“Who’s driving?” my 4-year old asks her 7-year old brother. “Daddy” he responds confidently. He then adds: “all we have to do is sit back and relax”. I smiled at myself because I’ve been reflecting on what it means to cast your burdens onto Jesus especially in difficult times. This was an object lesson. My kids seem so confident in my ability as a father. They may not yet fully understand how weak, flawed and finite I am, but they trust me. Yet I know, intellectually at least, how infinitely powerful and loving God is. Why do I struggle to exhibit the same level of trust?
Jesus was no stranger to the human predisposition to worry and anxiety. I believe He meant all He said about our response to worry, anxiety and fear. He wouldn’t have said it if He didn’t expect us to do it, and if He didn’t intend to empower us to do it. Yet, I meet very few Christians who aren’t burdened with worry, anxiety or fear. We’re often so wearied by our burdens that the scars are etched on our faces. Sometimes, the resulting stress causes physical and mental illnesses. That said, how does anyone avoid worry and anxiety in the middle of a global health and economic crisis? I remind myself that Jesus, being the all-knowing God, already knows about everything I will face in my lifetime [Psalm 139:16]. So, while I might be surprised by the circumstances of life, He isn’t.
There’s a lot I can learn from my children. They are experts at making their problems, my problem. I think of a recent day out to the beach. My wife and I told them the night before that we’d be going down to the beach. They could barely contain their excitement. They didn’t lose sleep wondering if we would keep our word. The next day, we loaded everyone into the car and unsurprisingly, my kids didn’t ask which route or even which beach they were going to. At no point did they give us any advice on directions. Apart from the obligatory “are we there yet?”, they thoroughly enjoyed the journey there, taking in the whole experience.
When we got to the beach, they asked for toys to build sandcastles, and the toys appeared. When they were hungry, they told us and sandwiches appeared. When they were cold, we gave them beach towels to keep warm. It occurred to me that they never stressed about what they would need at the beach. When a need or a problem arose, they simply made it our problem and we took charge of the solution. Such an attitude leaves children unencumbered with worry or anxiety. It’s one of the reasons they live such happy stress-free lives which neither wealth, power, status nor fame can buy. It seems they have an innate understanding that their problems are really their parents’ problems. No wonder Jesus says we must be like little children to enter His kingdom [Matthew 18:3-4].
Interestingly, Jesus also says that He came so that we may have abundant life [John 10:10]. Whatever else abundant life may look like, I’m convinced that it’s a life without worry, anxiety or fear [Matthew 6:25-34]. This isn’t because there’s nothing to incite worry, anxiety or fear. That isn’t reality [John 16:33]. That life is what happens when we truly cast our burdens onto Jesus [Matthew 11:28-30]. This is where I often fail. I know intellectually that God will do right by me if I make my problems His problems, yet I struggle to relinquish control. I often want to tell Him how, when and where to do what I have asked of Him. It’s akin to my kids trying to tell me how and what to pack for the beach, how to drive and then, giving me turn by turn directions to our destination. I wonder how God feels when we either try to tell Him how to be God or take upon ourselves burdens we should leave to Him? Does it make sense to stress about what God is already working on?
I would be hurt if my kids didn’t trust me to take care of them or deliver on my promises. Similarly, I believe God takes His role as my Father seriously. For instance, I care much more than my kids what they look like when they go to school. It says more about me if they look unkempt. How much more does God care about what happens to me? My problem is God doesn’t work to my schedule and so oftentimes, things look like they have spiralled out of control. This is the point where I need child-like faith. Faith that I won’t be put to shame for trusting in Him [Romans 10:11]. It’s worth noting that a good parent teaches a child to be responsible by letting the child take responsibility for things they can handle (like getting themselves a cup of water if they are thirsty). God does the same. We’re to cast our burdens onto Him, not abdicate our responsibilities. He wouldn’t be a Good Father if He indulged irresponsibility.
As I reflect on this object lesson from my kids, I realise that learning the lesson intellectually does me no good. Nevertheless, how do I live it out practically? First, I must redeploy the energy I expend on worry, anxiety and fear on prayer and thanksgiving instead [Philippians 4:6-7]. I find that my confidence in God grows as I recount what He’s already done for me. Next, as Jonathan Edwards said in his resolutions, I must vehemently fight against anything that makes me doubt God’s love for me. Then once I’ve done all I can do, I wait patiently for God [Lamentations 3:26]. I pray for the grace to remember amid my circumstances to be still and know that He is God [Psalm 46:10].