Feeling Overwhelmed Loving Your Neighbor? Accept Christ’s Invitation to Rest.
In a fast and frenzied world, consider the actions of Christ and rest with the Father.
I often feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Living in a broken world, there is so much need and pain that surrounds us. My tendency is to want to pick up each burden and add it to the load I’m carrying. I feel the responsibility to take care of everyone and solve every problem. I don’t want to let anyone down.
The act of carrying others’ burdens is good and pure. It is what we see in the God who entered into our broken world and took our suffering upon himself. It is what he invites us into when he calls us to take up our cross and follow him. But there is something else we see in our God who took on human form. We see a willingness to embrace limits. We see a Savior who rested, who took time away from the crowds, and who relied heavily on the care and leading of his Father. We see a call to come away with him and do likewise.
Sometimes that call gets drowned out by the demands of a fast-paced society and the unrealistic expectations that get placed on us by ourselves and others. Rather than following the leading of the Holy Spirit, we choose to press onward, pick up more and more, and do it by our own strength. But that way of life isn’t sustainable and eventually, we’ll be crushed by the weight of the load. How will we be able to love our neighbors well then?
As Thomas Merton said,
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
When we feel the frenzy, we must be honest about what drives us to take on too much. The desire to love our neighbors well is beautiful and good, but at times our motivations get mixed up with some deeper needs that we’re trying to fulfill or fears that we’re trying to avoid: the pursuit of significance, the fear of letting others down, the pride in seeing ourselves as the savior – any of these might be dwelling below the surface. If we don’t shine a light on them, they will begin to take over, and as Merton says, they will neutralize our work for peace. Our work will become more about us and our image and less about the people that we are called to love.
Our truest act of faith is to slow down, to embrace our limits, and to trust that the Savior will carry what we cannot.
Perhaps for those of us who tend to take on too much, our truest act of faith is to slow down, to embrace our limits, and to trust that the Savior will carry what we cannot. Our worship is to learn to listen to the inner wisdom – the voice of the Holy Spirit inside us and the ways that our bodies and souls are crying out. I can learn to see the strain in my shoulders, the anxiety welling up, the exhaustion, and the irritability that is unleashed on those closest to me not as deficiencies to be overcome but as signals pointing me to pause and re-evaluate. I can learn to see my limits not as curses but as blessings that remind me of my dependence on Christ.
If you are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, consider Christ’s invitation to you…
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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30
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Vanessa Stricker is a Jesus follower, a peacemaker, and a recovering perfectionist, who is learning what it means to live on the side of grace. Vanessa works as Pastor of Peacemaking & Justice at One Life City Church and writes a blog at www.onthesideofgrace.com.