Four Burdens Jesus Never Asked You to Carry

I once read a fictional story of a man who received an assignment from Jesus while traveling up a mountain. The story went something like this:

“How are you this morning?” Jesus asked.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Fred replied. “Is there anything I can do for you today?”

“Yes, there is,” Jesus said. “I have a wagon with three stones in it, and I need someone to pull it up the hill for me. Are you willing?”

“Of course; I’d love to do something for you! Those stones don’t look very heavy, and the wagon is in great shape. Where would you like me to take it?”

Jesus gave the man specific instructions, sketching a map in the dust at the side of the road. Cross the forest to get to the village; cross the village to get to the path; stay on the path until you reach the top.

So Fred set off cheerfully. The wagon pulled a bit behind him, but the burden was an easy one. He began to whistle as he walked quickly through the forest. The sun peeked through the trees and warmed his back. What a joy to be able to help the Lord, Fred thought, enjoying the beautiful day.

As Fred entered the village, he saw a man selling colored stones, slightly bigger than the ones Jesus gave him, and much more glamorous in his humble opinion. I’ll bet Jesus would want a few of these, too, he thought to himself. He found that only two of their size would fit in the wagon alongside the rocks Jesus gave him, so he purchased a couple and went on his way, proud of his own ambition to do even more than what Jesus had asked of him.

As he neared the end of the village—with the path in sight—he saw a signpost that read, “Freshly tumbled stones, two miles east! Rounder, smoother, and more polished than any you’ve ever seen!” It was off the path Jesus directed him to take, to be sure, but he could easily fit two more stones in his knapsack, maybe more—and Jesus would be so proud of him for carrying more than he asked! He could already picture the impressed look on Jesus’s face: “My, my, you’re even stronger than I realized!” Jesus would say.

As Fred went along, he collected more and more rocks—some from nearby towns, others from fellow travelers, still others from paths Jesus never asked him to go. He even purchased a new wagon—heavier, yes, but it gave him more space to fit his new rocks, and the tires looked to be more durable than the ones on Jesus’s wagon. Jesus doesn’t know how steep these hills can be, Fred thought.

With every mile Fred traveled, his load grew fuller and fuller, heavier and heavier. The wagon felt huge and awkward as it lumbered and swayed over the ruts in the road. No longer was Fred singing praises. Instead, resentment began to build inside, especially during the steeper parts of the journey. How could Jesus expect me to carry such a heavy load? he thought to himself.

Frustrated, he began to entertain thoughts of giving up and letting the wagon roll backward. About that time Jesus came to Fred’s side and asked him what was wrong.

“You gave me a job that is too hard for me,” Fred sobbed.

Jesus walked over to the wagon. “What is this that you’re carrying?” he asked with a tone of purer compassion than Fred had ever heard. One by one, Jesus unloaded the wagon, placing stones of various sizes and colors on his own back, until only the three stones he had given Fred were left in the wagon.

“I know you were trying to help,” Jesus said gently. “But when you are weighed down with all these cares, you will not have the strength to do what I have asked of you.”

Burdens Jesus never asked us to carry

As silly as this story may seem, there is a Fred in all of us. Every Christian has taken up burdens Jesus never asked her to carry—often with noble motives—and has had to learn to lay them back down. In fact, the Christian life could be described as a continual laying down of unnecessary burdens at Christ’s feet, daily seeking fresh mercy and relief in his soul-sustaining presence (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:7).

Scripture highlights many heavy burdens that we will be tempted to carry in this life—burdens that Jesus wants to carry for us. Consider four:

(1) The burden of our sins.

Key verses:

“My iniquities have gone over my head; they are too heavy for me to carry.” (Psalm 38:4)

“Jesus personally carried our sins in his body on the cross. … By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The burden of our sins—the guilt, shame, and regret, the feelings of inadequacy, bondage, hopelessness, and humiliation—often feels less like a few heavy rocks on our back and more like a mountain of boulders that we’ve been buried beneath. As the psalmist relatably illustrates, “My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out” (Psalm 40:12). Not only are we unable to carry the burden of our sins, we can’t even lift a finger as we lie face down in the dirt beneath them. Sin is beyond heavy; it is crushing. 

This reality is what makes the name of Jesus so oxygenating for the soul of the believer. His name is the sound of deliverance; his burden-bearing arrival means our lungs can breathe again. As Dane Ortlund put it, “Not only can Jesus alone pull us out of the hole of sin; he alone desires to climb in and bear our burdens [for us].”

Jesus doesn’t pull us out of the avalanche of our sins and then leave us there to be buried again. Jesus was buried for us so that we—sheltered by his resurrection power and insurmountable love—never have to live beneath that oppressive weight again (Romans 6:4; 8:38-39; Galatians 2:20). Far from demanding masochism and salvaged guilt as penitence for our sin, Jesus welcomes us to live in ongoing repentance, daily breathing in the un-burdening freedom of his victory and God’s forgiveness (Colossians 2:13-15; 1 John 1:9; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1).

(2) The burden of saving, changing, or healing others.

