BURDENS AND CARES

I’m not sure what the difference is between a burden and a care, but I’m pretty sure over the past few weeks cares and burdens have been piling up on a lot of us. Some of them are heavier than others; but light or heavy, burdens and cares impact us and weigh us down.

Think about some of the different issues and problems people of all stations of life are facing. As a nation we continue to deal with the Covid pandemic, the situation in Afghanistan, and political problems from local through national happenings. And as families and individuals we are dealing with a variety of challenges.

The last couple of weeks I have noted more and more stress and anxiety in my life as I interact with others as well as watch and read the news. As unsettling as it is, for some reason I continue to follow the news and lament much of what I see and read.

Earlier today I was thinking about all of this and a couple of words came to mind that give me some direction of what I might do. I remembered Bible usage of the words cares (sometimes a verb and sometimes a noun) and burdens.

I am encouraged by Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “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.”

I am also affirmed by two similar verses:

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).

I am also challenged by Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” It seems to me also that as we put the Apostle Paul’s instruction into practice we will be blessed.

The Bible does not promise that children of God and followers of Jesus will live care and burden free lives – we know that from our own experience. Yet there is some comfort in being reminded that God cares for us and we can cast our cares on him.

We might also keep in mind Solomon’s encouragement that we “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

I like Dane Ortlund’s question and answer, “What does it really mean to trust God? To trust God means to live your life as if God actually exists and is who he says he is.” That is something for us to keep in mind as we deal with our burdens and cares.

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YOU’RE INVITED

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been invited to a variety of meetings, lunches, dinners, and gatherings recently. And it isn’t that I am so popular or my presence is so desired. Some invitations are because the inviter wants something, but most of the ones this month are related to Pastor’s Appreciation Month. I’ve accepted most of them.

These multiple invitations reminded me of one of my favorite invitations in the Bible that I reviewed with one of my Bible studies earlier this month. It is from Jesus and is found in Matthew 11:28-30. It’s an invitation that I have welcomed and responded to many times in my life. And it is an invitation you may too want to consider accepting again and again.

Note first to whom Jesus offers his invitation. It is to “all you who are weary and burdened.” That’s quite a description, isn’t it? And it describes all of us at times in our lives. It may describe you as you read it today. I’m fairly confident we all are carrying burdens, and that often makes us weary.

More important perhaps than to whom the invitation is offered, note next who offers the invitation. It is Jesus. And Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” “Gentle” (or “meek” as the word is also translated) does not mean weak, but is suggestive of one’s attitude and way of life in relation to God. It’s about being in submission to him and knowing who you are in relation to him. “Humble in heart” does not indicate a timid, joyless person; but is rather an attitude of acceptance of others. It is the Son of God who offers the invitation.

We should also highlight the content of the invitation. He invites us to do three things. The first is simply to come to him. He doesn’t force us, bribe us, or press us; he just invites us. But he also invites us “to take his yoke” and “learn from him.” At the end of the passage Jesus tells us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Easy” probably doesn’t mean easy as we usually understand it, but perhaps “well-fitting.” And who doesn’t want to learn from Jesus how to live?

Most comforting to me in Jesus’ invitation is his promise to those who accept it. In verse 28 he says “I will give you rest” and in verse 29 he expands “you will find rest for your souls.” “Rest” has at least a couple of connotations. It may be understood in terms of relief—relief from our burdens because we have taken his yoke. Rest also may be understood in terms of refreshment or being revived. It reminds me of David’s declaration in the most loved passage of the Old Testament, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul: (Psalm 23:2 and 3a).

I don’t know what other invitations you have and are receiving these days, but this is one I encourage you to consider accepting again and again. Jesus says, “You’re invited.”

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