Devotion #88

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Jesus offers us rest when we’ve had too much. When we’re exhausted, overworked, or burdened, he calms us and lightens our load. When we’re overwhelmed or filled with fear, He relieves the burden of carrying all our anxieties around on our backs. No matter where we’re at or what we’re dealing with, He promises rest. He doesn’t tell us to get our act together first, He doesn’t expect us to fix our problems, He simply says come to me and I will give you rest. So many of us come and find that rest in Him, but the rest is temporary. As soon as we leave His presence, we find the burdens on our backs again. For us to experience the kind of rest that lasts, Jesus offers a lesson in how to carry our burdens—He suggests we carry our burdens as He does, with gentleness and humility. When we carry our loads with gentleness and humility, we discover they become lighter. As we learned yesterday, when we carry burdens that involve other people, we lighten our load if we choose gentleness. Today, we learn how humility impacts the burdens we carry with just ourselves.

Humility is a low view of oneself; to be humble is to be meek. In today’s culture, humility or meekness is viewed as a sign of weakness, but in reality it is quite the opposite. To be meek or humble requires a great deal of strength. It doesn’t mean demeaning yourself or putting yourself down, for that is still a focus on yourself. Humility is not about making the least of yourself so much as it is making the most of others. 

Pride is the opposite of humility. Pride destroys relationships. It causes us to feel more entitled than we are and to be more demanding than we should be. Pride insists on control and it insists on your way. Humility is how I see myself in comparison to others. In other words, it’s my expectations, it’s how I want to be thanked, it’s how I want to be viewed, it’s how I want to be treated. Those are not things Jesus ever carried with Him, that’s why his yoke is light. Jesus never demanded to be treated a certain way, He never expected to be thanked, He never worried about His reputation or what people thought of Him. Jesus was humble. In his humility, He chose to serve others.

So, when we’re in a trial that primarily involves our own thoughts or perspective, when our struggle is anxiety or fear, when the conflict is within our minds, the way we lighten our load is to take on an attitude of humility. In these moments, we are to lower ourselves and raise others up. Perhaps you are struggling with an overwhelming or exhausting schedule since this whole crisis began, maybe these events have magnified your anxiety or your depression, you may have chronic health issues or a difficult diagnosis for which treatment is now challenging or impossible, or maybe you are grieving the loss of a job or a loved one—these are trials we carry within ourselves because they primarily involve our own minds and no one else.

When we walk through a difficult trial by ourselves, we can get very *me* focused. This tendency can destroy marriages. Our minds become a swirl of what ifs and emotions, and it can become difficult to process anything outside of our own thoughts. When our trials are significant or painful, others will even be drawn into our little world with their compassion. We suddenly find ourselves the focus of other people’s attention. We can get used to people checking in on us, asking how we’re doing, serving us and showering us with encouraging notes and texts, making meals, bringing us gifts. While it is true we need the strength of others to face the significant trials in our lives, and those meals and encouraging texts can become our very lifelines when we’re in the depth of a pit, we must remain aware there is a danger that comes when every conversation that is lopsided, every conversation that keeps the focus on us. Attention is addicting. In the midst of all our self-focus, we need to take our eyes off ourselves and focus it back on others. This is humility—making the most of others.

I remember years ago when I was deep in a difficult trial, someone taught me the quickest way to end the trial was to focus all of my energy on serving others. You see, when we are deep in a difficult trial, when so much of our energy is focused just on ourselves, our problems are magnified. Our knee jerk reaction is to pull all resources being given to others and keep them all to ourselves. When a trial hits, we have a tendency to shrink back from everything—we not only find it difficult to participate in those disciplines we know bring us life—prayer, worship, church, quiet time. We also don’t have the energy to take the phone call from another friend in need or chat with someone who wants to catch up. We just want it to be about us. We run to the corner and nurse our wounds in isolation. The only people we want to let down into the pit are those who are going to let us wallow in self-pity. And our spouses usually aren’t that person.

I remember thinking: How could I possibly have the energy to do for anyone else when I’ve got so much on my own plate, trying to manage my already busy schedule, and this trial on top of it? But I heeded their advice, and I intentionally looked for ways to serve others. I quickly discovered the most powerful way to minimize our problems was to magnify others. That’s worth repeating—the most powerful way to minimize the trials we’re in is to start serving others. If we want the kind of rest that is lasting, the kind of peace that Jesus offers, we need to get the focus off of ourselves and spend our energy serving others.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Try serving your spouse. Is anxiety or depression taking over your thoughts? Go serve the homeless. Do you have a chronic illness or difficult diagnosis? Find a way to serve that community. Get the focus off of you, and onto others, and watch your trials shrink.

James tells us in 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” He will lift you up if you choose to humble yourself. He will lighten your load.

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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