There is nothing like strapping the essentials to your back and traveling 40 miles over mountains and into deep valleys. Backpacking can be hard work, challenging and downright ruthless, but the breathtaking vistas and fresh mountain air make the effort worthwhile. Successful backpacking means finding the right gear, a comfortable pack and reaching an agreeable, bearable weight. I stay in the 30 to 40 pound range and this will vary depending on the extent of the trip. Recently, I bought a book on ultra-light backpacking which demonstrates how some people will go to extremes to shed additional pounds. Actions you can take to lighten the load include: cutting off tags, extra straps and tent pockets, eliminating stuff sacks, cutting your toothbrush and spoon in half, buying rugged and lightweight cookware, etc. The list goes on and on, but when you have trekked 30 miles with 10 miles yet to go, you will gladly shed any excess ounces.
Some of you have read John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress—the allegorical tale of a person’s journey to Christ and how he experiences freedom from sin. The story’s main character, Christian, begins his journey with a very heavy pack strapped to his back which he cannot remove. In the story, Christ frees Christian from the wearisome weight. The pack represents the burden of sin and shame that we all bear in this downcast world. Like the ultra-light backpacker, we go to extremes to shed this burden. We spend huge dollar amounts and time to ease our unending toil, but all to no avail. We try to lighten the load, but it’s always there as if someone were sneaking heavy rocks in our packs when we weren’t looking. We travel through this life, following an unpredictable path—a path sometimes very steep and rugged. There are boulders and ledges, predators and hidden vipers. You never once forget the pack’s pressure holding you down, causing you to lose your balance. Cursing rises from the hidden depths of the tongue.
Jesus to the rescue. To top Bunyan’s story, our Savior shares His timeless analogy—the oxen and the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30. These verses tell us that only He can ease our burden. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He’s not saying that all of this life’s problems will miraculously disappear, but the scriptures reveal that Christ’s sacrifice sufficiently frees us from our slavery. He has taken the weight upon Himself by dying on the cross and removing the penalty of our sin burden forever. More importantly, He forgives us and washes clean our rebellious life, removing the guilt and shame. Many people trudge through this life, pulled down by sin’s cords. It saps their energy, robbing them of a greater joy. Spiritually, they’re exhausted and don’t know why.
Friend, if you are feeling this way, will you call out to God? He is more than willing to take the burden from you and help you through the rest of life’s journey.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.