“Lord, give me a burden for souls.”
That’s the last line of a song written by a young lady from my husband’s hometown.
It reminds me of Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all ye who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It makes me wonder if Jesus’ burden is the same as the “burden for souls”? And if it is, is that burden light? Is it easy to carry? Or is it heavy?
Just a few houses down the road from the composer of this song lived another young lady. Fifteen years ago she and her siblings tucked a $20 bill into the cupholder in my car, along with a note saying they’d be praying for our mission in India.
That girl grew up reading mission stories – some of them ours. She later became a missionary nurse, assisting with medevac missions to otherwise unreachable mountain villages. Two weeks ago she was accompanying some very sick people during a helicopter evacuation. While the helicopter was over the ocean, a storm arose. Their GPS signal went dead.
Despite intense search efforts, she and the patients and crew are still missing.
Is the “burden of souls” lightweight? Is it easy to carry?
A few days after she went missing, our family went to a park to meet with a local family who is interested in knowing more about Jesus. Our children played parkour while the men discussed one of the major themes of the gospels—spiritual warfare. My husband emphasized that Satan tries to keep people away from the truth but that Jesus came to set us free from lies.
Right about then, my daughter fell off a cement bench and broke her tibia.
While I held her scarily-bent leg on the way to the hospital, I prayed we would arrive soon so they could give her something for the pain. It took many hours, however, for grumpy healthcare workers to give my screaming child anything.
Is the “burden of souls” lightweight? Is it easy?
My daughter, a very active child, settled into a painful, monotonous week. Thankfully, no joints were involved, so full recovery is likely. Still, she wondered if she would ever really be the same, ever be able to rock climb or swim or jump on the trampoline again. She wondered if she should just stop trying.
“I’m never going to break anything ever again,” she said. “I’ll make sure I don’t.” She talked about all the things she would stop doing so she’d never have to experience that kind of pain again.
“You’re not going to let this stop you,” I said, kissing her forehead. “You’re going to work hard, and you’re going to be so strong. You’re going to get back on the horse.”
“But I can’t move. I can’t do anything.”
“I know. But eventually, it will stop hurting. We’ll help carry your leg until they can put a lighter cast on it. Later, you’ll be cast-free, and you’ll work hard to get that leg strong again. And one day, this will just be a memory, and you’ll be better.”
“Okay,” she said simply, resignedly. “Can I listen to Corrie?”
My daughter loves audiobooks. One of her favorites is “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie Ten Boom. She particularly loves Corrie’s father’s kind, wise parables. Here is one:
“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need, just in time.”
I listened to this and other stories as I ran back and forth between my daughter’s bed and the kitchen and the front door (since a barrage of neighbors was visiting, bringing food and loving words).
As I sent up another prayer for the missing missionary nurse and her family, I thought about sacrifice. We tend to celebrate the sacrifices of healthcare professionals. Somewhere in our hearts, we know that we could just as easily be the ones needing the helicopter ride. Or the ones quietly listening as the firefighters get closer and closer to where we lie stuck under the rubble from an earthquake. Or the ones with the blinding pain of a broken bone, longing for a hand to hold.
But what about those who tend to spiritual needs? What about those who are engaged in a battle that cannot be seen? Crawling through the rubble, running in the darkness, reaching out a hand even though we, too, are fragile?
These days, being a missionary is not the most popular career choice. It’s not widely celebrated or understood. It’s even derided by some.
So why do we do it, when it’s dangerous and hard and underappreciated? Why do we do it, when we may be misunderstood? When we might fail?
Maybe it’s because we know we could be the ones in need of Jesus.
Jesus never promised we wouldn’t have to bear any burdens. The truth is, life will be full of burdens and hardships and pain, whether you’re a missionary or not. Whether you’re a Christian or not. Whether you live in North America or Asia. Because life is like that. It’s unpredictable and full of potential for both good and bad.
Jesus’ burden isn’t light because it isn’t there. It’s most definitely there. It’s just different from the one you used to bear. In fact, when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy,” He actually said His yoke is chréstos. Useful, gentle, pleasant, kind. Benevolent. And when Jesus says his burden is “light,” He uses the word elaphros. Easy to carry… easy to move with.
This is Jesus’ burden: His love for mankind, His incessant seeing of individuals as people and not objects, His treating them as he’d like to be treated, His stubborn forgiveness, His healing of both body and soul, His courageous kindness. Jesus’ burden mobilizes us, gets us on our feet, and sends us.
It does not back down because of fear. It flies in the face of the storm, and it is not stopped when one person can’t carry on.
Because we don’t carry that burden alone. We carry it with Christ.
That’s what makes it light.
In loving memory of Janelle Alder, who selflessly cared for both bodies and souls, just like her Savior.