Saturday, December 18, 2010

Time for Casting or Time for Taking?

"I don't know if I can take much more."  

Have you heard that statement recently?  Maybe even coming from your own mouth?  Possibly the holiday planning, the pressure of seeing family or not seeing family, the end-of-the-year workload, exams, studying, commitments, parties, scheduling - it's all too much.

This week, I heard this statement from someone who probably had every right to say it.  A dear friend had passed away, and the circumstances surrounding their death is the epitome of a surreal tragedy.

When things happen, we say phrases like, "I have to deal with this on my own," or "It's something I have to take care of,"  or finally, "I don't know if I can take much more."

I spent a good portion of last night thinking over these statements, and then thinking through the bold claims of Peter and Jesus found two separate passages.  In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter writes:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you."

Peter is writing to a group of people that have been living in constant persecution.  As 21st Century American Christians, I don't think that we can ever fully grasp what it means to suffer persecution at the hands of those around you.  We hear stories of martyrs and the persecuted Church throughout countries like Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, etc, etc, etc; but the most that we are persecuted here is from words that sting and bring us to places of anxiety, but never fear for our life.

This is why I think this passage is so very apt for the 21st Century American Christian.  We are an anxious people.  We are born into a family that worries, we are raised to worry, we live our life worrying, and then eventually we pass our worry onto our children.  There are finances, school decisions, silly things called "our love life," pressures at work, and then our family and all of the choices that they have to make.  So we worry.  And when things get extremely tough, like in the situation of friends and family actually passing on, a deep, heavy, feeling comes over us - and we don't know how much more we can take.

Instead of trying to handle all of this worry and pain and hurt on our own, Peter tells us to humble ourselves, and cast all of our worry, anxiety, pain, hurt, grief, etc, on Him.  Because He cares for you.  Don't miss that - it is all BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU.

Jesus tells us 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."

The scholars tell us that a yoke is typically put upon someone, as in a forced servitude.  So, the Jews were under the forced yoke of the Romans.  A slave would be under the yoke of their master.  Even, in some situations, a woman would be under the forced yoke of her husband.

These were not good yokes.  They were not taken willingly, but were placed forcefully.  Jesus says that we have to actually TAKE HIS YOKE and PUT IT ON OURSELVES.  We have to submit to Him; we have to willingly put on His yoke, because He will not force it upon us.

The amazing difference is that the yokes that were forced upon people were heavy, were filled with anxiety, with pressure, and with fear.  But Jesus' yoke is easy, is light, and is filled with rest for your souls.  What a stark difference between the two!  Jesus has nothing in common with a forceful master.  He is gentile, He is light and easy - and He gives rest.

When we submit ourselves to Jesus, we have to submit even those phrases of: "I have to take care of this myself."  "I don't know how much more I can take."  Because we are under His yoke.  We take upon ourselves, willingly, freely, a light, easy yoke that is provided for us by our Savior who PROMISES nothing but rest and gentleness.  Under this yoke, we are FREE to CAST ALL OF OUR CARES AND ANXIETIES UPON HIM.  Why?  Because He cares for YOU! 

Let's start to think radically for a moment.  What would happen if we took these verses seriously?  How would our language and phrases we use begin to change?  How would our minds and thoughts begin to transform?  What would happen to that curse of worry that has plagued each of our families for generations upon generations?  And then, most of all, when incredibly tough, hard tragedies happen - would we be able to know without a doubt that we are able to not just survive, but thrive in the midst of the tragedy because He is caring for you every month, every week, every day, every minute, every second of your life.  I think that it's time to start taking up our yokes and time to start casting our cares upon Him.

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