From time to time we all feel that life is getting on top of us. The daily grind of tasks we do without thinking, and without understanding the need for them, bad things happening in the world over which we feel we have no control, compromises we must reach in our families and workplaces, where it seems as though we have to sacrifice our principles in order to live a peaceful life, the compassion fatigue we experience when the umpteenth charity begging letter arrives on the mat and remains unopened; all these things can accumulate to leave us feeling overwhelmed and burdened with guilt, helplessness and despair. Like Paul in his letter to the Romans we all face the experience of not understanding what we do, or why we do it. We know how hard it is to do always what you believe to be right, how even with the best of intentions there will always be times when we do things we know to be wrong, and fail to do what we know to be right.
It is too easy for those feelings of guilt, helplessness and despair to turn to anger. We want to be in control of our lives, to justify our actions and feelings. There are always very reasonable excuses for falling short of our ideals, for failing to do what is right or using unethical means to reach an honourable end. Inside ourselves, however, we know we cannot be fooled. Paul speaks of his body waging war against the law of his mind, making him a prisoner of the law of sin. We have all experienced ‘conflicting’ emotions, wrestling inside ourselves. It is that internal violence that can cause us so much damage, either because we become totally preoccupied with it, so that we become ineffective in actually living our lives, or alternatively we suppress all knowledge of it, piling up psychological baggage in the attics of our minds until inevitably the roof comes crashing down.
But anger and human strength can’t deal with this inevitable part of the human condition. Not one of us has the strength or wisdom needed to take full responsibility for all our actions. Left to ourselves we cannot shake off the guilt, the frustration and confusion that builds up inside us. To deal with this we need Jesus. We read his promise; 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' and we know that it is only through giving our worries and confusion to him that we can be refreshed and released from their effect in our lives.
In Zechariah 9 we read of the foretelling of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace. This king comes to Jerusalem to clear out the weapons of conflict, the chariots and war horses that were causing so much damage, from inside. But he does not defeat them through violence, but by restoring peace, making them redundant. By accepting Jesus into our personal Jerusalem, our inner self, He is able to still the conflict, helping us to accept that our imperfections are part of the human condition, but at the same time guiding us to learn from our experiences and challenges how to live a more positive life.
We must be careful not to assume that because we are Christians we can live out our lives doing what we like, without thinking too much because we know we will be forgiven. Our forgiveness depends on our acceptance of God as redeemer, as one able to give us salvation. Jesus speaks of the children that played the flute , or sang a dirge, thinking that by one of these methods thy were going to please God. He was referring to his own ministry and that of John the Baptist. The Jews didn’t follow John because of the strict rules he lived by, and didn’t follow Jesus because of the sinners and dubious people he associated with. In this they had missed the point entirely. In fact if to lay your burdens on God means to accept one or the other lifestyle then the religious life will probably lead to more confusion and frustration in failing to live up to what we believe is expected of us. Jesus tells us ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart’. Both lifestyles embraced humility and gentleness, so there is something to be said for both. The real key, regardless of the style in which we feel most comfortable in worship, must be in actively searching for a better understanding of God and our relationship with him. Laying our burden on Christ means that we have to be honest with him and so with ourselves, about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and how we feel about every aspect of our lives. In learning about him, through the bible and through his influence in our daily lives, and in learning about ourselves, through our honest confession to him in prayer we can then move forward spiritually refreshed and renewed, hopefully growing more like him as our lives progress.