Precious Things

I have heard numerous sermons and songs about laying down burdens or letting Christ share yours.  I would be hard pressed to think that phrase or imagery is new to anyone reading this.  I have had the natural inclination to view the word “burden” as circumstances or troubles.  During the season of my mother’s sickness and passing, I clung to Christ’s words in Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  It speaks to the brokenness of the human condition, the burden of this broken world.  Things that just are what they are.  But after reading a certain chapter of Isaiah, a totally different burden was shown to me this week.

 Even to your old age and gray hair

     I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

    I have made you and I will carry you;

       I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

- Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)

 Scanning through some material, I saw this verse one night and it stood out to me.  Probably because of the mention of gray hair and the  ample amount I am sporting these days, but whatever.  I read the entire chapter that surrounds this verse along the footnotes at the bottom of my Life Application Study Bible, what I call my “cheater Bible.”  The notes talked of God’s people painstakingly measuring out and making these golden idols.  These heavy burdensome idols that they themselves had to carry.  And after praying to them, nothing happens.  These idols do nothing.  Isaiah goes on by showing the stark contrast of these false gods with the timeless power and love of the true God.

 It was in this chapter of this book of the Bible that God showed a different burden to me.  It speaks of the burdens WE create out of the false gods that WE create.  I had never fully thought about the painstaking steps we take to create a burden.  That it is more than just choosing a vice and turning from God or even absentmindedly going astray.  This is deliberate.  And we all do it.

So how does that start?  Using Isaiah’s text, we take what is most precious to us and evaluate it.  We measure it out.  We give it false weight.  

“Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales” (vs. 6a)

Now it is so easy and tempting to limit this to money and normal trappings of a capitalistic society, but look harder.   I think we take even the most pure and good blessings that God pours over us and set them up unintentionally to our own detriment. Your role as a strong father.  Your role as a dynamic teacher.  Your successful marriage.  Your role as a loving mother.  Your children’s successes.  Your role in the church.  Your role as a faithful daughter. Your role as a best friend.

But we don’t stop there.  Our “precious thing” doesn’t look great enough to everyone else so we recruit help.  We have to make it larger than us.

“They hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it.” (vs. 6b)

We look for approval, whether sincere or not.  Words of affirmation.  Public or private recognitions.  We fuse our pride to this “precious thing.”

 Now that this precious thing is larger than us and has taken on so much weight in our lives, we have a hard time bringing it along with us.  So we become immobile.

 “The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary” (vs.1)

 Therefore “they set it up in its place, and there it stands.” (vs.7a)

 And then we ask for the idol’s help, guidance and love because nothing is working to correct what we feel.  We feel incomplete.  We feel alone.  

 “Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.” (vs. 7b)

But what an amazing thing God does.  He counters every single one of our actions with His words.

         I have thoughtfully and painstakingly

       made a false god of my (fill in the blank).

                            I HAVE MADE YOU.

         I cannot carry the burden that this brings.

                            I WILL CARRY YOU.

         I cannot keep this up.

                            I WILL SUSTAIN YOU.

         I am so tired that I just give up.

                            I WILL RESCUE YOU.

 It hurts like hell coming to this point.  This realization that you have wrapped your worth, your energy, and your identity around something, though God-given, is not God.  So lay down that self-made burden.  Watch that “precious thing” slowly melt back into the blessing God meant it to be.  And at that beautiful moment, you’ll realize that our father has been singing over you the whole time, lovingly asking you to “Listen to me”. (vs. 3)