“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden?
Then come to Me.
I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.
Simply join your life with Mine.
Learn My ways and you’ll discover
that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please.
You will find refreshment and rest in Me.
For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”
Matthew 11:28-30 TPT
I sat quietly with Matthew 11:28-30, allowing the words to settle into my heart. This was a passage that had always spoken deeply to me of Jesus’ care. It usually brought about reassurance and peace. This time, however, the emotions welling up within me were quite the opposite. Anger and indignation were rising to the surface like boiling water in a pasta pot. I could feel them increasing in strength and I desperately tried to put a lid on them before they boiled up and spilled out. The depth of emotions surprised and shocked me.
I sat with them, rereading the passage several more times, hoping to bring them down to a gentle simmer. However, there was no stopping them. The feelings of anger and confusion and doubt had already surfaced.
There was something about this modern translation that felt like a slap in the face. It made walking with Jesus sound like a tropical vacation. The past several months had been anything but “refreshing,” “pleasant,” and “easy to bear.” They had been grueling for me and my entire family. We had gone through tremendous loss and heartbreak. Likewise, my experience of following Jesus to the cross (using the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises) had been slow and tortuous. There had been little “refreshment” and “rest.”
What was Jesus talking about in this passage?! It certainly didn’t line up with my current experience or with the four women who sat in the other rooms of my home, savoring an hour of silence alone with God. They had all had their own seasons of crisis, upheaval, and heartbreak. My heart ached for them as I considered these promises from Jesus. I wanted them to be encouraged and strengthened, but was concerned that they would find themselves in the same place as I, doubting whether God was present and aware of their pain.
Finally, however, I gave in, allowing myself to be with my true emotions without judging or ignoring them. I hadn’t expected this response but it was here and I needed to pay attention to what I was feeling. No more pretending or rushing past or condemning myself. I let myself feel all the emotions, knowing that as I did, Jesus sat with me, seeing, understanding and loving me. In the end, I wrote a prayer of lament, expressing all that had been bottled up. The anger wasn’t gone, but just like David in the Psalms, I had been able to truthfully acknowledge before a loving God all that I was feeling.
Several days later, I was given an assignment for the Journey Faculty Training. Not coincidentally, the opening passage to consider was Matthew 11:28-30 from the Message. As I sat with the passage this time, I sensed Jesus directing me to go deeper. To expand upon it, using my hurt feelings from the previous experience to put it into context. The words came tumbling out onto the page, as if Jesus had placed His hand on mine, and was writing the words for me:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Angry? Grieving? Heartbroken? Struggling? Lonely? Disillusioned? Weary? Empty?
Come to Me,
in your current condition, however you are right now, knowing that I love you and you are safe with Me.
and spend time alone
in My grace-filled presence
and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Rest that is free of self judgment, striving for approval, or the need to figure things out on your own.
Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it.
I am unhurried and unburdened, for My Father and I are in constant communion and He provides all that I need.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
There is no need to stress or strive or struggle. Living from the place of overflow takes the pressure off of your need to perform, and allows Me to work through you.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.
For I am the One who will be responsible for the heavy lifting, and you are responsible for being in relationship with Me.
Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Freely and lightly, meaning effortlessly because you are in sync with Me, one with My rhythms, not carrying extra responsibility, not having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others, and living from a place of continuous grace and love, which is fully supplied by Me.”
When “we” were finished writing, I reread it with fresh eyes. I saw that no matter our current condition, Jesus invites us into relationship, into His life of love and overflow, in which He understands us, cares for us, and provides for all our needs.