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His Burden is Light

Hindsight can be a beautiful gift. It is a gift that helps me to remember what really matters on a daily basis. It allows me to learn from my past and to remain focused on the present. It reminds me to consistently check in regarding whether or not I am taking on more than is mine to take on.

A few short years ago my days were filled with things that were not my responsibility, but I found myself doing anyway because that is what I had learned to do. It was my default setting, my auto-pilot.

From the moment I woke, to the moment I lay my head on the pillow at night, my day was directed by what I thought I should do; what I thought others needed or wanted me to do; what I incorrectly assumed at the time to be the duties and obligations of marriage and motherhood.

The notion that God’s ‘yoke is sweet and His burden light’ escaped my understanding because it did not feel so in my life. There was a distinct lack of sweetness. There was a distinct feeling of heaviness.

I had no idea that I had taken on a yoke that was not His and thus a burden that was anything but light. 

I was well trained to take care of others’ emotional needs and to ‘help’ others with their responsibilities. It’s what makes a good wife, mother, friend, sister, Christian, Catholic…right?

So I thought. And I also convinced myself that I was fine while doing this. I could manage.

If - or more accurately, when - it all felt like too much, I would (albeit a little begrudgingly) turn my attention to offering up my burden; my struggles, the excessive responsibilities, the feeling of hardship.

And if - or more accurately, again, when - that didn’t suffice, I would have a fairly brief and somewhat cathartic meltdown. Temporarily I would feel some relief, but then all too soon the crazy cycle would resume again.

I would be back on the hamster-wheel of giving, doing, helping until the next wave of overwhelm.

Not knowing what to do, or that there was anything amiss in my approach, I lived my life like this for years. Retiring to bed at the end of an exhausting day with the knowledge that I would face the exact same fate the following day.

I was not happy. And I was not fine.

With sufficient pain from a burden I could no longer carry and retain my sanity at the same time, I was motivated to face the truth. I was ready to look at what needed to change; at who needed to change.

It was me.

I had so long been entirely convinced that it was other people in my life, or the circumstances of my life that needed to change or the season of life I was in that needed to change and then I would truly be fine; I would feel great.

I had been mistaken. So I turned my focus to what lay on my side of the street. What was within my ability to control? What could I change now to have a lighter burden?

With God’s grace it gradually became clear to me that I had indulged in a mindset that had kept me stuck. I had believed and lived like there was nothing I could change in my life; that I was helpless with regard to my circumstances and the burden of responsibilities that would overwhelm me. I saw myself as a victim. I saw myself as the person who had to do it all. I acted as if I could do nothing to lighten my load. I acted as if I was a passive receiver of excess responsibility. I acted as if God had laid this heavy load at my feet.

He had not.

Little by little I began to give back to others what had always been their responsibility. 

Little by little I began to see that I had very efficiently trained those around me to let me do for them what they perhaps ought to do for themselves.

Little by little I began to see I had unachievable standards and expectations for others and for myself.

Little by little I began to understand and address the true responsibilities that lay at my feet.

I gradually learned that being responsible is turning my attention to my own responsibilities, my own care, my own problems and coming up with solutions for those with God as my ever-present guide. I have a duty to take care of my own needs and not wait to be rescued by others.

Of course I have duties with regard to my state in life as a wife and as a mother that entail taking care of other people. Within this, though, I can tend to over-step. I can tend to over-do. And doing so is not being responsible. Doing so is preventing the people in my care from experiencing their own life lessons. Doing so is what exhausts me. Doing so is what results in a burden too heavy to carry. Doing so is what takes the sweetness out of daily life. Doing so kept me miserable and feeling like a victim.

The time and attention I spent on others’ responsibilities prevented me from being free to grow personally. It prevented me from growing in intimacy with God. It distracted me from what truly matters.

Being ‘helpful’; being the ‘fixer’ was deeply ingrained in my behaviour. To avoid returning to this default setting of over-functioning, over-doing and taking on too much there are two questions I ask myself before I step in to ‘help’. I find it very beneficial if I’m not sure where my responsibility ends and another person’s begins. 

