“Let Us Also Put Off Every Weight”
“I am so sad and discouraged,” lamented Mary. Referring to the load of Christian responsibilities, this Christian woman added: “I see friends experiencing burnout. I too feel the tiredness and the stress. Please help me to understand why.”
DO YOU also feel that you are under stress, too tired to care adequately for your theocratic responsibilities? Does it sometimes seem that the Christian ministry is a heavy load, an unbearable burden? Many faithful Christians undergo periods of discouragement, for we are constantly surrounded by negative forces that can dampen our joy. Being a genuine Christian today is indeed a challenge. Thus, at times some may feel that the Christian ministry is a heavy load.
Seeking the Cause
The Scriptures make it clear that Jehovah has not placed unreasonable demands on us. The apostle John said that God’s “commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Jesus similarly told his followers: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:29, 30) Clearly it is not Jehovah’s will that we feel overburdened or loaded down in our service to him.
How, then, might a faithful Christian come to view his Christian responsibilities as a heavy burden? Likely, several factors are involved. Note these words of the apostle Paul: “Let us also put off every weight . . . , and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Paul’s words indicate that a Christian at times may place needless loads on himself. This does not necessarily involve serious sins. But a Christian may make errors in judgment that severely complicate his life, making it very difficult for him to run the race that has been set before us.
A Balanced View of Material Things
Take, for example, the matter of secular work. In many lands, economic conditions may leave a Christian with little choice but to work long hours. Often, though, people take on work merely to get ahead or to accumulate luxuries. By reevaluating their actual needs, some Christians have found it wise to make adjustments in their employment situation. This was the case with Debbie and her husband, both of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses. She says: “Our financial situation had changed, and there was no longer a real need for me to continue working full-time. But it was hard to give it up.” Soon she began to feel the pressure of having too much to do. She explains: “Saturday was my only free day to do housework. Often I just didn’t feel like going out in field service. I felt bad about this, and my conscience bothered me, yet I loved my job! Finally, I had to face reality. There was only one solution. I quit the job.” Admittedly, such a major adjustment may not be possible for some. However, a careful examination of your work schedule may reveal the need for certain changes.
There may be other ways of relieving ourselves of unnecessary burdens. What about reducing the frequency of our pleasure travel, sports activities, or other entertainment—including time spent watching television? And even after achieving a desired balance in these areas, constant readjustments may be required to maintain such balance.
Reasonableness Is Vital
Do you find yourself under pressure to keep pace with what others do in God’s service? This too can add anxiety and frustration to your life. While the good example of others can certainly encourage you to do more, reasonableness will help you to set realistic goals in harmony with your own circumstances and abilities. The Scriptures tell us: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”—Galatians 6:4, 5.
Local customs and traditions may also add to our burdens. In Jesus’ day the people were worn out from trying to comply with the many religious rules and traditions set forth by men. Today, Jehovah’s people have been freed from false religious traditions. (Compare John 8:32.) Still, a Christian could become unduly preoccupied with local customs. For example, sometimes events such as weddings are surrounded by quite elaborate customs. These customs may not be wrong, and they may even be quaint and interesting. However, Christians may not have the time or the financial means to observe all such things, and striving to do so could add other unnecessary burdens.
Consider what happened when Jesus visited a woman by the name of Martha. Rather than benefiting fully from his divine wisdom, “Martha . . . was distracted with attending to many duties.” She was loaded down with many details. (Luke 10:40) But Jesus kindly suggested that she might simplify her meal arrangements in order to benefit from his teaching. (Luke 10:41, 42) This well illustrates that good judgment and reasonableness will help you in achieving proper balance in your Christian ministry.—James 3:17.
Good judgment is also required when selecting your companions. Proverbs 27:3 warns: “The heaviness of a stone and a load of sand—but the vexation by someone foolish is heavier than both of them.” Invariably, your close associates will have a strong influence on your way of thinking. Keeping company with those who are quick to find fault and criticize others in the congregation may sow seeds of discouragement and negative thinking in you. (1 Corinthians 15:33) If you discern that this is a problem, some wise changes in the company you keep could lighten your load.
Be Modest in Walking With God
At Micah 6:8, we find this thought-provoking question: “What is Jehovah asking back from you but . . . to be modest in walking with your God?” Modesty is defined as an awareness of one’s limitations. Those who do not recognize their limitations can overwhelm themselves with too many commitments. This has happened with mature Christians, even overseers, resulting in discouragement, frustration, and loss of joy. Kenneth, a Christian elder, admitted: “I saw myself going into a depression, and I said, ‘I am not going to let this happen to me.’ So I cut down on some of my commitments and concentrated on what I could do.”
Even the humble prophet Moses had difficulty in recognizing his own limitations. So Jethro, his father-in-law, had to bring Moses to his senses regarding the excessive amount of work he was trying to handle by himself. “What kind of business is this that you are doing for the people?” asked Jethro. “It is not good the way you are doing. You will surely wear out . . . because this business is too big a load for you. You are unable to do it by yourself. . . . But you yourself should select out of all the people capable men, . . . and it must occur that every big case they will bring to you, but every small case they themselves will handle as judges. So make it lighter for yourself, and they must carry the load with you.” Moses immediately began to delegate some of his work to others, thus finding relief from what was becoming an unbearable load.—Exodus 18:13-26.
On another occasion Moses said to Jehovah: “I am not able, I by myself, to carry all this people, because they are too heavy for me.” Again, the answer was to delegate. This may also be the solution to your predicament if you feel overwhelmed by too many commitments.—Numbers 11:14-17.
Jehovah Helps Us Carry the Load
Jesus said that his yoke was kindly and his load was light but not weightless. The yoke Jesus invited us to take upon ourselves is not a yoke of idleness. It is a yoke of complete dedication to God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a certain degree of weight or pressure comes with being a genuine Christian. (Matthew 16:24-26; 19:16-29; Luke 13:24) As world conditions worsen, pressures will increase. However, we have reason to be positive in our outlook because Jesus’ invitation implies that others could get under his yoke with him and that he would assist them.a Thus, as long as we follow Christ’s direction, our load will remain manageable because he will help us.
God cares for those who love him, and he guards the hearts and mental powers of all who prayerfully throw their burden upon him. (Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:6, 7; 1 Peter 5:6, 7) “Blessed be Jehovah, who daily carries the load for us, the true God of our salvation,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 68:19) Yes, be assured that God will daily carry the load for you too if you put off every weight and run with endurance the race that is set before you.
a The footnote rendering is: “Get under my yoke with me.”
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Wise elders are willing to delegate some tasks and to share the load