A great deal of stress in our lives is based on expectations and the fear that we, or others, will not live up to what is expected. We even sometimes beet ourselves up just thinking about how we may fail or someone will fail us. (Ouch, self inflicted pain – for things that have not even happened!)
There are many sources of these expectations: parents, teachers, friends, employers, the past, society, religion, etc. We take the expectations of others and internalize them for ourselves. Often, our internal expectations go far beyond those imposed upon us. Whether these expectations are realistic or not they may result in our souls becoming weary.
When things seem to crumble down on us, when we fail to meet our own expectations or those of others, we can draw comfort and strength from the words of Jesus when he 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.” Matt. 11: 28-30 (NIV)
We are not alone and we do not need to carry the burdens of our past, the present or the future alone. When we are at the point where our souls need rest, we can learn from Him who is “gentle and humble in heart.”
How do we go about receiving this help Jesus offers in this text? Prayer is the more obvious answer and it is important; but it is incomplete. We are created and designed for relationships. Elsewhere in the Bible (Galatians 6:2) we are told to “carry each others burdens”. Part of a healthy spiritual life involves connections to a supportive community.
It is in healthy relationships with others we can filter through the many expectations and place them in an appropriate and healthy context. Bringing our expectations to light in a trusting relationship can help us see the mountain of a problem in a new, more realistic light. It may still be a mountain, but we will be better equipped to clime it; and we will not need to climb it alone.