I ask myself: 

“Is this something they could do for themselves?” 


“Is this something they should do for themselves?” 

If it is a yes to both, it is not my responsibility and it would better serve both them and me if they did it themselves. Whether or not they complete what it is I think they ought to is not my responsibility and I try not to let it be my concern. I am merely human, I can still struggle, but it is a good benchmark to redirect my attention where it ought to be. 

It felt very uncomfortable and frankly scary to change initially. There had been some element of comfort in the control of ‘helping’. There is discomfort in standing back and allowing others the consequences of their action or inaction. But stepping in - ‘helping’ - was not being responsible. It was a distraction from my own responsibilities. My own growth. My own life lessons. My own relationship with God. 

Come to Me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” 

- Matthew 11:28-30

I cannot overstate how liberating it is to give back to others what is their responsibility. The initial discomfort turns to joy the more I practise relinquishing control where I have no business doing otherwise.

Perhaps it is my husband’s health. I no longer buy, organise or leave his supplements out for him to take. I no longer research what might be bothering him. I do my best to avoid asking him if he has had enough water to drink or if he has seen a vegetable on his plate this week. Is it something he could do for himself? Yes. Is it something he should do for himself? Yes. We all dedicate ourselves better to new habits when we are the ones who desire them. And I keep my eyes, instead, on my own health. Am I doing what I need to do to take care of my health?

Perhaps it is with my 6 year old when leaving the house on a cold day. I see that he is forgetting his coat - again. I can remind him - again - and potentially face doing so for years to come. Or, I can allow him to feel the effect of being cold with the hope that experiencing the natural consequence will perhaps teach him to remember his coat the next time. Is remembering his coat something he could do for himself? Yes. Is it something he should do for himself? Yes.

Perhaps it is with my 18 month old. I can jump up off my chair twenty or more times - like I used to with my first child 8 years ago - and block his head from meeting the table corner each and every time. Or, I can say “mind your head” and allow him to bang it on occasion (relatively softly I might add!). Is minding his head something he could do for himself? Not initially given his lack of understanding of where his body even is and the potential risk involved in banging his head. However, it is something he could do for himself as he gets older. Is it something he should do for himself? Yes, as soon as possible. So this is one where sometimes I’ll jump into action if it’s going to be more than a mild collision. But, having run the experiment countless times, my children learn faster to mind where they are walking when they are allowed to experience the consequence of failing to do so.

Perhaps it is with a family member or loved one’s addiction. I could be ‘helpful’ by sharing links, giving advice or direction, researching the most successful treatments and bringing them this information, even paying for the treatment, or being the person they call time after time after time after time without any change taking place in their behaviour. Or, I could ask “is this something they could do for themselves?” And “is this something they should do for themselves?”. Meanwhile I can pray for, love and accept them for who and where they are, and be present with prudent support…with kindness, compassion and honesty. Without enabling their destructive behaviour or allowing it to negatively impact my life. I can set boundaries lovingly and I can turn my attention to weeding out the coping mechanisms or addictive behaviours that may be present in my own life. I can look to see if I am being present daily. Am I dealing sufficiently well with areas of excess in my own life and trying to find balance?

I encourage you to face the fear that can come with not being in control of how things unfold for other people in your life. I encourage you to scan your daily life for areas of responsibility you can hand back. Sweetness and lightness lie ahead on this path.

What areas in your life feel heavy? Where can you step back and allow yourself some relief from a heavy burden? Where are you perhaps ‘helping’ where it isn’t beneficial to you or to others? Where are you taking on responsibilities for your growing children where they could or should be doing so themselves? Where are you doing more for a person than they are willing to do for themselves? Where is it that you could lighten your load by handing responsibility back to where it belongs?

There is enough to keep us very busy in our responsibilities towards God, ourselves and the duties we have towards those in our care. We do not need more to carry by taking on more than God designed us to. It is time to give it back.

Take care of you and Let Truth Bloom.

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