Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
My three sons each have a backpack with the initial of their first name on them. At a young age, they were able to identify which backpack was their’s and each morning before school, it was their individual responsibility to fill their backpack with lunch boxes and water bottles.
Most mornings went smoothly and we walked to school, each boy carrying their respective backpack. Occasionally, though, they didn’t want to carry it – they may have been feeling tired, thought it was too heavy, or couldn’t run as fast as they wanted to with it on. If one asked me to carry their backpack, the other two would follow suit and I was left carrying all three. Not exactly what I was intending.
Their physical backpacks are symbolic of the invisible backpacks we all carry. They contain the personal struggles we deal with daily – our individual burden and responsibility to carry. Our childhood, upbringing, and life experiences may have left us with significantly erroneous views of ourselves or others – we may be fearful, insecure, or ashamed – and these issues prevent us from honoring the Lord when left unaddressed.
In addition, we are not intended to carry the backpacks of others – it is simply not our responsibility. We cannot be the solution to their issues just as they cannot be the solution to ours. When we attempt to do so, we become weighed down with the perceived responsibility of carrying more than was intended for us.
For example, in the early part of my marriage, I found my value and worth in my husband’s opinion of me. I road a roller-coaster of emotions as my feelings were defined by the status of our relationship – if he was happy, I felt good about myself and successful as a wife. If he was unhappy, I felt awful about myself and a failure as a wife. I validated my obligation to him under the concept of Galatians 6:2, which says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” I thought his happiness was my burden to carry. However, burdens are not the same as loads, as verses 4-5 point out:
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. (Galatians 6:4-5)
We all have a responsibility to ourselves – to test our own actions, to take pride in who we are and what we do, and to carry our own load. The happiness of my husband is not my load to carry. It is my sons’ responsibility to carry their own backpacks – a weight appropriate for their age and maturity.
The load we are obligated to carry must not be given to anyone else. Burdens are the struggles we have which are above and beyond the load we are intended to carry. God wants us to share and help carry one another’s burdens, not loads.
This doesn’t mean we don’t ask for help or prayer or support when life gets too heavy. It does mean we stop looking to others to make us feel accepted and valued. It means we find our identity in who God says we are rather than what others think. It means we acknowledge the difference between our individual issues and the issues of others.
God never intended me to be fulfilled by the love of another flawed human’s affection. He intends me to seek Him with all my heart and when I do, I achieve emotional stability in spite of my circumstances. Tethering my security to His unchanging love for me instills a confidence in who I am as His child – adored, accepted, valuable.
Jesus is the only genuine solution for any issue we carry.
Do you struggle with allowing the opinion of others to distract from who God is calling you to be? If so, ask yourself, “Is this my backpack?” If it’s not your backpack, put it down!
Discerning which backpack to carry is essential to understanding who God is calling us to be. Dropping the burden of people-pleasing frees us to love others unconditionally, without expectations of return, and serve them compassionately. We can be open and honest without fear of rejection. We determine our relationships – we aren’t defined by them.
If you have become weary from the burden of people pleasing or have been carrying more than one backpack, go to the Lord and let Him give you rest. Ask the Lord to show you which backpack is yours and which ones are not. Let go of the bondage of approval-seeking and embrace the freedom of His truth as it permeates your soul –
I am loved.
I am worthy.
I am accepted.
You are the only solution to any struggle we have in life. We can trust Your Word to help us work through our personal issues and become the best version of who You have created us to be. May we find complete fulfillment in Your affections for us.