Key verse:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Beyond attempts to atone for our own sins (i.e., the burden of saving ourselves), another common temptation is to take on the pressure of changing those around us (i.e., the burden of saving others). This, too, is a crushing weight. If we believe it is our job to save those around us, then we will constantly feel like we are failing both God and others every time people don’t change in the ways (or timing) we had hoped.

Yet time and time again in his Word, God welcomes us to offload the heavy burden of saving onto Christ, and to simply partake in the ministry of sowing. Over and over again throughout Scripture, Jesus says to us, “You be the sower, and let me be the Savior” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6). He invites us to simply scatter the seed of the gospel and then to rest, trusting him to do the work (cf. Mark 4:26-29).

But what about carrying one another’s burdens?

Of course, part of the ministry of sowing is helping others carry their burdens. I once saw a cartoon of a woman lying in her sick bed, clearly overwhelmed. The sink overflowed with dirty dishes. A huge basket of clothes to be ironed sat nearby. Two dirty children were fighting in one corner; in the other corner a cat sat licking spilled milk. A cheery woman stood in the doorway, smiling and waving as she left for her weekly pedicure. She called out, “Well, Florence, if there is anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask!”

Ignoring the needs of others is not what it means to be a sower—we are still called to carry one another’s burdens. But carrying someone’s burdens is not the same thing as taking them. Just three verses after the Holy Spirit tells us to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), he then tells us that we all must carry our own burdens (Galatians 6:5). In other words, Christians are called to support one another, but not to take responsibility for one another. The primary emphasis of the sowing imagery is not that the sower doesn’t put in effort, but that he doesn’t burden himself with the impossible task of causing growth in others. This he entrusts to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6).

If you are faithful to simply sow the seed of the gospel, you can be confident that God sees your efforts, he is pleased by them, and he will bear fruit through you—sometimes in ways you see immediately, often in ways you see over a long period of time, and perhaps usually in ways you won’t see fully until eternity. So continue to sow faithfully, expectantly, and restfully—trusting that God will bring blessing through it.

(3) The burden of perfectionism.

Key verse:

“Jesus answered, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'” (Luke 10:41-‬42)

Our culture is obsessed with the pursuit of being “good enough.” Am I a good enough mother? Am I a good enough singer? Am I a good enough student? Am I a good enough friend? Am I a good enough pastor? Am I a good enough Christian?

This constant pressure drives many to take up the heavy backpack of perfectionism—endlessly clawing for acceptance and constantly worrying if we have done enough to earn and maintain the approval of God and others. Carrying this burden is not only exhausting, but it’s also futile—we are always climbing, yet never arriving.

Ironically, even if we could arrive at the status of “good enough,” we would actually be settling for something far less than what God intended for us. God doesn’t intend to make us good enough; he intends to make us good. At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10), Jesus won’t say to his Bride (the Church), “You are decent. Acceptable. Good enough.” Rather, he will say to us, “You are perfect. Without blemish. Stainless. Glorious. Beautiful” (cf. Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 3:12; also see Isaiah 43:4).

This glorious destiny will not come from us perfecting ourselves, but rather from throwing ourselves onto Christ to cleanse and beautify us (Ephesians 5:25-26). The fact that our salvation is received—not achieved—is at the very heart of the good news we proclaim (Isaiah 55:1-3).

For more on the topic of perfectionism and how to find freedom from the repressive burden of doing enough or being enough, check out Joanna Weaver’s fabulous book, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” Another fine resource is Alistair Begg’s sermon on the dangers of a performance-driven Christian life.

(4) The burden of knowing the future. 

Key verse:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23; also see Isaiah 46:10; Luke 12:22-34)

Time and time again throughout Scripture, Jesus welcomes us to live for him today and to trust him to provide for us tomorrow. He frees us from asking, “What will happen tomorrow?” and calls us to simply ask, “What does faithfulness look like today? How can I love God and others today?”

Whether we are…

Jesus wants to help carry our burdens and give rest to our souls in ways nothing (and no one) else can (Matthew 11:28-30).

Your burden is what qualifies you to come!

Are you weighed down by burdens today? You don’t need to do more or be better in order to come to Jesus—he wants to meet you where you are. In the words of Dane Ortlund, “You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come.”

So, as we sing, “Lay down your burdens; lay down your shame. All who are broken, lift up your face. Oh wanderer come home; you’re not too far. Lay down your hurt; lay down your heart, and come as you are.”

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.

Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.

Read “Christian, You Are Fully Known and Fully Loved” here.

Listen to “Come As You Are” (Crowder) here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety

Note: This article is adapted from a lesson I taught at The Rock young adult ministry at New Covenant Bible Church in February of 2021. You can listen to the lesson here.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. Always consult a professional in the area of your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions about your mental health.

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Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of our concerns are attached to legitimate threats; others are demons of our imagination. I appreciate Winston Churchill’s words: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

Fortunately, God cares about all of our anxieties (1 Peter 5:7)—regardless of the source—and he beckons us to come to him in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Beyond this, God also intends to use us despite our worries (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). You don’t need to be strong or have it all together in order to be used by God or to glorify him. In fact, God specializes in working in and through weak people. In the words of John Piper, “God loves to be at a disadvantage just before he wins.”

