“He looks like he has the cares of the world on his shoulders.” In Greek mythology, Atlas was punished for rebellion by being tasked with bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. It came to describe being very concerned with many different problems you might face in life.
Probably you have experienced that yourself; being weighed down by the struggles and responsibilities of day-to-day living. They can seem overwhelming at times, especially if more than one issue arises at the same time or in quick succession; which happens more often than we would like.
Over the past few weeks I have felt that way more than once. A friend and colleague of mine, Robert Henrich, the heart and soul of Common Ground Christian Community Center, died and I miss his camaraderie. Fellow pastor Bill Kohler is grieving over the death of his wife, and I feel his pain. I have family members with physical sickness and challenges, and I care about them and what they’re going through, but I feel far away and helpless.
We recently returned from a missions trip to Abaco, an island in the Bahamas that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and is still struggling to rebuild both structures and lives after that historic storm. We were able to help a few people, but there are so many more struggling to get by and I feel their burden.
Those weights, plus what seems like unending bad news in our world each day highlighting the hatred and strife between nations, groups, and people, added to big decisions to be made and a never-ending stream of responsibilities: it all feels like a dog-pile on my back at times. There are days when it seems like I’m carrying the cares of the world on my shoulders.
But I want to tell you something that I have found to be a helpful reminder. Whatever struggles, pains and cares you carry, it is not a punishment from God like poor Atlas’ story suggests. It is just life in this fallen world we call home. Jesus was very up-front with us when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) However, that is not all He said. He warned His followers to prepare them so that they would not be alarmed and caught off guard but instead could have peace in the midst of the troubles. And even more than a warning to brace you, Jesus offered this positive truth to put the cares of the world into perspective.
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus knew that when we follow Him, we would face the same type of opposition and struggles that He did. The Good News is that you and I never have to bear the “weight of the world” alone.
In 1 John 4:4 John wrote to the Church (which applies to every Jesus follower today), “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
This encouragement specifically addresses the spiritual opposition Jesus followers face each day from Satan and his operatives in the world. John reminds the Church just as Jesus told His disciples, “Take heart, you’re with Me, I live in you, and I have overcome the world. I have already borne the sins of the world on my shoulders; I can carry all its cares as well. You don’t have to carry the cares of this world on your shoulders, give them to Me.”
The cares of the world are real, and the burden is heavy. We as Jesus followers can’t ignore them and aren’t immune to their weight. But we should be encouraged by the Truth that author James Bryan Smith summed up this way, “I am a child of God, one in whom Christ dwells and I am living in the unshakable Kingdom of God. Inside the Kingdom of God, I am in no danger.” (From The Good and Beautiful Life) “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)