Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, "‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. —Matthew 19:13-15 (TNIV)
Most in this significance-yearning generation are crying to be heard, sensitive to our bubble-busters of material possessions and keeping up with everyone else. We are constantly attempting to assert ourselves so that we do not pass by in life quietly, but in this constant struggle of self-proclamation, the word of God speaks truth amid these lies.
A.W. Tozer comments, “As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal, there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.”
This generation carries three major burdens, and the first burden that we are struggling with is that of pride. It is a heavy one because it always needs to defend itself and always needs to be the victor. It is pressure we put on ourselves because, plainly and simply, we just aren’t that good. Pride has a need to retaliate; it always seeks to be right, always needs to win and control the situation. Pride is exhausting, and Jesus, calling us to be as children, seeks to release us from this burden.
The second burden is that of pretense. This is where we are always pretending to be someone other than who we really are. Pastors try to tell other pastors how big their congregations are, sons fabricate when telling their fathers how much they get paid, and the person who is moderately successful in life tries to look wildly successful on the outside. Pretense not only exaggerates, it hides who we really are. We pretend because we fear to be known as we really are. Yet that is the paradox, for though we are afraid of being known, we can rest assured that God already knows us exhaustively. And even though God knows us perfectly, knows our faults and sins, He still accepts us and loves us as a father to a child.
The third burden is that of artificiality, which goes a step further than pretense. It involves a fear of relaxing and an enforced affectation; it’s epitomized in the idea that someone is always playing a role. While it can be amusing at times, artificiality ceases to be so when you seek to know a person. In the end, we come away not really feeling like we know that person because they had a mask on in all of their relationships. Yet artificiality falls away at the cross of Christ. The cross is so real, so brutally authentic. Standing before it is like standing in front of a huge light exposing our darkness.
It’s like being with Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Whenever the children are in his presence, “Any dishonest word, any self-serving statement, tended to dry up—not so much because they feared he would punish them for deceit, but because evil simply could not stand before one who was both all-powerful and completely good.”
God calls us to be as children, throwing away the burdens of pride, pretense and artificiality, so that we can become useful instruments of Him. These self-inflicted burdens are too heavy to bear, and eventually we will break. If we are not walking in humility, a true humility, the heaviness of life will all but consume us. The cross of Christ releases us from taking upon ourselves the stupidity of thinking that we have any strength to carry them anyways.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (TNIV). The burdens we carry are indeed heavy beyond our abilities to manage, and as we are overloaded, Jesus takes our hands and says to us, “Little child, I have set you free. Come to Me.”