I once took my family on a vacation to Lake Tahoe. I hooked up a rather large trailer to my car, and we headed north. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop to think how that large load would affect how many miles I would get per gallon.
As I drove through the mountains, I noticed the gas tank was half full. No problem, I thought. My car had a big tank. But suddenly, we hit a strong headwind, and I watched my gas gauge drop even further. I then realized we wouldn’t make it to our destination. We eventually ran out of gas, and I had to hitchhike back to a gas station.
The point of my story is this: The heavier the load you carry, the faster you’ll run out of gas.
Pastor, you’re carrying a heavy load. Leaders always do. You’re helping people answer questions about eternity. You’re ministering to them in their lowest moments. Your church members are looking to you for spiritual nourishment.
To fulfill God’s purpose for your life, you must learn to lighten your load or you will run out of gas. It’s possible to still carry a large amount of responsibility without letting it stress you out.
Jesus described his pattern for carrying a large amount of responsibility without the stress in Matthew 11:28-30: “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” (NIV).
In those verses we find three words—come, take, and learn—that will change how you deal with stress if you apply them to your life.
Come to Jesus.
We come to Jesus for many reasons—to find healing, encouragement, and purpose. Rarely do we come to Jesus with our stress. But Jesus says if we come to him, he will give us the deepest kind of soul rest.
Your biggest source of stress isn’t tired muscles; it’s a tired mind. It’s tension, worry, fear, and anxiety. It’s thinking about your problems repeatedly. Taking a nap, getting exercise, or spending time with loved ones can help ease stress. But none of these things will give you lasting relief when you’re stressed.
The only thing that can help is God. You must spend time with him alone. Just be quiet and sit alone with him. During this time, you’re not studying for your next sermon. Instead, you’re asking God, “Is there anything you want to tell me?” Then you simply shut up and listen.
Give up control.
The reason you’re on overload is because you’re trying to control too much. You think everything in your life—your family and your ministry—relies on you.
But it doesn’t. You’re not the general manager of the universe. You can resign and the world won’t fall apart.
Jesus tells you to “take my yoke upon you.” You probably already know the background of that illustration. A yoke is a piece of wood that brings two farm animals together. When this yoke is put on those farm animals, it halves the load for both.
It’s a symbol of partnership. We were never meant to carry all the stress in our lives by ourselves. Jesus isn’t saying he’ll add to our load when we take on his yoke. He is saying he will carry part of the load for us.
A yoke is also a symbol of control. Farmers yoke together animals so they will go in the same direction. We get into trouble when we’re not going in the same direction as Jesus. Stress comes from doing things our way, instead of God’s way. You will always be yoked to something—the expectations of your parents, your boss, your spouse, or maybe even your own ego. You might as well choose the lightest, easiest yoke. Jesus says, “My burden is easy.”
Learn to trust.
Why does Jesus want us to learn from him? Because he modeled how to live with purpose and peace. Nobody has ever lived a more balanced and healthy life than Jesus. That’s why we are to study his life and follow his example.
Two things Jesus wants us to learn from him are gentleness and humility, the opposite of arrogance and aggression. We often think we’re in control of everything in our lives, and we act too quickly, without thinking about the consequences of our actions. The only antidote to this kind of stress is to learn to trust in him.
Pastor, don’t forget to share your load with Jesus. And when you do, he promises you’ll find rest for your soul.