Far from benching you in your weakness, God intends to beautify you, reveal himself to you, bear fruit through you, and showcase his power through your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, how can we glorify God in our worry and anxiety? Consider three steps as a starting point.

#1: Pray your feelings.

Key verse: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).

Perhaps the most comforting aspect of James 5:13 is what it does not say. Notice that it does not say, “Is anyone among you suffering? Celebrate anyway! Is anyone among you worrying? Just pretend like you’re happy!” Instead, this verse acknowledges that worshiping God will look different on different days of our lives, as we go through different emotions.

God knows and honors the fact that we’re emotional creatures (Psalm 103:13-14), meaning he doesn’t demand (or expect) that our worship always look gleeful. This is great news. Can you imagine if God only accepted our worship when we were happy? God not only allows us to be real with our emotions—he encourages us to! So, when we feel cheerful, God says, “Sing! Enjoy your happiness! Worship me in your happiness.” When we’re suffering or sad, God says, “Come to me! Pray! Let me help carry your burdens. Worship me in your sadness.”

God is not afraid or ashamed of your emotions. He does not say, “First get rid of your worry, then come to me.” He says, “Come to me with your worry” (Matthew 11:28-30). God doesn’t ask you to be polished, only to be honest. He wants to meet you where you are and to help you walk through it (Psalm 23:4). So, in the words of the psalmist, “Pour out your heart before him! God is a refuge for us!” (Psalm 62:8).

#2: Inform your thoughts.

Key verse: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

A few years ago, I heard a talk on the subject of sin. The speaker didn’t hold any punches. He said, “If you’re struggling with sin, just stop it! If you’re struggling with lust and pornography, just stop it! If you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, just stop it!” Then, at the end of his talk, he literally had everyone say it together: “When we are struggling with sin, what do we do? Just stop it!”

I cringed when I heard this—not because there is no truth in this approach, but because the Bible is not that simplistic! When we are worried and anxious, God does not say, “My child, Just stop it.” But he does say, “Take your thoughts captive.”

What exactly does it mean to take our thoughts captive? Consider the opposite of this statement—to be taken captive by our thoughts. This is when we allow our thoughts (and feelings) to control us or to be the ultimate authority on who God is, who we are, or the way the world is. Whenever we do this, we are extremely vulnerable to being deceived by the lies of worry.

It has been said that there are two primary lies at the root of worry: (1) God is not in control; (2) God is not good. Whenever we are taken captive by our thoughts, these lies are free to fester and grow. How can we uproot these toxic, deceitful narratives? We must inform our thoughts and feelings with God’s promises.

God’s Daily Mercies

There are many wonderful promises to cling to in our worry and anxiety (I provide 15 here), but one of the most important promises to dwell on is the promise of God’s daily mercies. Much of our worrying in life comes when we try to seize control of something today (or figure something out today) that will happen in the future. Yet time and time again throughout Scripture, God welcomes us to simply focus on what he’s put before us today and rest assured that he will take care of us tomorrow (cf. Exodus 16; Lamentations 3:23; Matthew 6:11; 6:34).

Corrie ten Boom gives a powerful illustration of this concept in her book The Hiding Place. When Corrie was six years old, she struggled with the idea that her dad could die at some point in her life. So one day, when he came home from work, she burst into tears and pleaded with him to assure her that he wouldn’t die. Here is the excerpt (lightly edited):

“I need you,” Corrie sobbed. “You can’t die. You can’t.”

Her father sat down beside her and said gently, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your train ticket?”

“Well,” she said, “just before we get on the train.” 

“Exactly,” he said. “And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that you need strength, you will look into your heart and find what you need just in time.”

God does not promise to give us today what we need for tomorrow—but he does promise to give us today what we need for today, and to give us tomorrow what we need for tomorrow. And when we rest in this promise—when we depend on God today and trust him to provide tomorrow—we combat the lies of worry and we glorify him.

#3: Remember your Savior.

Key verses:

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In all of our worries, we must remember (at least) two things. First, we have a Savior who cares deeply about all of our concerns (big or small), because he cares deeply about us (1 Peter 5:7). Second, as sinners, our most foundational need is actually not to get rid of our present worry, but to be made right with God—to have our sins paid for, our hearts changed, peace with God restored, and eternal life secured through Christ.

When anxiety hits, we don’t only need someone who can sympathize with us—we need someone who can actually save us! And the good news is that in the person of Christ, we have both. Jesus is not only a perfect sympathizer, he is also a glorious Savior who is coming back to make things right. As Jesus himself promised: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22; cf. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4).

Let’s rest today knowing that we have a Savior who both cares and saves, that he’s not finished yet, and that the best is still yet to come.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Download “15 Precious Promises of God to Cling to Daily” here.

Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.

Read “Christian, You Are Fully Known and Fully Loved” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.