Take a moment and think about something that has been weighing you down. It may be something personal or a concern for another. Finances, health, lost family members, stress at work or in a relationship. Consider how much time you put into thinking about this, worrying, and talking about it. It may be something currently on your mind, or something that just recently resolved. Do you have it in mind?
While I was in Greece, as we parted ways our tour guide would say “goodbye” and “Take the day off your shoulders.” I wrote down the saying, because I love this idea. Take away the things that weigh you down as the day ends. This is their common farewell greeting as they end their day.
This idea is not unique to the Greeks, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
We were not designed to carry burdens. When we have labored for the day, Jesus says “Come to me, I will give you rest.” When we share our burden with Him, our yoke is lightened. We can rest in His peace.
Through the years, even before Jesus walked the earth, there has been a tendency by man to create a heavier load. Jesus called the religious leaders out on this very thing. Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. Matthew 23:1-4
In the Old Testament there were 613 laws included in the Torah, or first five books of the Bible. In addition, Jewish rabbis create laws that are meant to help people from accidently breaking the law of the Torah. For example, when I was in Israel, the hotels had a Shav’vot elevator because even pushing the button to ride in the elevator was prohibited as it could be work. This elevator stopped on every floor during the hours of the Sabbath. There were communities where it was illegal to walk or drive a car during the Sabbath. We can look at these as extreme, but we often allow religious precedent to creep into our daily lives. I have attended churches where skirts must be below the knee, all skin on the upper half must be covered, no make-up and hair must be worn up. I have heard of churches that require their members to disclose financial information so that the tithe is upheld. Some churches use wine in communion while others forbid all alcohol. I have been told in the past that Bible study and prayer must be done in the morning. These are just a few examples from modern Christianity.
There is nothing wrong with following these extra laws, or even personal conviction. What is not okay, is to feel burdened and condemned, laboring to meet all man’s laws. Or to put those demands on others. Christ said His burden is light. He came to fulfill the law. This is not a license for us to sin, as His grace empowers us to live righteous. We are called to walk in His rest, His peace.
So what can we do when we feel like we can’t take the weight off our shoulders? The easy answer is “give it to God and seek Him.”
““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34
If our weight is a problem to solve, we can ask for His wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 He can give us the answers.
If it is a need we have, or for someone else, we can ask. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 We can trust that God will meet our needs.
If we have a specific need, we can sow into that need in a life of another. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 He can take the seed we sow and let us reap from it.
If we are suffering, we need to pray. Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:13-14
If we are dealing with anxiety, we can be prayerful and offer thanksgiving. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6
If the trouble is the thoughts that we have, we can refocus our thinking on the things that God has called us to think about. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Philippians 4:8 . We have to chose to take the negative things captive and replace them with the things God tells us to focus on.
Taking the weight of the day off our shoulders is something each and every person should do. It will help us to sleep better and not continue to carry around weight we were not designed to carry. We can do this by giving it to God. We can ask for His help, His wisdom, His healing, His provision. We can sow a seed into another’s life. We can offer thanksgiving and praise to Him. We can seek Him and His answers regardless of the weight we carry, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We can change our negative thoughts. When we yoke ourselves with Him we can find rest for our weary souls. So chose to take the weight of the day off your shoulders.