Have you ever decided to take a walk and then discovered a pebble in your shoe? At first you think: “It’s just a pebble. Maybe it will work itself out.” You continue walking but the pebble is still there and it’s making the walk uncomfortable. You consider stopping, but you think: “It’s still just a pebble and it’s a minor nuisance. I can keep walking,” but now the pebble is becoming more than just a nuisance. It’s causing pain and it’s affecting your walk because now you’re being careful about how you let your foot land and it’s making the walk both painful and awkward when it was supposed to be pleasant. Finally, you think: “OK! Enough is enough! That pebble’s got to go!” So, you stop, take off your shoe, maybe even your sock and you shake everything out. After careful inspection you put the sock and shoe back on, take a couple of test steps and to your great satisfaction, the pebble is gone! You breathe a sigh of relief, maybe even smile at your accomplishment, and carry on your walk with gusto.
Pebbles are Easy. Problems are Tough.
Did you know we’ll go so far as to remove a pebble from our shoe, but we often don’t treat our real problems with anywhere near that level of thoroughness? Some of us, it seems, would rather drag our burdens along than really deal with them the way God intends for us to. It’s strange but we’d rather carry our burden with us because it’s something we know than deal with the possibility of being free of it, because we don’t know what life would be like without it and it scares us.
Take grief, for example. Someone we love passes away and we grieve over the loss. That’s perfectly normal. But then instead of moving past the grief, we hang onto it. “Why would anyone want to do that?” you ask. Because for some, the grief they have for that person is the only thing they have left (or so they think) and they’re afraid that if they let go of that grief, they’ll let go of that person forever and it’s just not true.
A Wound in Your Soul is Worse Than a Pebble in Your Shoe.
The worst thing a person can do to himself and the people around him is to live life with a wounded spirit:
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)
People can endure a lot of things if hope is still in the mix, but if your spirit is wounded, it means you’ve lost all hope and who can bear up under that? Even the Lord when He despaired on the cross and cried out “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 16:34) still held onto the hope, the promise, of the “joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
When we hang on to burdens like grief, anger, bitterness, etc. we rob ourselves of hope and wound our own spirit. That does not just affect us, it affects those around us too because it affects our outlook, our attitudes, and our actions. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said to His hearers:
(28) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
(29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When He said these words, He was specifically addressing the spiritual burdens the Pharisees were placing on the people. It was a vast set of rules they said that people had to follow to get into Heaven. Their manmade rules were completely wrong and only made things worse. Jesus was letting the multitudes know that what He had to offer was much better – and while this dealt with the rules imposed by the Pharisees it can apply to any burden we put upon ourselves that hinders our walk with God.
You see, the word Jesus used for “rest” is an interesting one. It is the Greek word anapausis. Translated literally, it means “to make to cease.” The way it is commonly used does not mean rest from work but rest in work. It means the ability to work unencumbered, like removing that pebble from your shoe. What you’re making to cease when you give your burdens to Christ is the thing that is holding you back.
With Trust Comes Freedom
It’s important for us to understand what Jesus is offering here. He is taking the burden Himself and offering in its place His rest. That’s peace, relief, freedom from unnecessary care. Take, for example, the grief that someone carries for a loved one. When you give that to the Lord, you are not forsaking the memory of that person, you are putting it into the sure and capable hands of the Savior. Who better to take care of it? That frees you up not only to move on with your life, but to remember that loved one without the grief associated with their loss. You can let go of the “what if’s” and the regrets and let God carry your heartache.
I lost my mom to colon cancer in 2003. When it was discovered, it was already at stage 4 and there wasn’t much the doctors could do. Mom told us about her cancer when we came up to visit in August of that year. I remember the end of that last visit. She came out to the driveway to see us off. We talked briefly and then I hugged her goodbye. Mom was always a petite woman, but when I hugged her that last time, she felt frail and fragile even for her because of that cancer. As we drove off, I looked at her through the rearview mirror just knowing that it would be the last time I would see her this side of Heaven.
She told us about her cancer in August and she was with the Lord that November, just a week shy of her 65th birthday. We tried to come up to see her one last time, but she was gone too quickly. I have long regretted not being able to see her one last time.
After her funeral, my faith was deeply challenged. I knew she was saved but I kept thinking: “Is she really OK?” I just kept wondering because now, with my mom’s passing, I really had to apply my faith in God’s promises of eternal life. As I struggled with my grief, I was reminded of 2 Timothy 1:12
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Paul was nearing the end of his ministry and he knew that his life was soon at an end as well. He was going to be executed for his faith, but he was unafraid because he knew the One Who had possession of his soul. Paul was confident beyond measure that his Savior would take him into His presence. Paul’s faith strengthened my faith and allowed me to give my grief to God. I still miss Mom, but I don’t bear the grief of her loss. That’s with God. I just look forward to the day I will get to see her again. I don’t have that pebble of grief hindering my walk with Christ. I can live for Him and others unencumbered.