Lightening the Load

It’s so easy to get pulled down by the weight of the world that we carry on our shoulders. Everywhere we turn there seems to be more and more bad news, destruction, disappointment, devastation, pain, and loss. But what if we didn’t have to carry it? What if we could lay it down and walk freely?

“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.” – Matthew 1:28-30

We need to recognize that we are not defined by the world. We are not defined by what we do, what happens to us or the world around us, or who others say we are. We are defined by whose we are. And we are God’s. We are His masterpiece. We are His heirs. We are victorious in Him. We are beautifully and wonderfully made.

What if we decided that we will no longer be defined by the length of our to-do lists or the relative weight of our accomplishments? What if we were to choose each day to let ourselves be defined by something completely independent of our striving? What if instead of trying to do more, instead of trying to be more, we simply embrace the fact that we already are enough?

No matter what this world tries to convince us of, we are enough. We don’t have to live the way others tell us to live. We don’t have to believe the lies of the enemy. We don’t have to try to fit ourselves into the box set before us. We don’t have to live in the shadows, where shame, guilt, fear, and insecurity surround us.

In Christ, we have the freedom to release our stress and our heaviest burdens and walk through this life helping others do the same. We get to leave behind the cares and concerns and worries of this world and set our sights on one in which God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes. And there will be no more sorrow or crying or death or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Yes, difficult times come to us all. Bad things happen. We get hurt. We make mistakes and suffer the consequences. We get ourselves in over our heads with committing to too many things and comparing our lives to those around us. But we don’t have to live our lives that way. We can grieve and hurt and heal and keep moving, keep living.

No matter what happens in our personal lives, we are God’s. We can rest assured in our identity in Him. Regardless of what goes on in the world around us, we can be comforted knowing our God is never shaken. He stands firm in the fiercest storm and holds us close. We don’t have to carry our baggage around like dead weight. Through individual struggles and in the midst of a culture filled with fear, we can dare to live differently.

We can show this world that there is more to life than our endless to-do lists and the bleak outlook the news broadcasts give us. There is abundant hope and overwhelming joy for the taking.

Will you join me in taking it?

 

Further reading:

When You Feel Like You’re Not Enough by Renee Swope, (in)courage

Have You Made Busyness an Idol? by Rachel Moreland, Relevant Magazine

Kairos 20’s by Kristyn Emmer, Awkward 20-Something & Surviving It

Remembering the Resurrection

With Easter behind us, many of us go right back to what we consider our “normal” lives, meaning lives that we live between Sundays, lives lived outside of church walls, lives in which the cares and worries of everyday life take over and Christ takes a backseat.

In light of having just celebrated Easter, maybe we ought to reconsider our approach to daily life and the fractured view we have of life lived on Sundays and life lived between Sundays. Easter commemorates Jesus’s resurrection, His demonstration of power over death, sin, and the grave. It reminds us that although the people around Him treated Him with contempt and hate, crucifying Him on a cross after giving Him a thorough beating, He didn’t let them win. Easter proves to us that our God is greater.

And yet we live lives filled with despair, worry, and fear. We get so consumed by the obstacles in front of us that we don’t look up and acknowledge the amazing power of the God watching over us. We let our own personal Goliaths overshadow the strength and might that could be ours if only we would believe God is on our side and has given us the tools we need to slay the giants.

If we were to truly embrace the truth of the resurrection and its implications, we would live life victoriously. We would see that in everything, we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). We would boldly face the mountains standing in our way, knowing that every trial and blessing alike are designed to grow us, teach us, and point us back to God, ultimately for our good and His glory, and with Him, we can handle anything life throws our way (Philippians 4:13).

Instead of facing challenges with an attitude of “I can’t do this,” “this is impossible,” “this day is going to be terrible,” or “this is as good as it’s gonna get,” we can remind ourselves that the light is stronger than the dark. Our Savior conquered death for us, and we are free to embrace His joy, love, and hope. No, our problems won’t magically disappear, but we have the comfort of knowing that the things we suffer through today can’t even compare to the joy of eternal life ahead of us (2 Corinthians 4:17).

