I get burdened by many things: my work, relationships, and personal struggles cause anxiety, frustration, and anger, and these form a heavy, lumpy, ugly burden. Sometimes this burden compound is small and its weight slight; other times it is unbearable. What does your burden consist of? – what troubles have attached to one another, forming a large, messy mass of stress, anxiety, or pain? We could reflect on how to avoid these burdens piling up on us, but that’s for another time. The question at present is what to do when the burdens come.
The scriptures invite us to throw the burdens away—out of our minds and hearts, off of our backs and shoulders—and onto the Lord. David confesses, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22), and Peter exhorts, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). This casting means we pray; we deal with our burdens before God.
But this isn’t often what we—what I—do. Some try to drown the burden in alcohol. Some try to work it off by achieving a new goal. Some try to ignore the burden by pursuing a new venture. Some try to rid themselves of the burden by blaming others, with outbursts of anger and accusation. Some try to shoulder the burden with a martyr’s spirit, searching for pity and secretly hoping for relief. None of these substitutes will do for casting the burden on the Lord. But again, this forces us to deal with God, maybe the very one we don’t want to confront.
In the context of David’s words above, a friend has betrayed him and conspired with others of his enemies against him. In the context of Peter’s letter quoted from above, his audience staggers under religious persecution. These are heavy burdens: betrayal and opposition, heartache and hardship. But the wisdom of God is not to retaliate or run, but to cry out to God for help, justice, and salvation. Whatever the burden, the Lord bids us cast it on him with tears of lament and cries of pain, because he cares for you and me.
In the end, I suppose our lives aren’t about the burdens we carry, but about what we do with them. This day, may we together cast our burdens upon God, who cares for us, and in return, may we receive his sustaining grace, renewing strength, and abiding love.