Jessica Ptomey ponders what Jesus tells us about how to carry burdens in a way that brings us rest.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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)
Summer is a season that offers the time to rest. It certainly brings its own set of busy activities and projects, but we can also intentionally rest from many things that take up our energy the during other months of the year. One important opportunity in a season of rest is to take inventory of our burdens, of the things that are weighing us down.
When I think of rest and work, of what fills us up and of what burns us out, I think of this passage in Matthew and of what our Lord has to say about the burdens that we carry. I want to reflect on this passage and consider what Jesus has to say to us about how we carry burdens in a way that brings us to rest.
Check your weight.
Jesus calls to Him all those who are carrying heavy burdens. What He offers instead is a burden that is light. Many times we pick up burdens that are not ours to carry: things that belong to others, sin God has already forgiven, worldly identities constructed from lies about who we are. These burdens weigh heavy on our backs, and they certainly don’t bring us to rest. They oppress us. They are things God doesn’t mean us to carry. Jesus offers us forgiveness: drop that sin once it’s confessed. Jesus tells us we are beloved: reject the identity that lies about who you are and who God is. Release other people’s disfunction or responsibilities: “bearing one another’s burdens” is quite a different thing than making them your own.
Check your yoke.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke.” Not only is His yoke the one that He means us to carry, rather than something else we pick up on our own, but it’s the yoke He is carrying too, the one that He is carrying with us. Picture oxen yoked together, side by side, pulling a cart. One could not carry it alone; the yoke is built for two. Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Have we taken on a burden meant for us, but in our own strength? Have we taken on tomorrow’s burden? Jesus tells us that we will know peace and rest when we stay with Him where He is today, in the work He is doing in our lives in the moment. Tomorrow’s troubles are for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). We should not run ahead of our Lord to pick up what He means to carry with us later.
Check your spirit.
Jesus says, “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart.” How do we carry our burdens? Do we emulate Jesus as a humble servant, or do we call attention to our sacrifices? The humble worker does her work, carrying her burden for an audience of one. Do we have a humble spirit that is gentle with ourselves, not surprised or disquieted by our failings, or do we wallow in despondency when we fall short of perfection? The humble child of God is able to gently come back to God when she strays away. Her peace isn’t stolen, for she knows that she can accomplish nothing without Christ.
The longer we stay yoked with Jesus, the easier it is to recognize when the weight is too heavy, when the yoke is uneven, or when we are not walking in gentleness and humility. We learn from Jesus what it feels like to walk in rest and to carry burdens with peace. Rest is not something that God intends us to experience once we have been depleted and drained. He intends us to live in a state of rest at all times; He promises that when we learn from Him our souls will find rest.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Ptomey
Image: Artem Kovalev (2016), Unsplash
About the Author
Jessica Ptomey, Ph.D., is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at JessicaPtomey.com. She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.