I had an interesting insight during a prayer a few months ago. In all my years as a member of the Church – in all the countless meetings I have attended and all the countless times I have read the scriptures – and in all my pondering over the years, I have not had the same thought in quite the same way. I’m sure it’s not earth shatteringly profound, but it was powerful and thought-provoking for me. I also am sure it is a direct result of the contemplation I have been doing concerning the Lord’s yoke, His grace and our gratitude for His matchless mercy.
What struck me is that all of us, when we become members of the Church, covenant to take certain responsibilities associated with church activity. We promise to comfort those who stand in need of comfort and mourn with those that mourn. We agree to the sacramental covenants, then Priesthood or YW’s covenants, then temple covenants – as well as the responsibilities of various callings within the Church’s organizational structure. Although these things are meant to bring us growth and understanding and joy, in a very real sense they are “burdens” we agree to carry. Added to our natural cares, these new burdens can become overwhelming and exhausting.
Psalms 55:22 says, in part: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee.”
Note that this is singular (“burden”) – not plural (“burdens”).
Ether 12:27 says: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Note that this is singular (“weakness”) – not plural (“weaknesses”).
Matthew 11:28-30 includes the following: “Take my yoke upon you.”
Here is what I learned:
The concepts in these three verses constitute a complete solution; without the first and second, the third is impossible – and even destructive.
In simple terms, the Lord wants us to cast our “burden” at His feet and pick up the “yoke” that He knows will give us strength and bring eternal life. In a very real way, he asks us to exchange loads. Please take a moment to create that mental picture. Envision yourself removing a pack from your back or shoulders, setting it aside, then picking up a new pack to carry instead. If we fail to leave our own natural burden with Him, then all we do when we assume the responsibilities of membership in His kingdom is to pick up a second pack and increase a load we already are unable to bear alone.
That, in my mind, is the central power of the Atonement – of His grace and mercy. He will shoulder our burden, if we shoulder His. Each of us needs to figure out what this means in our own lives, with our own personalities and struggles, but, at a minimum, we need to accept His atoning grace and quit beating ourselves up over our natural weakness – that for which He has paid the price already. (See the 2nd Article of Faith.) We need to recognize and accept the forgiveness He has offered already. We need to believe Him and what He has promised us.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by guilt or inadequacy or the burdens of your life, may I suggest a simple solution – not an easy one and not one that always will happen completely and all at once, but the only one of which I know that truly will work. Find a quiet place, where you can kneel totally alone and unable to hear anything else, and pour out your soul to your Heavenly Father – able to approach Him directly because of the grace of His Son. Tell Him of your anxieties, your fears, your weakness, your pain – then ask Him to take the burden from you and help you walk away from it. Repeat that request (something like, “I gave it to you; please help me leave it at your feet.”) whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed – even if it means you have to do so sometimes in the middle of the confusion and chaos of your daily life. Take a deep breath, close your eyes if you can, and ask Him to intercede once more and keep you from picking up your natural load.
I have a deep and abiding testimony that if you cast your burdens upon the Lord, He truly will sustain you as you shoulder His yoke and begin to carry the burden He has chosen to make your weakness become strength. Although I believe in the symbolism, purity and real release that can accompany baptism, a fundamental and basic burden exchange can happen within or without any particular church structure. Anyone can cast her burden upon the Lord, take His yoke upon her and find rest to her soul.