Look at them. The Stanleys. Aren’t they cute? They’ve got it all. The total package. The house. Beautiful children. They even totaled their only working car just before we did this photo shoot on Thursday. The totaled package. I was supposed to be at their house at 11am, but at 10:30 Robert sent this photo. Said he wasn’t gonna be able to make it. Wendy sent me a text at noon and said I could come on over—she thought it was rather fitting that we were making a video for a series called “Overwhelmed.” She’s probably wishing I would have got someone else to be the poster family for this series.
Let me tell you a little bit about our friends, the Stanleys. They got married in 2001, that’s when their “odyssey” began—their first son, Chase was born the same year. 2004 Three years later, their daughter Brooke was born. Things were going well—Robert worked for a mortgage company and was making all the money. His boss handed him sweet deal after sweet deal. It was almost too good to be true. He kept thinking, “Man, it ought to be against the law to make money this easy!” And it was. There was a subpoena in October of 2007 —and in June of 2008, the FBI raided their home and nobody cared that Robert was just doing what his boss told him to do. Boss went down and Robert went with her. Cars repossessed. Foreclosure on the house. Took two years for the courts to sentence him—those were some pretty overwhelming years. In February of 2011 he was incarcerated in Federal prison. A week later they found out Wendy was pregnant with their son Travis. He was born in October while his dad was in jail. Robert was released over a year later but had to stay in a halfway house for the rest of 2012. You feeling overwhelmed yet? Because I’m just getting started. They spend 2013 trying to rebuild their life, nothing was easy. In January of 2014, while Wendy is pregnant with Cooper, they come home from church, Robert is playing in the front yard with the kids, a couple of crazy drivers come speeding down their street and he yells at them to slow down—one of the drivers slams on his brakes and reverses at full speed toward Robert and hits him with the car, right there in front of the kids. He gets a massive head injury and is life-flighted to the head trauma center in the Medical Center—the day before his 40th birthday. In 2017 they were staying with Wendy’s parents and their home was flooded during Harvey. 2018 Robert accidentally severed the tendon in his right hand and couldn’t work for months. They’ve been trying to rebuild their life since 2007 and sometimes they said it feels like they can’t get a break.
I asked Wendy if she wanted to add anything to this—she laughed and said, “Only that I’m not overwhelmed in the least.”
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you that I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Prayer: Father in heaven, we confess that we are too easily overwhelmed. Help us to trust in Your words of promise and look to the hope You give us because of Jesus. So we can lay down all the heaviness and receive His rest. AMEN
This very famous quote of Jesus was said in the context of Him answering some pretty heavy questions. People were wondering why, if He was who He said is was, then why are so many people rejecting Him. Has something gone wrong with God’s plan? Who’s in charge here? Is God really at work in the world? Because everything seems pretty bad.
So, Jesus says in no uncertain terms that God the Father is in charge—that God was doing things the way He wanted to do them. It just wasn’t gonna look the way they expected it to look. We have to have faith that God is good and that He’s in control—faith means we believe even though we don’t see it. We’re not supposed to get all twisted up trying to understand things from God’s perspective, we have enough to deal with down here. God’s ultimate purpose for all the painful things in this world is almost always hidden from us. We’re just supposed to believe He’s taking us somewhere good. That’s what our faith is for. The answer to the question, “What is God up to in all this?” “Why do all these terrible things happen?” Is the same answer for us that it was for them: God the Father is at work revealing the significance of Jesus.
Wendy said she was thankful through all these overwhelming life events that God has been their guiding light — that His light kept shining through all those overwhelming, refining moments. That it’s been through their Christian friends that God has given them the ability to keep going.
Robert said when that whole thing went down with the FBI, it really turned them toward the church and their faith in God. Instead of throwing up their hands and feeling sorry for themselves, they doubled down on their commitment to following Jesus. They did everything they could to put Jesus at the center of their marriage and their family. Robert told me that he kept holding onto the idea from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that says “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”—he said they put Jesus in the middle of their family and that’s what kept it from breaking apart. They held together and held on to His hope and His love. He says it was that love and forgiveness that gave them the patience to endure it all. Without it he says they would have been lost.
They started leading a small group as part of the church’s discipleship ministry—they did this when they had nothing to give and most people would have been too overwhelmed even to go out in public. The way Robert and Wendy talk about all this, it’s as if pouring themselves into other people—serving God by loving people and being in the middle of what God was doing through the church—it’s as if that’s how God kept their faith in Jesus strong and helped them get through all the setbacks and overwhelming disappointments.
Jesus says to come to Him if you’re weary and are carrying a heavy burden—if you’re overwhelmed you need to go to Jesus. He says He’ll give you rest.
He says that the only place to find rest and peace is in Him. The Father is working in the world, but He’s only offering this promised rest through Jesus.
We need rest. Most people don’t get enough and it takes a toll on their health. God says the pattern should be six days of work and one day of rest. Sabbath rest. He says we’ll get more done in six days than we will in seven—if we rest the way He tells us to.
In the chicken sandwich wars, Popeyes likes to call out Chick-fil-A by saying “hey, people gotta eat on Sunday, too!” Chick-fil-A’s comeback was pretty good, they said, “Yeah, well no matter how busy we are, we don’t run out of sandwiches.” Popeyes was like, “Oh, yeah, well no matter how busy we are, we don’t run.”
