07 April 2021

Burdens which were put on one’s heart.

HEART hɑrt noun. Hollow muscular organ which pumps blood through the circulatory system.
2. [in popular culture] Center of a person’s thoughts and emotions; one’s mood, feeling, enthusiasm, mood, or courage.
3. [in popular Christian culture] Center of a person’s lifeforce; one’s innermost being; the true self, particularly one’s true thoughts and feelings.
4. A conventional heart shape, as found on a deck of cards.
[Hearted 'hɑrt.ɛd adjective.]

I’ve already written on the heart—the blood-pumping muscle in our chests, how popular culture uses it as a metaphor for emotion, and how the ancients believed it did what we now know the brain does. And of course how Christians mix up the biblical idea with the pop culture idea, and therefore misinterpret the bible like crazy: To the ancients, you didn’t feel with your heart; you felt with your guts. You thought with your heart. Or, when your “heart was hard,” you didn’t: Your mind was made up.

Today I’m gonna discuss another Christianese use of “heart”: Whenever there’s something we’re thinking about, and it’s significant, and it’s bothering us. Might bother us a little, like a peeve; might bother us a lot, like a trigger which makes us relive a previous traumatic experience. In my experience it’s almost always a peeve: It bugs us. It doesn’t bother us so much we’re losing sleep or hair over it; it just bugs us. But instead of saying, “That kinda pisses me off,” like good Christians we gotta bust out the Christianese terms for it:

  • “Something was laid on my heart about that…”
  • “That feels really heavy on my heart.”
  • “Would you like to unburden your heart about what you’re going through?”
  • “Sounds like that’s really weighing on your heart.”

This peeve is a burden, a great weight, a heavy thing. And it’s been dropped on our heart, squashing it a bit, causing discomfort—like when the cat tries to sleep on your face; less so like the early signs of a heart attack.

Sometimes it’s not that great a weight—it’s just “been on my heart.” Other times it’s all we can think about. It’s a serious mental or emotional roadblock, it’s “weighing on my heart” or “heavy on my heart,” and if we wanna get it off, we’re gonna have to “unburden” it—dump it on a group of other Christians, who can either fruitlessly worry about it along with us, or tackle the problem and solve it, either with us or instead of us.

Regardless of how light or weighty the burden may be, the fact we use Christianese is a sign we believe one of two things:

GOD GAVE US THIS BURDEN. Supposedly this isn’t just my particular peeve. This is God’s peeve. It’s something which bothers him. And because he thinks exactly like I do I follow him, he’s recruited me to help him do something about it.

I NEED GOD TO TAKE AWAY THIS BURDEN. Honestly, this is just my individual hangup. And I need to deal with it, and I’d like God’s help.

Lemme say right now I much prefer the second idea. A lot of us Christians absolutely do have hangups and issues, and no God isn’t the origin of any of them. They’re unhealthy things we brought into Christianity with us. They need to be purged from our lives. And God can help; Jesus totally offers to.

Matthew 11.28-30 KJV
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The burdens Jesus drops on us are not gonna drive us mad with worry or misery. Any preacher who claims they spend hours every week weeping over the great burdens Jesus put on ’em for the souls of their communities: They need therapy, and possibly medication. Jesus doesn’t make us miserable! They’re following him wrong.

God’s more the “don’t worry” type, y’know.

Yes God will give us big assignments from time to time. But he also offers to do all the heavy lifting. We just have to show up, and obey him.

You think Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt? Nope; that was the LORD. Moses was just his 80-year-old mouthpiece who waved his staff at all the right times, and wrote stuff down when God told him to. You think Joshua led the Hebrews into Palestine? Nope; again the LORD. Joshua was likewise an 80-year-old mouthpiece who told everybody God’s battle plans. And so it is with every significant God-follower in the scriptures: If they were driven bonkers by their great burdens, it was only when they didn’t shut up, step aside, and let God do his thing.

The burdens of our hearts are, more often than not, worries. Call ’em concerns, challenges, interests, callings, responsibilities, or spin ’em any other way which makes ’em sound noble: They’re worries. ’Member what Jesus says about worries?

Matthew 6.25-34 KJV
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

True, sometimes these worries have to do with our consciences gnawing at us over unresolved sins. Or with the restlessness of a pagan who wants a real relationship with their Creator and won’t be satisfied till they have it. I’m not talking about those worries. Those are good worries. I’m writing instead to us Spirit-following Christians: What sort of weighty things does God pile upon our minds? Well, they aren’t all that weighty.

It’s not that the Spirit gives us no burdens. Obviously he does. But they’re not huge burdens. We might think they are: We might psyche ourselves into believing they’re impossible tasks, or would take far more faith than we happen to have right now. But that’s because we don’t realize the Spirit’s here to help, not discomfort. We only think he gives us impossible challenges; they really aren’t. Jesus is in the business of taking burdens away, not breaking our backs by piling it on.

So if the stuff “laid on your heart” is too much to handle, it’s not from God. He didn’t put it there. We did. The other stressors in life did. Jesus offers to rid us of them. Turn to him and get ’em removed.

“This great burden God laid upon my heart.”

Christians regularly claim God gave us a “great burden.” Again, no he didn’t. But we claim he did… because if we can successfully carry a great burden, it means we’re mighty.

Yep, it’s a pride thing. We’re not God’s little quarter-ton front-wheel-drive pickup truck; we’re his mighty half-ton 4×4 with the impractically giant tires. We can carry and tow a lot. We don’t just hang inappropriate decorations from our trailer hitch; we use it.

That’s how these Christians wanna be thought of: We’re mighty people, so God gave us mighty tasks. Great faith, great stamina, great character, great people.

Crappy theology though. Like the old Christian saying goes, God doesn’t choose the qualified; he qualifies the chosen. He takes weak people and empowers us to do mighty things. In spite of our weaknesses, specifically so he can befuddle those people who worship power. 1Co 1.27 Bragging about the great task God’s given us to achieve, instead of pointing to the Holy Spirit who really does all the work, suggests the Spirit might not be as involved as all that: This is a human endeavor, not a God thing.

So don’t repeat their error! If you think God’s given you a big idea or big job, and it seems much too big for you, guess what: It is much too big for you. That’s the point! You need help. Don’t go it alone!

Seek out fellow Christians with the same idea. God doesn’t just drop these big ideas on one person, y’know; he talks to everybody, and while not everybody heeds him and does something, some of us do and have. More than likely your big idea was somebody else’s big idea too, and now there’s an entire ministry out there—and maybe you’re the person to help it do even more. Why build a new ministry from scratch when God really means for you to help him expand (or revive!) something he already got started?

If the work seems impossible, it likely is impossible. So start praying for miracles! God does the impossible all the time. For fun.

If it really is a God-idea, achieving it shouldn’t stress us out at all. We should, like the leaders of many a large ministry, shrug and say, “I don’t know how it all got done. I only did a few things; God did the rest.” They don’t worry. And neither should we.