The Burden is Light


“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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