In Matthew 11: 29-30 Jesus called His followers to an easy burden which led to rest for their souls. In the past I pondered these words and compared them to what I had been taught as my responsibilities as a Christian, i.e. follower of Jesus. For me the burden never felt easy; and I, therefore, found no promised peace and rest for my soul. Perhaps you have had the same feeling in your own religious experience as a Christian. The call to personal transformation, evangelistic fervor, and strict obedience to Christian duty always seemed overwhelming to me. Somehow I was supposed to generate the resolve, the commitment, and the faith necessary to first become a Christian and then to maintain that status diligently to the end of my days on this earth. At every turn of life circumstances I seemed to lose my grip on any sense of security, peace, and joy under this paradigm. My perception of what I had been taught as a would be follower of Christ was burdensome beyond measure and not at all like what Jesus seemed to offer.
I highly suspect that many people with church backgrounds had an experience very similar to mine. They were inculcated with a certain version of what Jesus was all about and that story was not nearly what they needed to overcome the emptiness and lack of fulfillment that they sought. Accepting the requirement for evangelizing the world and living piously was not at all easy. The downside of the supposed gospel made sharing that message onerous, and the need to maintain some kind of contrived public image was an act of self denial. Why was I made as I was when that was not going to be good enough for God? Why did I need to re-invent myself when I didn’t invent myself in the first place? Frustration mounted on top of frustration as I struggled with the enormity of it all. Many others around me in this environment seemed as if they had it all together, but that was no real help. It just added to my feelings of inadequacy.
After decades of this type anxiety, I finally concluded that I needed to consider the real possibility that the burden I was experiencing did not come from Jesus. Maybe it had another source. After all, if I profess a faith in Jesus, why not take Him at His word. I had been taught that when what I believed and practiced did not mesh with what Jesus said, I needed to change; so change was definitely called for. Ultimately, I embraced the freedom to re-evaluate everything I had been taught that seemed so distressing and discouraging. In the final analysis, I concluded that my personal effort to measure up, to control others, and to persuade them to be something different from what they are is not a requirement. God is in charge of fulfilling His divine will, and He is not counting on me to perform any vital missions in relation to my own well being or that of others. He has it all under control without me. What a relief that has been. God never fails, and I don’t have to worry any more.