I’m not saying our struggles and obstacles aren’t real or can be dismissed with a positive attitude alone. I’m saying that we have a source of power that is infinite, and we can draw upon that strength to stand up and face our giants, knowing our God is with us and for us. He will never abandon us. His strength is more than sufficient to handle all of our troubles, although He may not always act when or how we want.

We know who wins in the end. And we can live our daily lives empowered by that truth if we choose to. What we believe about who we are changes our outlook on life. May you and I remember today and every day that we are more than conquerors through Christ.

Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fourth installment, for my eighteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear eighteen-year-old me,

You are about to embark on a grand adventure that has the potential to dramatically change your life. This is your chance for a fresh start. Be bold. Be courageous. Be a little crazy.

I know you don’t want to let go of the world behind you and the life you’ve lived until now, but you can’t hold onto it and move forward at the same time. Acknowledge that you will have to let go of what you’re trying to desperately to cling to in order to embrace the better things that lie before you. You will be okay. You will make new friends– some of the best friends of your life. You will find work. You will find a major that you love. You will find an amazing community of people to live life with. But you must start by letting go of what’s behind you.

You will never again have so much free time, so make the most of it. This is a unique stage of life– one in which you have the freedom to build your own schedule, live in close quarters with some amazing people, and have opportunities at every turn to do crazy things with them. Don’t miss out on it because you’re too busy trying to get everything on your to-do list crossed off.

Although schoolwork is important, don’t forsake relationships in the name of academics. Your homework will always be there; opportunities to build your friendships and create memories may not. My hope for you is that you will invest more in people than in things, so that you will be able to look back in three years and see that you gained more than a diploma, that you were able to accomplish far more in the way of life experiences.

Don’t be afraid to try things you’re not good at for fear of looking foolish. Join the dance party. Play sand volleyball. Throw a Frisbee around. Don’t allow fear to hold you back from living your life. Some of the craziest things that push you outside of your comfort zone will turn out to be the most memorable experiences. Don’t sacrifice those in the name of your responsible reputation and comfort with doing only familiar things.

You will meet and get to know some of the sweetest, boldest, most genuine people in the next few years. Let them get to know you in return. Don’t hold back just because you know this season of life is temporary. Your entire life is temporary. Live fully every day, as if it were your last. Cherish the friendships that come your way, for some of them will prove to stand the test of time and distance.

All my love,

Jessie

Embrace Your Inner Child

When did we become adults? Did we cross a line somewhere into lives filled to the brim with paying bills, working nine-to-five jobs, going to bed early, and getting up the next day only to do it all over again? I say we take a step in the other direction and let our inner children run free, even just for a little bit.

I’m not advocating a lifestyle of shirking our work or neglecting the importance of sleep, work, or providing for ourselves and our families. I am, however, encouraging all of us– myself included– to make a conscious effort to make time for play. It will likely look different for everyone, but we ought to spend more time doing things that bring us joy. The anticipation of getting to do those things will then motivate us to get our work done so we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

Kids deal with problems when they are faced with them, but then they move on. They do their chores when needed, complete their homework, and take care of themselves (although they may need to be reminded from time to time). But they know that when the day’s work is done, they get to play. And the knowledge of the upcoming playtime is what fuels them through their work.

Don’t worry about how well you might do something or what others might think. Just do it. Sing loudly. Dance wildly. Run with abandon. Do it for the joy that fills your heart, not for the money, attention, obligation, or opportunity to check something off your to-do list.

Develop a new hobby. Go to the park. Lay in the grass and look for fun shapes hidden in the clouds. Ride your bike. Swim in a lake. Play with a puppy. Buy a coloring book and crayons and set to work creating a masterpiece (you could even use these adult coloring pages!). Pick up a paintbrush. Join a sports team, regardless of how well you think you play.

We don’t have to feel like we’ve abandoned our carefree days, exchanging freedom for frustration and joy for jobs. Who said kids have to be the only ones who have fun? You may just find that life looks a little brighter when you let yourself relax and spend time doing things that you enjoy. Your day doesn’t have to be filled only with items from your to-do list. All work and no play leads to burn out and rather dull lives. If we truly want to live life to the fullest, we must embrace joy, creativity, and the freedom to pursue our passions.

What will you do today that brings you joy?