Clean the kitchen. Go to work. Fold the laundry. Read my Bible. Spend time with my wife, my kids, my friends. Exercise. Take the dog to the vet. Fix the toilet. Coach soccer. Attend worship on Sunday. Do the bills. See that new movie. Lots of things to do!
We have so many demands, opportunities, expectations and urgencies in our modern world. “My plate is too full,” is the phrase I hear a lot. “I wish someone would just tell me what I need to do. Have them write it down on a piece of paper and give it to me!” A friend of ours has a 5-year-old who asked his preschool friend, “Do you want to come and play sometime?” The 4-year-old replied, “I have Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings available. That’s it.” A preschooler already scheduled to the max!
What’s the solution to overloaded lives? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 11:28-30. It is a text that deals with the question of busyness and overload head-on. Here Jesus teaches us two principles for managing the stress you and I live in day-to-day. Here’s his first command:
Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The word for weary here means more than physical weariness. It means being worn down and thoroughly exhausted. Burdened means carrying a load — maybe pains or hurts or sins from the past, or the demands and expectations of others. Jesus tells us He wants us to come to Him with these burdens. He wants us to bring to him whatever is on our mind. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” He is our Good Shepherd! He wants us to give to Him our burdens, our cares, our worries, our overburdened lives. Do you do that?
Jesus then tells us, “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.” As any farmer knows, a yoke is a wooden frame or collar device used for harnessing together a pair of oxen. It helps the oxen pull efficiently and effectively — avoiding distractions and focusing their energy to best accomplish the task. When Jesus says, “Take my yoke,” He means join Me. Jesus is on the other side of the yoke! Jesus is issuing to us a call to discipleship — seeking to pattern our lives after His. Discipleship with Jesus is learning to submit your will to His will — learning to live as God intended you to live.
Most of us are consumed by what Charles Hummel calls the “Tyranny of the Urgent.” We allow the urgent demands pressing in on us to crowd out the truly important things we need to be focusing on day by day. How do you discern what is truly important from all the incessant demands and urgencies claiming our attention? We need to be yoked to God. We need to touch base with Jesus day to day, hour by hour — asking Him what our priorities should be. It’s the only way we can navigate through the voices, the cellphones rings, the invitations, the incessant demands on our time in our modern culture.
Face it — as a culture, we are dealing with overload more and more these days. The really difficult part is that we don’t know what is the important stuff to focus on and what is just fluff. Jesus, our Creator, Savior and Leader, offers us a much better way. He wants us to come to Him and learn from Him. If we do this, He offers us forgiveness, a life of purpose and real rest for our souls. Will you seek Him today?
The Rev. Peter Balentine is pastor of Hope Community Church in Newburyport.