In Luke 12.50, Jesus says, “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” Jesus is stressed. The path God has given him to follow is a difficult and stressful one and in his humanness. Jesus is sent to bring fire to the earth, to light a flame of faithfulness that takes awhile to catch on. His mission is not to soothe the faithful, but to stir up faithfulness and this creates division.
The path God calls us to follow is rarely the path of least resistance. God often calls us to journey through uncertain waters, to take unpopular stands, to speak against the status quo. The prophet Jeremiah certainly experienced this when he cried out, “I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.” The word God gave Jeremiah to speak was a word no one wanted to hear. Jeremiah was caught between holding it and letting it burn inside of him or speaking out and running the risk of losing friends, of gaining enemies and opponents.
Jesus, like Jeremiah before him, finds himself in the uncomfortable prophetic position of pointing out to the people what they fail to see, what they fail to notice. This prophetic task is a stressful mission God calls us to.
So where is there good news in this? What hope is there to offer?
The hope is that God strengthens us to bear the burdens placed on our calling. God does not leave us alone to shoulder the stress, but lives it with us. Jesus tells us “my yoke is easy, my burden light.” This is not because our stress is removed, but because we have someone to share the burdens with, someone stronger to lean on when the pressure gets too great.
There is also an important difference between the kind of stress of worldly demands and the stress of God’s calling. Our worldly stress leaves us spinning in circles. It alienates us, leaving us to feel like we are alone in the world. Worldly stress causes us to shut off from others, from ourselves, even from God.
But the stress of the gospel, the demands of God’s calling, draws us closer together. God weaves these into the fabric of our faith. Being true to our faith convictions may be divisive at times, but it is ultimately unifying. This was true in the life and death of Jesus. Jesus stood up for his convictions and was left to die alone on the cross. But through his death, God has raised to life a community of faith. Ultimately, we are brought together in Christ.
In faith, we can trust that as God moves us to live out our convictions, to stand up for what we believe in, we will not be left alone, not cut off from others, but become an important part of one body in Christ.
God does not ask us to follow the path of least resistance, but the pathway of faithfulness. We serve God not so that God will relieve our stress, but because God has first loved and served us. The promise God offers is that the yoke is easy, the burden light, not because there are no challenges or obstacles along the way, but because God, in Christ, shoulders the burden with us.