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ARE OUR BURDENS LIGHT?

by Jacob Ninan

We all have to carry many burdens at different times in our life, and we find some burdens very heavy. Itís only natural, especially at such times, that we wish we didnít have to carry such heavy burdens, and then we usually pray that God would take away those burdens. There are also people around us giving us a simplistic solution that we just have to claim release from the problem by faith or that we should resist the devil in Jesusí name. But when the burdens still remain they can even become a stumbling block to us unless we understand Godís ways rightly.

God has never promised us that He would keep us free from burdens once we become His children or that He would take them away when we go to Him in prayer. Itís very clear from His word that there will be many troubles and trials we have to face as long as we are on this earth (Jn.16:33;1Pet.4:12). At times we may suffer as a result of our sin or folly, and at some other time we may suffer because of a lack of faith or when the devil attacks us. But many times we also suffer because we are living in a sin-corrupted world with many sinners around us. God may sometimes send us trouble as a means of drawing us to Him or for disciplining us. Our responses to all these troubles will have to be different, and not always trying to get rid of them.

We also need to understand that our life under the new covenant is very different from the example of the people of Israel as they were about to leave Egypt. We cannot take some of the promises God gave to Israel and expect them to automatically apply to us. There the Lord made a distinction between the two peoples. When calamities came to the Egyptians they didnít touch Israel (Exo.8:12). None of the diseases that afflicted Egypt affected Israel (Exo.15:26). But what God did for Israel under the old covenant was basically only a metaphorical picture of what God ultimately wanted to do for His people. Then He did marvellous things for them in the physical realm, but now He wants to do great things for us in the spiritual realm. Of course God knows that we are living on this earth and we need earthly blessings too. But He wants to give us much more than earthly things, something that will also be a blessing to us in the life to come (1Tim.4:8). Isnít this the better thing God wants to do under the new covenant (Heb.11:40)? Under the new covenant Godís focus has come on what He always wanted to do for His peopleóto transform us to His image. He began to work in us to draw our hearts to Him, away the things and pleasures of this world, through external difficulties working on us.

When Paul had a potential problem of becoming puffed up because of the great revelations he had received from God, God allowed a messenger of Satan to buffet him (2Cor.12:7). It became a source of great (possibly physical) suffering for Paul, for which he entreated the Lord three times. But Paulís heart was more valuable to God than his having a comfortable life. It is in the same way that He allows us to face difficulties in life, so that we may be drawn away to Him from this world and our fleshly desires.

The sufferings that Jesus Himself went through, as orchestrated by Satan through the hands of the Jewish rulers, ultimately worked for our good, for our salvation. He saw this joy that was set before Him and endured His cross (Heb.12:2). This was also pictured in the Old Testament when the evil that the brothers of Joseph did to him was turned around so that he became their saviour from the famine (Gen.50:20). If Joseph had known how it would work out in the end, it would have helped him to endure his sufferings in a better way. Now we have the privilege of knowing that our sufferings, if we take them in the right way, can work for us an eternal weight of glory (2Cor.4:17).

Some people misunderstand Romans 8:28 as if it means God will give us only good things, or that whatever happens to us must be something good coming from God. Neither of this is true, either as theology or in practical experience. Evil things do happen to us. What the passage actually says is that He will work whatever happens to usóespecially the evil that happens to usóto turn around to do us good ultimately. The NASB puts this very clearly, ďAnd we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.Ē Many times God causes some earthly good to result from the evil that happens first, as in the case of Joseph. But if we read this verse along with the next verse it becomes clear that this Ďgoodí God is specially referring to is the life of His Son Jesus Christ (v.29). In other words, He wants us to partake of His nature through the things that happen to us.

God promises that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability (1Cor.10:13). But havenít we felt many times that we were indeed being tested beyond what we could bear? The problem is that we have misunderstood this verse. God has also provided, along with the test, a Ďway of escapeí. Sometimes it is a means for us to totally escape from the situation. But most often it is the grace that He gives us to go through the situation triumphantly so that we can escape having to be defeated by the situation. What happens usually is that we donít look for this grace but struggle to get out of the situation, and then it looks to be unbearable to us. It is only as we face situations along with the grace that God makes available to us that we are not tested beyond what we are able to bear.

On a cursory glance we may think that in Matthew 11:30 Jesus is promising us that we will have only light burdens. No. What He actually promises is that when we carry our burdens along with Him, allowing Him to carry the other end of the yoke, then our burdens will become light (vv.28-30). In other words His grace will be sufficient for us to carry us through those burdensome situations if we let Him take the other end of the yoke with us. Isnít it when we try to carry our burdens alone that we find them unbearable?

-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, January 2013

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