“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
I am a perfectionist, type A person at heart, and in every area of my life, including my spiritual life, I can quickly find that I’m burdened by the expectations I put on myself. Am I reading the Bible as much as I should? Am I doing enough good things? When I was in high school and buckling under the weight of these types of questions, my dad sat me down and told me something I’d never forget.
He talked to me about how life with God was like a hike. Sometimes there are hills, sometimes valleys, but we’re always walking along with a backpack on our backs. And if we’re not careful, our backpacks can become heavier and heavier. What makes our packs heavy are the lies we believe and the expectations we put on ourselves or that come from others in an unhealthy place. When we take on burdens like these, they weigh us down, making our journey hard to bear.
But God never gives us a heavy load to carry. While, yes, God does ask us to obey Him and follow His commands, 1 John 5 says that his commandments are not burdensome. The are not riddled with pressure to be perfect or full of guilt and shame when we don’t measure up. His commandments are full of love and desire for us to be like Him, free and full of love.
I always love the way The Message version of the Bible articulates Jesus’s heart for us when it comes to obeying: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30).
My dad finished our conversation by telling me that when I find that my backpack is heavy with burdens I was never meant to bear, I have to stop and take them out of my pack. God’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light, and therefore mine is too.
If you find yourself weary of following God today, stop and reflect: are you carrying burdens you were never meant to carry? Have you grasped that God’s commandments are not burdensome, and that He wants you to lay down your heavy load so you can live “freely and lightly”? Spend a minute praying, letting go of your burdens, and start again carrying your new, easy load.