The Lighter Load (Matt. 11:28-30)

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke  over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 GW)

The undisturbed white blanket surrounded the shabby earth-toned log cabin tucked under the overhang of giant firs. I recall standing on the wooden planked porch that pre-dawn winter day looking out at the brightness of the damp white powder. I took in a breath. The cold tingled as I inhaled deeply, stretched, and then exhaled. The crisp cold air had a way of clearing your mind. Awake, I zipped up my jacket and jerked down my handmade brown stocking cap over my ears and stepped off the porch with my coal-black canine companion. Our feet landed with a crunching sound. I stood momentarily, looked at my feet wholly covered in wet snow, smiled, and began shuffling my way to the familiar open rustic log shed, kicking the snow and leaving a trail behind.  

It was a simple square structure. The rustic woodshed, constructed with four 15 foot solid log posts and a split log roof, held a solitary light bulb suspended from a center log beam. The only shield from the wind or blowing snow was the cordwood I stacked between the support post, eight feet high on three sides. I stopped before entering, glanced back at my newly created trail in the snow, and reached for the black round switch. Behind me, the glow of new snow, in front of me, now illuminated by the lone bulb, a single fir chopping block, in its middle a firmly planted ax, and three-full cords of knotty pitch-covered firewood—it was the beginning of another day.  

Have you ever experienced a day in the mountains, on a farm or ranch? You know the rhythm. You rise, as I did as a young boy before the sun. You chop wood, start a fire in a wood-burning stove. You feed, water, and care for the animals, all before breakfast. There are cows to milk, horses, pigs, and chickens to feed. There are eggs to gather, fields to plow, and seeds to plant. Fences need mending, equipment and buildings need repairing. Firewood needs chopping, fruit picked, cleaned, and canned. Before you know it, it is evening, and it’s time for supper and bed. In the morning, it begins again. Life in the mountains, on a farm, or ranch, is cyclical.  There are no holidays or vacations.  Why? Because the family’s lives hinge on proper preparation, stewardship of the land, and the livestock. When do you rest? Never. It’s just a familiar routine, like the rain in the Cascades. It’s always with you.

My life and likely yours is a little easier. No longer do I have to rise before the sun and chop wood or the other daily living duties in the mountains. However, dependence on the land is still valid today in parts of this country and other countries worldwide. People still spend their day foraging for water, food, and supplies and caring for land, livestock, and family. Sick days, vacations, and retirement are not available. Maintaining the land and the family is a stark reality for many.

In this country, and others, following several decades of work, we eagerly await the time we can hang up our work clothes, turn off the office lights, and rest. To ignore the ax and other responsibilities and sleep until the sun comes up. We work harder for more extended hours, believing if we work harder, achieve one more promotion, sale, you name the “thing,” then rest is just around the corner. Not the I want it easy type, but—the take a deep breath, kicking the snow in front of you kind of rest. That’s the paradox. We seek through exhaustion the one thing available to us right now. It is available, even with the consistent demands and realities of life. Because the struggles of life, as the rain in the Cascades, is always with you.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not rest. Instead, he made way, taking on the sin of all, bearing the total weight of our iniquity on His shoulders. (Psa. 22 NIV)  In the end, he boldly proclaimed, “it is finished!” (Jn. 20:30) He paid the penalty. His life for ours—reconciling us to God so that we may experience real rest, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Heb. 4:1-3) I am eternally grateful that He didn’t retire before the work was finished. I am also thankful for the pastor who, being of retirement age, didn’t rest, but followed the example of Jesus, allowed a young kid, now living on the street, to reside in his home. He provided food, shelter, and the Good News to a troubled soul. (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15) His active engagement in the Gospel gave a cup of water to a lost sheep, and like the farmer never rested until the day was finished.

Much of life is cyclical. Jesus provided the answer to the paradox. Whether you are like the young lad, rising early to trudge through the snow and chop wood for the fire, the farmer, the rancher, or just doing what’s necessary. Jesus provided true rest.  The reality— there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecc. 3:1)

Regardless of your season, Jesus provides true rest. Give Him your burdens. Take His yoke.

And may He find us continually about His business while we rest in Him until we see Him face-to-face or He returns.

Then we will put aside the ax and rest in His presence forever.

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