It’s late November and you’re mostly through your daily “Thankful For…” list, or daily “Thankful” reading from the Psalms. By this point, you have your Thanksgiving menu planned, whether it means eating in or eating out. November is pretty predictable, as far as months go.
What do you do, then, when November is not predictable? What if your “Thankful For…” list is more of a “Gotta Get Through This” list? Instead of being filled with holiday plans, family get-togethers, and attitudes of gratitude, it’s overflowing with weariness, unexpected loss, and financial difficulties. You know there are things for which you are thankful, but maybe your brain can’t focus long enough to identify them.
You’re stuffed. Except, unlike a turkey, you’re not bursting with fluffy, sage-y goodness, but rather the leaden weight of what life has lobbed at you. You’re crammed with the recent fight with your spouse, the car repairs, the daughter’s behavior at school, the medical bills, the drama in your extended family, the frustration with your job, the misunderstanding with a friend, the spiritual desert through which you journey…the list goes on and on. You step outside your own personal realm to hearing of death by fire, or by gunshot, or by tragic accident. The media howls from all sides and truth starts to ripple. You just keep stuffing, pushing the heaviness down like trash in a can. It’s not that you want to be stuffed. It’s just that you don’t know what to do with it all.
There is another way.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
See, we humans have a very tiny issue known as control. Culture dictates that individualism is prized. Independence is celebrated. Being in control is valued. The elevation of these traits in society has damaged our ability to release the “stuff” and relinquish our grasp on the things that we really have no hold on anyway.
How much of what you’re carrying is directly affected by what you can do about it?
Maybe some, but not all. Maybe not even most.
That’s the beautiful thing about Jesus’ words. It’s an invitation to come. It’s an invitation to bring all our stuff. Our natural inclination is, in the words of a 2-year-old, to do it, “All by self.” Not just to carry it, but to carry it alone. Jesus is offering to do it with us. He wants to exchange the stuff we’ve placed on ourselves with his stuff. He’s not asking us not to carry anything; he just wants us to carry the right things.
So perhaps your “Thankful for…” list could be written as,
“I’m thankful that I can give Jesus the stuff that has to do with my boss being verbally abusive,” or “I’m thankful that I can give Jesus the stuff that has to do with my aunt’s cancer diagnosis.”
“I’m thankful that in the midst of this disagreement with my spouse, that Jesus can help me to get perspective,” or “I’m thankful that, even though the car repairs were unexpected, Jesus will provide for our needs, even if that means me taking on a few extra hours at work.”
I’m not sure why, but I think we hesitate to “bother” Jesus with the things we consider self-manageable (the “God helps them who helps themselves” mentality), or we wait to save our asking for help when we think the stuff is too big for us to handle. And yet we pour out all stuff, big and small, to our spouse or our parents or our best friend.
Jesus’ desire is for us to come. His desire for us is to squirm out from under the heaviness of our stuff, regardless of how accustomed we are to lugging it around. His desire is for our rest.
And that’s something for which we can truly be thankful.