Walking with God was meant to be simple and easy. Man has complicated it, which explained all the problems encountered today. Along the path, we pick up luggage which with time has become excessive. Unless we get rid of all the excess luggage, serving God is nothing else than a utopia (imaginary or idealistic activity), a waste of time and energy. Many Christians today are living between two worlds: on one side, they wish they could be spiritual and on the other side, they cannot help but pleasing their fleshly desire. They end up being in a fight where they develop guilt, shame and frustration. As a result, in order to cope with the whole condition, they go around wearing a mask every day. No wonder so many people today suffer with anxiety, depression, insomnia and all kind of psychosomatic diseases. (A simple way to define psychosomatic disease is a disorder in the body due to a trouble in the mind.) How can someone slough off this excess luggage and live a restful life?
Before addressing that question, it would be good to identify some of the luggage that can affect our walk:
Prejudice. According to Webster’s dictionary, this is an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. It also can be seen as any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable. A known example is a negative perception of being Black. This transpires in the Song of Solomon 1:5 -6. “I am black but comely”. Comely means lovely, beautiful. “Look not upon me because I am black….my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyard…” The “but” implies that black could not be thought of as comely. This perception has transcended time and place to be prevalent in our days. If we are not careful when we come to the Lord, we can find this type of luggage in the midst of the churches of the Body of Christ.
Stereotype. The Webster’s dictionary comes again to our rescue to help define that word. This is a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group. For the Jews, all Gentiles are dogs and unclean. Jesus himself fell into that trap when he told that woman in Mat 15:26 “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” But seeing the great faith of that woman, he ended up having a change of heart. We will not expand here on Peter’s vision in Acts 10:11 – 17 before his visit to Cornelius house. However, his answer to the voice who told him to kill and eat was clearly an example of the stereotype of his days. That same stereotype can be found today in our midst regarding black and white, American versus Haitian and so on.
Bitterness. As we interact with our environment, we can get offended by situations and circumstances. A healthy reaction would be to deal with the offense and prevent it from creating resentment in our attitude and mind. If that is not done, what started as a simple offense finds itself way down into our hearts where it creates a “root of bitterness”. At that stage it takes a lot of the grace of God to save us and prevents us from defiling others around us. Many churches today are full with bitter saints. The condition of their hearts is as described by Jesus in Mat. 13: 5, 21. Their hearts are like stony places. Bitterness is such a heavy luggage to carry along the way.
The past. Good or bad, the past can be a heavy luggage to travel with. Good, it can be a source of pride – which the Bible calls an abomination – and therefore prevents us from humbling ourselves to apprehend the things of God. Bad, it can generate a negative self-image which forces us to go in life hidden behind a mask by fear of rejection. As consequence, one can indulge in self-destructive behavior as bulimia (compulsion to eat without control), promiscuity, illicit behavior, substance abuse, rebellion against the statu quo as an attempt to catch people’s attention. Childhood experiences deeply affect our life. Therefore we can appreciate the wisdom contained in Paul’s statement when he wrote to the Philippians, “But this one thing, I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The list can be long based on where we have been and what we have been exposed to. But the good news is we can get rid of every excess luggage if we follow the instructions provided to us.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” said Jesus. We all can experience rest in the Lord if we follow the process that he described: 1) take his yoke upon us; 2) learn of him. Compared to ours, his yoke is easy and his burden light. But how many Christians today go around with all their burdens on their shoulders!
They forget the other instruction given by Paul in Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing…” That means: don’t worry, don’t be scared, and be not anxious about anything. “But in EVERY THING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” It is so convenient to complain, murmur and criticize instead of turning everything to the Lord. But when we follow Paul’s instructions, the peace of God which passes all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. It becomes therefore easier to comply with Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 12: 1 “let us lay aside every weight”… That is the only way we can run with patience the race that is set before us.
If you are serious about your walk with God, and realize that you are heavy laden, it does not have to be complicated and difficult. Just follow Jesus instructions. Take his yoke upon you and learn of him. Soon you will be running this race, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”
Dr. Joël Hilaire
Pastor of Orlando Gospel Assembly