When we come to Jesus Christ and drop our burdens at His feet, He doesn’t pick them up and carry them forever for us. He changes us so that either the burden no longer exists or our capacity to carry it increases.
Burdens No Longer Exist
Physical burdens afflict us in many different ways. We affix the burdens’ label as part of ourselves, meaning we define ourselves by them—”my disease,” “my bad memory,” “my deafness,” et cetera.
One day I laughed as I sat in a group of ladies who argued about who took the most drug supplements every day. The winner felt smugly satisfied. Her health issues validated her in a way. Whenever I visited, we only talked about their health issues and what new problem cropped up since I’d last been there.
None of them would say they were happy about having health issues. In fact, they complained forcefully about them. But one lady casually stated they wouldn’t know what to talk about if they didn’t have their health crises to talk about. Health issues became their identity, hobby, and validation.
“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one identity.” James Baldwin
That quote absolutely stopped me in my tracks. It gently demanded that I assess where I am in efforts to become more like my Savior. From where I am on my journey, that goal requires significant real change.
Why wouldn’t I want real change, or freedom, from physical burdens? While their effects can be devastating, do I actually gain something from them?
I’ve taken a long hard look at health issues in my life. In some cases, I felt ready for the breakup of the loss identity from a disease. For instance, I’ve been told I would never walk again. Twice I was told I would be dead in six months.
I got a lot of attention during that time of my life—not intentional or sought out, but I needed a lot of help. And people, especially my mom, helped me. As I reviewed my identity, however, I felt stunted. I hated being bound by physical limitations. I was willing to let go of that identity. When I did, I fell at the Savior’s feet and was dramatically changed.
But sometimes I still feel the pull of that identity. Sometimes I feel grouchy about how much “attention” others get for their issues when I suffer “alone.” Sometimes I blame residual effects of the disease (which I still have) to make myself look better or feel better when I planned poorly or failed at something. I have to honestly acknowledge that the debilitating disease brought me some level of satisfaction, validation, or vindication, consciously or not.
Choice versus Plan
The Savior says “ask and receive” so many times in the scriptures! He champions agency, promising to never override our agency, even to give us blessings! For example, He doesn’t force blessings on us! We use our agency to ask Him for things in prayer.
The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.
There are aspects of our lives that are fully in the hands of God. The Lord told Joseph Smith that our days are known. Paul acknowledged asking God to remove his frustrating thorn in the flesh, but it remained.
Physical burdens can teach empathy and discipleship. The sufferings of many bring themselves and others to sanctification. Even with such positive outcomes, the experience may still result from agency powerfully creating our world.God honors that choice. God’s plan enables us to have the experiences that we need to have.
Some burdens are ultimately caused by poor mental and physical choices and the resulting consequences of those choices. God honors that choice, too.
Is a burden I’m experiencing part of God’s divine plan for me or did my desires and agency necessitate the experience? That is definitely a question to ask the Lord about! Regardless,
We know that all things work together for good to them that love God
The Savior demonstrates the amazing possibilities available when we come to Him. I love these following examples of how the Savior changed a person or situation to remove a burden.
I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed….
Dumb Man with a Devil
As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.
Draught of Fishes
And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
While the Savior healed and dissolved the burdens of some who approached Him, other times He changed the burden, delivering them from the burden.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
So great was their faith and patience!!
I am so grateful for a Savior who not only heals but gently leads us through mortality. He asks us to drop our burdens at His feet, exchanging our burden for His. We can if we will.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.