Rest is Abiding in Jesus Rest isn’t just sleep. It isn’t just being in a vegetative state in front of Netflix. True rest is abiding in Jesus. He said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” What do you think “Come to me” means? What does it mean to abide? Daily it means prayer, and reading the Bible, hearing God’s promises and commands. Trusting. Weekly, it means gathering with His body, the church, His people. Remember how when things got overwhelming for Robert and Wendy, how they didn’t run away from the church, but they pulled in closer? You start skipping out on worship and small group and Bible study because you think you’re too busy, too overwhelmed and you’re gonna go from weary to running on fumes to completely stalled out. That’s when you’ll really crash and burn.
It also means we have to get rid of all the heaviness that’s weighing us down.
Rest only happens when we lay down the burdens we’re carrying. It looks a little different for all of us but at the core, all of our burdens come from the same problem—sin. Selfish ambition. Self-centeredness. Pride. Trying to bend the unbendable absolute moral laws that God built into the universe, try to bend them for our own pleasure or gain—when we break God’s laws it’s like punching a stone wall, we’re the one who’s actually gonna break. We’re only hurting ourselves. Robert found that out the hard way. Thou shall not steal—one of the big ten. “Knock, knock. It’s the FBI.” Robert’s like, “Yes, Lord, You have my undivided attention.”
Here’s another of the big ten absolute moral laws that God built into the universe: Remember the sabbath to keep it holy.
Which Jesus said like this, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you that I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The next section of Matthew after this passage is all about the Sabbath—how it was given to us for our benefit, not to be a burden. It’s by gathering as the people of God, gathering around the Word of God with thankful hearts, that we come to Jesus and learn His wisdom—learn what He wants from us. It’s where we are reminded of His love for us—the grace and forgiveness He offers us all. We learn that Jesus is the Sabbath. Come to me ALL of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.
Jesus gently receives all us sinners and forgives everyone who comes to Him—everyone who comes to Him because they’re stressed and tired and weary. Everyone who’s ready to lay down the shame and guilt they’re carrying because of all the things they’ve said and done. Everyone who’s tired of trying to impress people—live up to other people’s standards—or worse, trying to live up to some impossible standard they set for themselves. Jesus says, lay all that down, stop carrying all that junk around—stop being like a hoarder with your whole life full of evil and a collection of toxic attachments. Cast all that on Him. Picture yourself doing it. He took all that on Himself, on the cross—He took it all, all the sin, all the heaviness, and it killed Him. Let it go or it’ll kill you, too. Let go of your sin, failure, shame, guilt, regrets, the things people have done to hurt you, the things you think you’re entitled to—let it all go. Be free of all that heaviness. Because Jesus took all your sin on Himself on the cross, you are forgiven and clean and good. But Jesus isn’t going to send you away empty handed. You wouldn’t be truly free if He did. He says instead of all that heaviness, “Take my yoke upon you—you’ll find rest for your soul because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Do you know what a yoke is? It’s a piece of wood that was put across the necks of an ox or a donkey so it could pull a plow. It’s what allowed them to get work done. Jesus is using it as a metaphor to understand what God wants us to do—His commandments, the law. He’s telling them that they have this concept of God as a cruel taskmaster who puts this heavy yoke on our necks—but that’s not who God really is.
His yoke is light You’ll never have rest for your soul until you’re able to see beyond the overwhelming troubles of this world and stop blaming them on God. Learn that God sent Jesus into the world so we could learn that He is humble and gentle at heart. That’s how God wants us to believe in Him—He’s not out to get you. Until we know that, we not find meaningful rest. Only then will we be able to actually do the things He wants us to do in this world.
Overwhelmed Okay, so what’s the point of all this? Are you feeling stressed? Overwhelmed?
Like life is just a bunch of never ending demands and details?
Work. Kids. Housework. What about time for yourself?
The point is there’s hope if you know where to look.
Jesus invites everyone who’s carrying all this heaviness to come to Him and He’ll give them rest.
Is there more to life than the 9 to 5 grind?
More than just survival?
Deep down, don’t you know you were made for more.
You were made on purpose, for a purpose.
Jesus invites everyone who feels like they’re carrying the weight of the world to come to Him and He’ll give them something lighter to carry. He’ll give them peace and purpose and rest.
Because we’re so easily overwhelmed. We love your kids and our husband or our wife—but sometimes we’re beyond tired. Drowning in house chores and obligations and work and busyness. What you wouldn’t give for an uninterrupted shower, a weekend without laundry, a day without the boss riding your back—a month without a major repair to the car or some unforeseen budget busting expense. Just one moment of peace where you didn’t feel judged and like you’re disappointing everyone in your life.
I was at the grocery store one time and there was a dad in line in front of me with his little boy. He was holding the kid’s hand but his son wasn’t having it—he wanted to pull his hand away from his dad so he’d be free to grab some candy or run down the aisle. Dad wouldn’t let go and the boy kept struggling and whining. He said, “Dad! You’re hurting me! Let go!” His dad just looked at him and said, “I’m not the one pulling away.”
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you that I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When we’re overwhelmed, Jesus doesn’t tell us to try harder. To get over it. To take a nap, or a pill. He doesn’t tell us to figure it out. He just says to stop pulling away from him. To stop thinking God’s out to get you—that your heavenly Father is the one hurting you. That He’s punishing you. He says we need to come to Him and learn that He is gentle and kind. The rest that He offers is not sleep, it’s to be awake and thankful in the presence of God. Thankful for the grace and mercy He’s shown us. Can’t earn it, it’s free, just rest in it. So, let that change how you go about all your busyness. Respond to His kindness by worshiping Him with thankful hearts and loving the people He puts in your life. That’s what He wants us to do. That’s is the only yoke we’ll be able to carry. This is what rest means.