Not all stress is bad. But when it costs us life with God, we have a problem. In his book Hearing God, Dallas Willard puts it this way: “The visible world daily bludgeons us with its things and events. They pinch and pull and hammer away at our bodies. Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes or toast and eggs.”
Last Wednesday we looked at one particular reaction to stress: anger and negative talk. But there are plenty of other poor ways to respond to stress. We’re going to touch on some of them today, as well as consider what we really need to do to have the kind of perspective God desires us to have.
But first, I’d like you to try an experiment. Grab a small pile of books—c’mon, I already know you’re a reader—and hold them straight out in front of you for as long as you can.
When you’re done, think about this:
• When you’re overwhelmed in real life, what do you normally do—unload everything on one person, “share the wealth” with as many people as possible, or try to grin and bear it? Explain.
• When is it OK to share your struggles with others, and when is it not OK? Think of specific examples of each, if you can.
If you’ve worked on simplifying your life in the past, you’ve probably encountered Richard Swenson’s groundbreaking (at the time) book Margin. Even if not, his words still ring true a quarter-century later: “People do not operate on the principle of overloading. Instead they operate on the basis of ‘one more thing won’t hurt.’ Yet this is only true if it is true. Once we are maximally loaded down, adding one more thing will hurt. The pain of overload is real pain.”
• Think about a time you’ve experienced the truth of this quote. What part did you play in that overloading? What parts were out of your control?
• When is it appropriate to take on extra burdens? When isn’t it?
• What are some unhealthy ways that people try to deal with their stresses and burdens when they become too much?
• When have you been guilty of one of these “escapes”?
So let’s see what Jesus had to say about it, and break it down some: “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, NIV).
• Let’s be honest: In what ways does taking Jesus’ yoke and letting Him teach you just sound like one more thing you can’t deal with right now?
• What would you say to someone who gave you that excuse?
• How can we learn of Jesus, instead of just facts about Him? What clues does Jesus give us in this passage, and what would those things look like in your life?
• How would doing these things help us deal with burdens we’re facing?
Let’s reflect once more on this passage. “All of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.” Apply that phrase to yourself. It might mean: All of you who are tired. All of you who are stressed out. All of you who are burned out. All of you who feel you don’t have it in you anymore. All of you who are tired of living this way. All of you who are tired of living—period. “Come to me,” Jesus says,” and I will give you rest.”
Take one more minute to reflect quietly on what this promise of Jesus means to you, and where you are in relation to that promise right now. If we really can find our rest in Jesus, what’s holding you back from trusting Him and finding that rest right now? What can you do about it? More to the point, what burden do you need to give to Jesus?
As we choose to serve Jesus and take his yoke upon us, Jesus takes our burdens and gives us His burdens in return. It’s not just submission—it’s a trade. It’s us saying, “Jesus, I don’t want this kind of life anymore; You died to take it away, so take it.”
As we allow Jesus to change our lives more and more into his life, the burden He places upon us is far lighter than the ones we laid at His feet.
Jesus, You know our struggles better than we do—and You know the answers to those struggles better than we do, too. We ask You to reveal the areas of our lives we haven’t given to You. Help us let go of them and commit them to You, and, as we do, help us find our rest in You. Amen.