“Can I take something?”

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:23-26

I walked up to the bus stop, as I do most days, to pick up my two youngest children. I usually wait for five to ten minutes before seeing the elementary school bus pull up and drop off a bunch of kids. My middle son (9) and my daughter (6) got off the bus and ran over to me. I greeted them with a smile and a hug and asked them how their day was.

As they started to tell me all about their day I reminded them, as I usually do, that they can take off their masks. Usually, I ask them right away if I can help carry something in order to lighten their load. But this day I waited until there was an opening in the conversation.

Eventually, I turned to my six-year-old daughter. She had a mask in her left hand, her lunch in her right hand, a fleece on her back and a heavy backpack on her shoulders. I reached my left hand down and said, “Can I take something?”

Then my daughter did something that absolutely rocked my world for the rest of the walk home. She saw me reach my hand down. She put her lunch in her left hand with her mask, reached out with her right hand, and put her hand in mine.

I wasn’t ready for that.

When I reached down and asked if I could take something, I was thinking about her mask, or her lunch box, or her backpack. What I wasn’t ready for was her hand. Essentially, I asked, “Can I take something?” and she answered, without a word, “My hand.”

My little girl would rather walk home with her heavy backpack on her shoulders and her left hand stuffed with a mask and a lunch box if it meant she could hold my hand along the way.

A thousand thoughts ran through my mind. A hundred sermons were instantly written in my head. God spoke. This was a holy moment that had snuck up on me. My eyes started to well up with tears, and I had to fight them back just so she wouldn’t think something was wrong.

So profound.

So often I try to help people by lightening their load. But so often, what they really need is a hand to hold.

So often I ask God to help me by lightening my load. But so often, what He knows I really need is His hand to hold. By holding my hand God tells me, “I know you are strong enough to carry what you are carrying. I just want you to know that I am with you, I love you, and I’ll hold your hand through this.”

When God asks me, “Can I take something?” sometimes He’s asking if He can lighten my load. Sometimes He’s asking if I need to unload a heavy burden off of my back and give it to Him. But other times, He’s simply asking to take my hand. “Can I take something…your hand, perhaps? Your heart?

The Psalmist wrote, “you hold me by my right hand.” I think this is what he meant. God’s hand is what we need more than anything else, more than a lighter load, more than solutions to our problems. He is our portion. He is the strength of our heart forever.

Learn from Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus’s yoke of teaching was not a heavy burden. To take on Jesus’s yoke–his way of living in the Kingdom–is not about laboring to perform for God. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We get to come to Jesus, off-load our shame, guilt and sin, and receive from Him peace, joy, comfort and love. It’s an incredible exchange that we have available to us every day because of the price Jesus paid on the cross.

Many of us have read this passage a number of times and found encouragement and comfort from it. Life in Christ was never meant to be wearisome. If the burden of following Jesus starts to get too heavy, it means we are carrying too much. It means it’s time to take a trip to the cross where we can lay our burdens at Jesus’s feet and allow Him to carry them for us. When we spend time with Jesus we can find rest for the deepest part of our being–our souls.

One thing that is important to notice is that Jesus doesn’t say, “Take my yoke upon you and learn about me…” No, He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” Jesus is alive! Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. When we read scripture, we don’t just learn about Jesus. We learn from Jesus.

Learning about Jesus is an important first step, but learning about Him is confined to what Jesus did in the past. Learning from Jesus is about imitating Him with our life today. Learning from Jesus is allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us now. It is about hearing from Jesus about our lives today. We will never find rest for our souls if we are only learning about Jesus. Rest for our souls comes when we learn from Jesus.

When we allow Jesus to teach us and guide us today, in the present moment, when we learn from Jesus, we’ll find that He will lead us beside quiet waters as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

A Peace of God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

In our prayer time with the Lord, there was meant to be an exchange. We come with our burdens, our heavy yokes, our anxiety, our worry, our stress, our frustrations, our failures, and we give them to God by prayer and petition.

Then we shift into gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. This shift allows us to let go and receive all that He has for us in that moment. Many times we’ll feel God’s love; we’ll sense that He is with us and for us. There may be a release of joy that wells up from inside of us. But most often the thing that comes and wraps us like a blanket is the peace of God.

God’s peace transcends all understanding. It doesn’t make sense that we should be feeling such a calm and a peace in the midst of these storms of life, and yet that is exactly what we experience in God’s Presence.

Like a fresh coat of paint, God’s peace doesn’t just change the color of our heart and mind from dark to light, but it also seals, protects and guards our hearts and minds for the rest of the day. It protects us from the natural weathering that can happen to our emotions and our thought-life.

The Greek word here translated into the word “guard” refers to a military sentinel or guard. Another way of saying it is that God’s peace is militant. Sometimes we think of peace as a fluffy, white blanket. The connotation here is much stronger than a fluffy, white blanket. Picture instead a stern, special ops soldier assigned to be your body guard in a war zone. That is what the peace of God does as we get harassed by the anxieties of the world. It aggressively guards our hearts and minds.

Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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