don’t feel guilty about things we should feel guilty about – in which case we need our conscience to be awakened by the Spirit of God.
David was given an opportunity to rid himself of the person who was trying to kill him – Saul (24:1–4). Instead of taking that opportunity, David merely cut off a corner of Saul’s robe in order to prove to him that he could have killed him had he wanted to.
Nevertheless, David was ‘conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe’ (v.5). ‘He felt guilty’ (v.5, MSG). David clearly had a very sensitive conscience and felt the burden of guilt for having done this to ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (v.6). Yet he was able to declare to Saul, ‘Now understand and recognise that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you’ (v.11b).
For a moment, it seems, Saul himself was conscience-stricken, ‘he wept aloud: “You are more righteous than I… You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly”’ (vv.16c–17). In the midst of his jealousy, Saul had the odd moment of sanity – where he experienced true guilt.
David avoided taking any further burden of guilt upon himself. He was about to avenge Nabal’s ill-treatment of him and his men. Abigail came to the rescue. With enormous skill and diplomacy, she brought gifts to David and said, ‘Upon me alone let this guilt be… The Lord has prevented you from bloodguiltiness’ (25:24,26, AMP).
She went on to say, ‘… my master [David] will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself’ (v.31).
David realised that Abigail had rescued him from the burden of guilt: ‘May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands’ (v.33). Abigail’s skill is one we all need to develop. It is good to speak with wisdom and diplomacy when advising others on how they might act, so that they avoid doing things that will lead to guilt.
David avoided taking judgment into his own hands. Then, ‘the Lord struck Nabal and he died’ (v.38). When David heard that Nabal was dead he said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head’ (v.39). Eventually, it all ends well with David marrying the newly widowed Abigail.
Whether we have the feelings that accompany it or not, the burden of true guilt is real for all. Jesus died on the cross to take our guilt.
Thank you, Lord, that you take my guilt, my fears, my worries and my anxieties and daily bear my burdens.
1 Samuel 25:18–19
This is about catering stress at its worst. Abigail and all her community would be killed if she didn’t deliver food in time. I am impressed that Abigail managed to rustle up two hundred loaves (that’s fast baking!), wine, pressed figs, roasted grain, raisin cakes and five dressed sheep! She saved the day. My catering problems seem rather minor in comparison!
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord daily bears your burdens’ (Psalm 68:19).
Winston Churchill, Amid These Storms: Thoughts and Adventures (C. Scribner's Sons, 1932), p.113.
Oliver James, Affluenza (Vermillion, 2007) p.35.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.