Of all the invitations given in the Bible, perhaps one of the most comforting is found in Psalm 55:22, which urges us to “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and he will sustain you.” But the amount of comfort we receive from this verse depends a lot upon how we read it, understand it, and accept it. If we’re going to understand what it means for God to sustain us, if we’re going to experience his persevering grace, then we ought to know how to cast our burdens on him. And that means knowing which burdens to cast.
Which is worse – something done to you, or the effect it has on your heart / mind?
Which are you more likely to ask for help with?
Ignoring the poor syntax in the 2nd question, consider the overall thought here. There are different types of burdens, and we tend to do different kinds of things with them. At least, that’s how it seems to me.
Burden Type A
This is the “something done to you” burden. Or we could call it the “what happens to you” burden. It is generally physical, or at least external. It is the cold that keeps you from getting your rest at night, the idiot who rear-ends you in traffic because he’s too busy texting, the 3rd month of unemployment or the 4th round of tests. These are pretty easy to identify. When we experience this kind of pain, it’s easy to come up with a “prayer request,” and if we have friends we can count on, we’ll always have something to share with them.
These are the burdens that command our attention and that get mentioned most often. They’re obvious, and they’re obvious because they hurt.
Burden Type B
This burden is not as obvious as Type A, mainly because it’s hiding behind Type A, but it can hurt just as badly or worse and do far more long-term damage. This is the prideful anger that festers when you are passed over for a promotion at work, the worry before an examination or the fear that follows a diagnosis, the doubt that is directed towards God while you pray for the salvation of a loved one for the 763rd time.
These burdens are spiritual, internal, and if we’re not watchful, invisible. They often go unspoken and even unidentified. And because of this, they go unrelieved.
Which is which?
So, review those questions again. My guess is that once we think deeply about them, we would acknowledge that Type B burdens are probably worse than Type A in the damage they cause but also less likely to attract assistance.
And that’s why Psalm 55:22 is so powerful. Its author, David, knew both kinds of burdens. When you read Psalm 55, you see both on display. He prays for his Type A burdens when he asks God to destroy those who would oppress him, but he prays for his Type B burdens when he cries out that the terrors of death have fallen upon him and that he wishes he could fly far, far away like a dove and hide. Neither was insignificant, but I believe that the pain in David’s heart and mind was far more pressing than any potential pain of body. And that’s why he cried out to God.
Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, shows us this distinction when he prayed. It was not the arrest or the physical torture that awaited him, it was the spiritual separation from his Father that moved him to ask that the cup depart from him. Bearing the wrath of God, becoming sin for his people – that was what weighed him down. That was the load beneath which he fell.
So that we could be borne up.
The Psalm promises that God will never permit the righteous to be shaken. This is a promise of preservation and of perseverance. Those who are righteous because they have received Christ’s grace through faith alone will be sustained in faith to the end of their lives. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ. They may be weighed down by many burdens, Type A and B. But those who cast these burdens upon God will know his sustaining grace.
They key is to cast them upon him. Not merely a prayer for healing or finances or safety, but a prayer that looks up from beneath the crushing weight of doubt and discouragement, confesses to God exactly what cannot be carried any longer, the innermost thoughts of the heart, and looks for the grace to call out with the Psalmist, “I will trust in you.”