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, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” [Mat 11:28-30 NLT]
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” [Jer 32:27 NKJV]
Remember back, oh, fifteen years ago or so, Staples had an ad campaign featuring “The Easy Button?” I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, wishing I had one to instantly fix any of my struggles and difficult situations that we all face in life. Can y’all relate? My flesh does not like to be challenged by having to roll up my sleeves, dig in, and exert myself. I LIKE easy.
But you know what? Chasing after easy is the most common cop-out in loving Jesus and other people. Think about it. When things require effort, patience, time, money, or sweat, people gravitate naturally to a microwave-type fix: we want it done in less than a minute. In our culture here in the United States and most affluent countries, we have been conditioned to even expect quick and painless solutions. Hungry? Hit the drive-thru at McDonald’s. Need an answer? Ask Google. Need to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, or reduce your cholesterol? Take a pill. When the fix is not as fast as what the golden arches, Alexa, or our doctor promise, we fidget and fuss like, at least in my case, an inconsolable two-year-old! It may look a wee bit more mature, but inside I’m just as demanding that MY need for comfort be met as any toddler.
You want to know a secret? God Himself is our comfort. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. [2Co 1:3-4 NKJV] Wait. You mean it’s not that triple chocolate cake in the fridge you reach for when you’re stressed? It’s not the shot of Seagram’s at night you slam down to “take the edge off?” It’s not the latest Netflix binge? It’s not that co-worker you fantasize about loving you better than your current spouse? It’s not even sleep (my personal favorite)! No, it is God: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.” [Isa 66:13 NKJV]
Not only does God the Father comfort us, but also the Holy Spirit: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth.” [Jhn 14:16-17 KJV] The Greek word for “Comforter” here in the King James version is paraklētos, which carries the meaning, “called to one’s side, advocate, one who pleads another’s cause, intercessor, and helper.” That same Greek word is used here: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. [1Jo 2:1 NIV] Dear brothers and sisters, we have the whole Godhead as our defense, help, and comfort! The God we worship–the God who stretched out a universe that science keeps discovering is bigger, badder, and more beautiful than our imaginations can muster; the same God who numbers the hairs on our head and notes when a sparrow falls to the ground; the God who gave us our ultimate well-being by leaving His glory and heaven to bend down and wipe the tears from our eyes–THIS is our Comforter. His power will not fail us, His eye will not miss us, and His love will not forsake us. Isn’t our God grand? Brothers and sisters, put away the cake, the booze, the TV, the fantasy, and the nap. Let’s RUN to our Abba!
Since we have such a wondrous Comforter, what can we do when we’re smack dab in the middle of HARD? Our flesh wants to reach for the easy button, but I suspect the Lord would rather have us “walk in love.” The Greek word “walk” in 2 John 1:6 is peripateō, and means “to live, to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self, to progress, and to make due use of opportunities.” All these things require effort, just like physical walking. And most of the time, love requires some effort on our part. Love requires us to trust the Lord when we’re waiting for answers or situations to resolve. Love requires us to be patient when we don’t see the spiritual fruit we want to see in other people’s lives. Love requires us to be bold when defending our children. Love requires us to lay aside time to invest in others. Love often requires us to come out of our comfort zones. Love requires a little coaxing and a dash of daring to venture into unknown experiences. In our human strength, walking in love is scary. It is scary because we don’t know what to expect. We imagine all the things that could go wrong: how we will get hurt, how we will embarrass ourselves, how our efforts will go unnoticed, how we’ll be rejected. Our focus is on all the negative risks that could happen to us. This makes us squirm and want to run and hide!
What if, instead of looking at all the ways we live in self-preservation of our bodies and egos, we look to the One who risked it all. Jesus did not push the easy button when it came to solving the pain of sin and death. He became a proactive participant in humanity for some thirty years. What if we make it our prayer to be more like Him? A proactive participant in the lives of those around us, those people the Lord puts in our life and those He sends us to seek out? What would that look like in your little corner of the world? Going the extra mile, giving the shirt off your back? Jesus says in Matthew 5:40-41, “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” [Mat 5:40-41 NIV] In other words, hanging in there when your marriage isn’t perfect, your child is rebelling, or your boss is unfair. How about offering your adversary something like a coat, something that keeps you warm and comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a physical item. It could be attempting to understand how they see the world and you, offering them forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness. It could be offering friendship to that one person no one can figure out, including yourself. It could be standing up for a person and speaking truth in a group that is gossiping. It could be anything that goes against the status quo of society–even the status quo of your own comfortable life. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” [Luk 9:23-24 ESV]
Our way of living in denial is not God’s way of living in denial. You may be thinking, But Jesus said His yoke is easy to bear! Well, the word for “easy” in our main verse above has the meaning, “kind, good, and benevolent.” Jesus’ thought here was not life sans difficulty or struggles or effort, but rather life lived in His love. His love FREES us and releases the burden of our self-centered focus. He desires us to deny our soul-sick insecurity and be secure in Him. In His power, in His divine providence, and in His provision.
The Lord always provides for His people. He provided a way out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea. He provided a way through the desert by having manna rain down from heaven and water gush from rocks. He provided a way into the Promised Land by parting the Jordan River. He is our way-maker when our situation seems to be at a dead end: “for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” [Isa 52:12 ESV] The Lord is still our provider par excellence: “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” [Rom 8:32 NLT] Everything He was for the Israelites He is for His Church today.
He is also the One who provided clothing for Adam and Eve when they were naked. So, let’s give away that “coat,” whatever comforts and protects us in s sinful & selfish way, whatever fig leaf we are using to cover our shame and protect our pride. Let Him clothe us with His righteous white robes and a dignity that reflects Him more and more. My prayer is that He grant us a bolder love, the kind He modeled. Let’s stop hitting the easy button. Amen.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. [1Jo 4:16-19 ESV]
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, behind [him] a ram caught in the thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided. [Gen 22:13-14 ASV]