"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
Every Friday in fifth grade I had a science test. And every Thursday night I had a stomachache. Fifth grade marked the beginning of the "Upper Grades" for me and I wasn't handling it well. The expectations were higher, the curriculum harder and my desire to do well was great. And it made me sick with worry.
For the next 12 years this pattern continued. While the physical symptoms eventually abated, a desire to do well on tests and assignments drove me to work hard. Sadly, it wasn't always because of a love of knowledge. More often it was the satisfaction of earning a grade ... an achievement I could point to with pride.
After college this mindset transferred to my career and even my service to God. Whatever job or assignment I was given, I studied the rules and did what was expected. I learned well and measured my success accordingly. Only there was a problem. My life exhausted me.
Deep inside, when I was honest with myself, my worth and value were attached to the "grades" I earned. Life moved from one performance evaluation to the next, with little emotional or spiritual rest. There was always something else to achieve ... to prove.
As I studied the Bible (like a good "student" would) I discovered I wasn't the only one concerned about doing things right. It seemed the Jewish people felt this way too. They had many rules and regulations to follow. They studied the Scriptures and prided themselves on obeying it. They held up the law as a measuring stick. Proving their worth consumed them, especially those in leadership.
Was that what Jesus saw when He looked at them? Did He sense the heaviness of their burdens to get it right? Did He see their spirits bent under the weight of artificial expectations? Did sadness overwhelm Him knowing they cared more about rules and man-made traditions than learning about God?
I wonder if that was on His mind when He spoke these words: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)
My heart sighs at Jesus' words, so great is the relief they promise. I can almost sense Jesus taking my face in His hands and saying, "Stop looking to the rules for your worth. Stop trying to measure yourself against the law. It's all too heavy to bear. You'll never be good enough that way. Look at Me. Learn from Me."
What a difference this truth has made in my life. When I take my eyes off the rules, tests and performance, and put them on Jesus, a weight is lifted. Rather than constantly striving to make the grade, He releases my need to perform and replaces it with His acceptance. The heavy yoke of pride is replaced with His light yoke of humility.
Jesus' invitation to come to Him wasn't a one-time thing. Are you weary? Is it exhausting trying to meet everyone's expectations? Jesus' way is still light, and He still offers rest. Learn from Him, He's the best teacher I've ever had.
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