I was talking with a good friend recently about the cliché phrases Christians use when talking about their faith. Many of these that have developed over the years are sometimes widely accepted, but have zero Biblical backing to them. It’s an unfortunate symptom of the sickness of Biblical illiteracy amongst many people who have been going to church for a long time, so they lack the Biblical knowledge to challenge these phrases. (Sidebar: this is definitely a shameless plug to read your Bible more, not a Bible-thumping guilt trip. Truly, it’s humbling and helpful.)
These clichés usually stem from pop-psychology and cultural phrases that we kinda-sorta attempt to mesh with Christian ideas. Usually, to me, these phrases are an absolute mess, and make me cringe when I hear them. As well, they are of little to no help to those in the midst of their struggles.
The one I’m specifically thinking of I’ve heard (and possibly have even said myself, Lord forgive me!) goes something like, “Leave your troubles at the door.” I’ve heard this said by worship leaders when starting a service or chapel and even pastors doing the welcome greeting. The idea behind it makes sense. Often, we’re so distracted with what’s happening in our lives outside the walls of the church that we cannot focus when we enter the church to worship. That is an understandable and frustrating circumstance. I would even say that distraction is a tool of Satan’s to shift our attention away from what the Holy Spirit would want to speak to us.
Here’s the trouble with saying something like that cliché: it makes it sound as if we shouldn’t be troubling Jesus with our problems, but learn about Him for a short period of time, then grit through life without His help once we leave.
The fact is, Jesus not only WANTS to hear about your problems, but He wants to BEAR them with you. Pause and think about that for a second. Jesus, the Word by which God created everything, wants to carry your troubles with you. He cares so much that He’ll come along side you in the very middle of what you’re going through.
1 Peter 5:7 says to “Cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Not just some of your burden, but all of it! And notice that it’s because He cares for you. (Sidebar: the next time you think God doesn’t care about you, remember this verse)
Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says Himself to, “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.”
Notice that Jesus invites you to come to Him. It’s an open invitation to come before Him with your stuff. When He talks about those who are “weary and burdened”, the original Greek gives us the concept of someone who is so weary from working that they are exhausted and has lost the will to continue. Have you ever felt so exhausted from trying to carry the weight of all that you’re struggling with in your life? I know I certainly have. He lovingly invites those of us who are there to come to Him.
But, Jesus says something absolutely mind-boggling here. He says, “Take my yoke upon you.” Obviously, it would be ridiculous if He were talking about an egg yoke (and a little sticky). What He’s talking about is a yoke for livestock.
A yoke has two loops dangling from a wooden crossbar. Through each, an oxen (or other load bearing livestock) would place their heads inside, and the wooden bar across the top would be latched to a wagon, carriage, or plow to be pulled by the oxen. The purpose of this was to spread the pulling burden of livestock equally between two steeds rather than having one animal carry the load by itself. Jesus is saying, “If you take this yoke, I will carry it on an equal level with you. I will help you carry this burden. You are not alone.” Jesus’ desire has never been for us to grit our teeth through life, but to allow for Him to carry these burdens with us. Notice as well, that if we allow Him to do this, it says that we will find rest and that it will be easy (not easy as in being void of trouble, but easy as in gentler, more pleasant because you have company).
So, in response to the cliché, the better phrase for us as worship leaders is to encourage all of us as worshipers to “come to Jesus with all your stuff today. He will carry it with you.”
Today, my encouragement is to do that very thing. When you come to worship, study the Scriptures, pray, or fellowship with fellow Christians, come to that time casting all your cares upon Jesus. Lay them at His feet. He wants to take them and carry them with you. You are not alone. Worship is set richly within that mindset.