We’re always being pushed to get excited for something, whether it is studying, partying, saving the environment, or fighting to legalize medical marijuana. We are assailed by chalk and posters and flyers, all proclaiming the same underlying message: “Get excited or you will never do anything important.”
Christian groups here on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus are no different, and in fact are maybe the most aggressive of all groups in urging people to get excited and get involved, tempting every passerby with Best Buy gift cards and free ice cream, and using double exclamation points at the end of every sentence to convey the adequate enthusiasm.
I am involved in Student Impact, the local division of Campus Crusade for Christ, and so I went to its kick-off event called “Primetime” that everyone was “So excited!!” and “Super pumped!!” for, or at least according to Facebook statuses. When I arrived, the room was packed full with more than 600 people, the microphones were turned on loud, the music was rocking and people seemed to truly be excited. However, as the night went on, it became painfully obvious that something was wrong in the room, and that something was holding down the hearts of those in attendance, preventing them from being excited beyond a smile. When I looked into people’s eyes I did not see joy or excitement or happiness, but I saw pain and burdens and longing.
I think we want to get excited over things, because we think it will bring us purpose and fulfillment. We think that if we get excited about reading our Bible, then it will come alive. We think that if we can get excited over telling people about Jesus, then we will become bold and people will listen to us. We think that if we can get excited about God, then He will become real, and maybe the emptiness inside of us will be filled. If we can just get excited about something, maybe then we can begin to forget the hurt in our hearts, and maybe then we can dig our souls out of the floor into which they have been slowly and painfully sinking. And so, we try and get ourselves excited, but nothing changes, and our eyes still show the burdens we carry.
“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, 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" (Matthew 11:28-30). As a Christ-follower, I often forget to take the burden of Christ upon me, and instead try to carry no burden at all. I try to forget the things that are bothering me, push aside the pain and move on from things that have hurt me. I try to get myself excited about things, hoping that if I can just jump high enough, then the shackles and chains that cling tightly to my hands and weigh heavily upon my soul will fall to the wayside, and I will know joy and peace and love and healing. What I fail to realize so often is that burdens do not simply fall off, weariness is not simply out-lived, and hurt is not simply forgotten. Rather, Jesus says “Come to me,” and our burdens will be replaced by Him, our weariness will be relieved by Him and He will take our hurt away.
Jesus does not offer us solutions, He merely offers Himself. He does not tell the weary that they should go to church and find rest, or that they should have longer “quiet times,” or that they should read more Christian literature—He simply tells the weary, “Come to me.” He does not tell the heavy-laden to do more fun things, get involved in a youth group or make more friends, but He tells them, “Come to me.” He does not tell the burdened, the burned-out, the oppressed, the crushed, the depressed, or the hurt to “move on," “forget" or “look on the bright side." He tells them: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The only solution He offers us is Himself, and I am confident that He does this because He knows that He is the only solution that works. Jesus does not show us the way to rest; He is the rest. He does not show us how to take off our burdens; He becomes our burden. And how glorious is His promise that His burden is easy and light!
I find it comforting that Jesus does not say: “Do not be weary. Do not be heavy-laden.” Rather, He essentially says, “If you are, come to me.” From looking at my own eyes in the mirror, and from looking in the eyes of the people around me, it is clear that many of our souls are in dire need of rest. It is clear that many of our backs are crooked and bent from the burdens we carry, and we desperately need to carry something light before we crumble. Let us, then, run to Jesus and to Jesus alone. We don’t need to “get excited” about Bible studies or conferences or missions trips, because excitement resolves nothing. We simply need to pursue Jesus and live in response. Let us fix our eyes solely upon Christ, for we are weary and heavy-laden, but Christ is gentle and humble in heart, and in Him alone is rest.