Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30
If you've been a Christian for any length of time, particularly if you've been a Christian with burdens, you've heard this verse. And it often invokes for us this beautiful, freeing image of us stumbling toward Christ under the heavy load we've been carrying, sliding that load off our shoulders, and letting Jesus start to help us carry it.
Which is all well and good except that's not what this verse actually says. What this verse actually says is "Come to me with your heavy weight, and I will put My yoke on your shoulders and share My burden with you." We do not share our load with Jesus; He is sharing His with us.
And yet, it still promises rest, ease, and a lightness. How is this even possible?
To understand, we have to start to thinking about what exactly Jesus' burden is. And if His burden is anything (and it is many things), it is primarily this: that He knows the fullness of God in a fallen world in which fullness is not possible.
Jesus knows more than we could ever see. His eyes behold the world not just the way it is but the way it was meant to be and the way that it will be again one day. He takes in the brokenness, but it it not without tenderness because he knows the wholeness. He knows that things were never meant to be this way, and He can't escape that knowledge. So Christ's burden, which He is so willing to share with us, is brokenheartedness. It is grief. It is angst. All built on a foundation of perfect love and confident assurance.
It doesn't sound beautiful, but it is. And the implications are huge.
What happens when you try to share your burden with God? If we're being honest, it often sets us up for disappointment. Things don't change as much or as fast as we'd want them to. We're sharing our burden freely with God, but it doesn't feel like He's carrying His weight. We've set up this relationship where we're hoping God makes us less broken in a broken world and yet, it is a broken world we can't escape. So it really starts to feel like God fails us. Now, we have a brokenness and a breaking spirit and it's hard in these situations to find life or God again. We're left with nothing. We're left empty. With plenty of space for resentment and bitterness to settle in.
But when Christ shares His burden with us...that actually draws us closer to life, closer to God. We come straggling in, stumbling under the weight of our burdens and collapse in the presence of Jesus. He reaches down tenderly, helps us to stand, and places His burden on our shoulders with a whisper: I want you to know what I know. And suddenly, we start to develop an understanding of the fullness of God. We start to conceptualize what it is He wants for us, what He intended all along. We see the brokenness in this fallen place even as we understand that it was never meant to be this way. We know who God is, what He says about all this, what He longs for in us. And we can't help but smile.
Now, we're not thinking about the God who can't carry our burdens; we're thinking about the God who makes it possible for us to carry them. We're not thinking about a God who we've set up to let us down; this world has let us down and it is God who raises us up. We're not thinking about this heavy burden; we're thinking about the glorious Promise. Life is just life. And God...is God.
It makes it harder to struggle, I think. By that I mean it's harder to feel the struggle. When the world is just broken and God is still God, it's harder to feel like the hard things are such big things. They're just things. They're just one more broken thing we're healing, one more fallen thing we're raising up, one more step toward redemption. One more big little thing God is doing in our lives. It's really, really hard to do anything but tenderly love a broken world when we have the burden of Christ on our shoulders. It seems to make anything possible.
It's still strange to think about in this way, especially for those of us who have always read this verse wrong. But the truth is the only burden we ever know is the burden of knowing God. If we didn't know our Creator, didn't have a Father, didn't see the Cross, weren't looking to the Grave, didn't embrace a Savior, life would be hard and we wouldn't even know it. It's precisely because we believe in something better that there is any burden at all. And this is Christ's burden, too.
When we're struggling under the weight of this world, He promises to share that burden anew with us. To give us a glimpse of God as Christ knows Him, the fullness of everything as it was intended to be, a stark contrast to whatever we're feeling. And it is only through being connected with Christ that we're able to bear that burden at all. For it is Christ who gives us the hope that there is an answer. It is He who knows intimately that answer. It's in a Cross and a Grave and a Coming.
In those promises, indeed, we find rest.
It's going to be okay.