The Burden is Light

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“Even my sink is full today!” I grouched, pouring another wire basket of tomatoes into the path of the running water. There were cucumbers on the counter, beans in the garden that needed to be picked . . . and no time to do it all.

I love my garden—although sometimes this is not obvious by my response to its bounty. And this actually casts me in an extremely unflattering light, because it’s a pretty straightforward attitude adjustment that is needed: Look at the time crunch, the space constraints, the sheer labor of dealing with it all . . . but then shake myself into the realization that this is abundance I am grousing about, a gift from God’s good hand of plenty.  

If only my heart were so quick to see the truth about all my “burdens.”  

Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor, theologian, and author from the 17th century had this to say:  

“How sweet a thing were it for us to make our burdens light by framing our hearts to the burden and making our Lord’s will a law.”

How different the sounds from my kitchen would be if I just got under the load gladly.  That “frame of heart” would radically change me, and my perception of the burden.  

“Take my yoke,” said Jesus. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)  If I’m honest with myself, I don’t always see it that way. I complain that my load does not fit. I’m weighed down by duty and circumstances, frustrated by the weight of responsibility, hemmed in by events that are out of my control.  

God knows that there are burdens that were not meant to be “framed” and carried—because they are unbearable. Injustice and abuse should be thrown off and left behind, and I have known heroic outcomes from this great exercise of faith and healing.  

But what about the daily load of frustration, inconvenience and outrage that slows the step and furrows the brow? Could it be that it is not the burden itself that is weighing me down, but, rather, my response to it?  

It’s not the last-minute schedule change that wrecks my whole day.

It’s not the missing Little League belt.  (“Yes, Mum, it has to be THAT belt!”)

It’s not the dog fur on the freshly vacuumed floor.

It’s not the casserole request for church or the email message rejecting my beloved (and brilliant, by the way) manuscript.

It’s my response to them that determines their impact on my day—and my heart.  

The truth is that when I am being thwarted, when my plans are being disrupted, I become distressed and resentful.  It is this resentment of the burden—not the burden itself—that frames my response.  

Reading The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, I was surprised to find, in the midst of Santiago’s desert wanderings, a similar wisdom. When the boy confessed that he was afraid that his heart would have to suffer in the pursuit of his dreams, the Alchemist responded:

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”

Long ago, Elisabeth Elliot defined suffering as “having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” On a large scale this would include having cancer; having a deeply rebellious child; not having food or a place to live. In my brittle, little world, do I dare to define as “suffering” the disappointment of rejection from a friend, a program that belly-flops instead of soaring, or the fatigue from an over-loaded schedule? Is it the fear—the anticipation—of this kind of suffering that keeps me from taking risks?

What if I were to view every disappointment or interruption or inconvenience as evidence of God’s intervention in my day?  

What if the very thing that I have identified as THE PROBLEM is actually a messenger from heaven to REVEAL the true problem:  my selfishness; my impatience; my small-minded attachment to the way things are; my insistence on having my own way?

By “framing my heart to the burden,” I open my heart wide to all that God has planned. I make His will a law for my heart and kick myself out of the center of the universe. I find that the words of Jesus are true:  

His burden is light.  

It’s the burden of my own perception—the heaviness of my frame of heart—that’s weighing me down.

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  • Wow, Michele. I can SO relate. Actually, my piece today on my blog is about how interruptions to my plans rattle me and how I so want to see them as opportunities to be a part of His plan, instead of grinding my heels in and sticking to my plan! This is so insightful! You are so right. It is all about my attitude. I act like I am so busy and for good things and nothing can go, so woe is me! It is my attitude that needs to go! This – “It’s the burden of my own perception—the heaviness of my frame of heart—that’s weighing me down” really gets me. Praying God will help me kick myself out of the center of the universe today!

    • I actually had an opportunity to live this out in real time this morning. I wanted to get my blog linked up with this post and knew that it was going out there at 6:00 CST, but sick husband, boys who needed to be out the door at 7:00, dog who needed a walk, and a million details later I sat down to do my little business with smoke coming out my ears. I read my own words and thought, “Lord, have mercy!”
      Thanks, Nicole, for reading and for sharing your like-mindedness. I’ll be popping over to your place today for more on this topic, because, clearly, I need it!

  • I finished most of my canning/freezing earlier this week and was caught in the same thought pattern. There’s just something about having a kitchen completely overrun by spoiling veggies that brings on the panic. But of course panic is not the goal–appreciation is. Thanks for taking this life lesson and expanding it so beautifully!

    • Oh, thank heavens! I thought I was the only one!
      I do think time pressure is what pushes us into panic mode most of the time, and I’m working on becoming aware of the times that I’m heading in that direction.

  • Karen Del Tatto

    It’s interesting that I would read this post today since I muttered these words to myself when arriving at work this evening, “Of course I forgot my brief case, everything I have attempted to do today has been a fail…” Yup, not pretty.

    I agree that the disappointments or interruptions and even our frustrations can be divine appointments. Sometimes to show us an area we need work on but I have also received a blessing despite the frustration or disappointment.

    Thank you for encouraging us to go to Jesus, and learn from Him, for His burden is light and His way easy…

    Visiting you from Inspire Me Monday. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s the burden of my own perception that makes the difference between a “catastrophe” (and, yes, I do over-react) and a blessed learning experience. Thanks for joining the conversation in the Mudroom.

  • Julie Lefebure

    His burden is light. Thank you so much for this today, reminding me no matter what interruption or inconvenience comes, to be thankful and take them to Jesus. I appreciate your perspective and allowing God to point us in the right direction through your words. Blessings to you! Follow you at Kelly’s today.

    • Thanks, Julie, for your encouragement. Giving thanks does change my mind, and I am trusting for grace to be more intentional about it!

  • Mary

    What if I were to view every disappointment or interruption or inconvenience as evidence of God’s intervention in my day? This question is what Chrystal Evans Hurst spoke about at Allume this past weekend. She told us to expect God to interrupt our day. It really changes your thinking when you know that God had His hand in it all along. He knows what you need even though it feels like a disruption. We need to change our thinking at times and He will go about it in ways that seem intrusive but really are so good! Thank you for these words Michele.

    • I have read so much about Allume this week — I really need to find out what’s going on with that!
      I love this thought you are sharing about “expecting” interruptions. Yes. That sounds like availability to the Spirit, and hugely transformative . . . and I need to do a lot of praying to reach that point! Thanks, Mary, for your good insights!

  • This is so good, Michele. It’s our response, not the circumstances, that is the problem. Yes. Lord, have mercy in that space between situation and respond….

    Your gardening woes remind me of how my mom used to feel. 🙂 She did appreciate the bounty of a plentiful garden (like you), but also felt the burden of it as well. It was still worth it to her though (as with you).

    • Fun that you can relate through your mother’s gardening days.
      I’m asking God to make me more conscious of this tendency to frame things in the negative. Clearly it’s the things that we’re working on — more than the things we’ve mastered — that find their way into our writing, at least for most of us!

  • Intentionally Pursuing

    Michele, these are words of truth: “Could it be that it is not the burden itself that is weighing me down, but, rather, my response to it?” Thank you for causing me to pause and consider my response to the things I face. And thank you, Michele, for sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday on Intentionally Pursuing. : )

    • Back to the words of the Alchemist: The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
      Or to the words of Jesus: My yoke is easy. My burden is light.
      I do forget that He is under the burden with me, but what a blessing to be reminded!