LENT: Lay Down Your Burdens
To God be the glory!
Today, I was driving a big load of garbage to the dump/landfill and suddenly, it struck me- this is a message. I had the car so full of garbage and recycling, that it was hard to drive, because it was so cramped.
I started to see that this is the way many people are. Jesus wants us to lay down our burdens before Him. He said, "Come to Me, all who are weary, and carrying heavy burdens" (or "heavy laden") and I will give you rest..." (Matt. 11:28)
Wow...amazing that God came as a man, a Saviour, Who came into this world to take our sins, our burdens- any problems we may have- and give us rest and peace by solving those problems. "There is a balm/ in Gilead / To make the wounded whole/ There is a Balm in Gilead/ to save the sin-sick soul."
A phrase we put on the cover of our latest album speaks to this- "Don't distract yourself from your problems; deal with them in prayer."
Much of people's sins, and where addiction often begins is a hurt or trauma, a disappointment of some kind happens. As Lee Anne always teaches, "everything in life effects your heart!" We may try to reason it away, but the head can't heal the heart, only Jesus can. That's what grace is- a spiritual substance, the healing ointment (unction, anointing or "balm") of the Holy Spirit.
"The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:
Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself." (CCC 1999)
God's sanctifying grace is what is available to heal us. I was driving the car full of garbage...it was difficult to drive...it was hard to buckle my seat belt. It would have been a lot easier to break the law and drive without a seat belt- hurts and disappointments are like the garbage life throws at us- a comment, an event that happens, a bad memory-
There was also no room in the car for Lee Anne or even the dog to keep me company. When we're hurting, we often feel alone, even if someone reaches out- hurt seems so personal, like "No one else would truly understand..." and this is somewhat right. Lee Anne and I have a blessed relationship. We truly love and understand each other and enjoy each other's company. Even in a truly blessed marriage like ours, our personal relationship with Jesus comes first- we have to go to Him personally for healing, understanding...
The Gift of Understanding actually heals us- many times people don't even realize they're hurting. We have been trained to focus so much on the mind, that intellectually we know something "isn't quite right" but we've lost touch with our hearts...going to Jesus and "talking it out" can be the best possible thing to do. As one preacher suggested, putting a chair in front of you, and imagining that Jesus was sitting there. What would you say to Him? What would you ask Him, or thank Him for? He really is there, but we need the spiritual eyes and ears of our hearts opened.
It's like someone who has a bad memory, or bad experience and they shove it away, saying, "That's too hurtful; I'm not going to deal with that right now." Yet, maybe the Lord is bringing it to your mind so that He can help you heal. Maybe it was the golden opportunity, the opportune time to pray into it and deal with it, and be healed. Scripture says, "the Lord is close to the broken hearted," (Ps. 34:18) and encourages us to "Pour out your hearts before Him." (Ps. 62:8) Do it today, don't delay!
In our Catholic faith, we are blessed with liturgy, much of which is ritual, all based on Scripture and tradition. And yet, we will be reminded many times during Lent that Jesus said, "When ye pray, go into the Secret Place..." He himself spent entire nights (not just at Gethsemane) in prayer of union with the Father. He needed to seek understanding for what His mission was, different things that happened to Him, or get instructions of what to do the next day, or lift others up in prayer. If He, the Son of God, had to do it, how much more should we?
There are so many things in life that we don't understand- the death of a loved one, a tragedy, etc. Or, it could be something more positive - like why the Lord called me to this place/to do that thing? Lee Anne's "therefore story" illustrates this point perfectly well, and highlights the power of lectio divina in the secret place of prayer to find understanding.
She had, through circumstances, ended up living in a small town, where she hardly knew anyone. She had come from a town where she knew many people and was able to go to a prayer group, etc. But here, there was not much to do. She did as she always does, as she was taught by her spiritual director, and spent daily time in Scripture. In one of the Gospel passages, (she calls them the 4 healing Gospels) the word, "Therefore" really stood out and grabbed her attention. For three weeks, every day she was asking, and waiting on the Lord, "What are You saying to me with this?" Finally, she heard herself say, "What did you send me up THERE FOR?" as if from her spirit. She sounded sarcastic! She realized that was what her spirit was crying out- even if her mind was not aware. She was upset that she had to be in that town. After she dealt with this disappointment with the Lord, He began to reveal to her what her mission would be in that place, that she was sent for the parish priest, to help him, and the parish ended up having over 60 people filled with the Holy Spirit because of a conference they did together...
This is the power of the secret place, the power of daily Scripture reading with prayer! Pope Benedict said if this, lectio divina, is renewed in the Church, it will bring about a new spiritual springtime!
When I got rid of all the junk at the dump site, I was able to drive home freely. No more stink in the car, no more tight squeeze, able to see out the back window...the Gift of Understanding that comes through Scripture reading truly heals the heart and gets rid of the garbage, so we can have joy and peace again.
It will happen for those that are humble enough, desperate enough to stop trying to distract themselves or heal themselves, and simply lay down their burdens to Jesus, and become filled with His river of life, the Holy Spirit, when we hear that clear word that makes sense out of everything. David prayed, "by Your Word, revive me..." (Ps. 119) and declared, "by still waters He leadeth me, to revive my troubled spirit." (Ps. 23)
It's like the old song said,
"I'm gonna lay down my burdens
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down my burdens
Down by the riverside
Gonna study war no more..."
This Lent, we pray that many thousands of people have this experience of coming to Jesus and getting rid of what holds them down, all the hurts and baggage. Lord, give Your people the grace to turn to You with their troubles, and the grace to hear the truth from Your mouth, and so be set free.
If we seek first His Kingdom, we will be taken care of in all things. (Matt. 6:33)
For more on how to start doing daily lectio divina, please visit Lambseekers.com/prayers.
Daniel Devine, M. Div.
and help support "those who have no place to go."