“The straw that broke the camel’s back” is an old, familiar proverb with which we all have had some experience. Like taking that last bite of dessert at the end of an otherwise satisfying dinner; it pushes us from being fulfilled to being miserably bloated. Or it’s that last drink – just one more – that turns a fun evening into the morning’s hangover.
Such “straws” are overcome with antacids or aspirin, but other breakdowns aren’t as easily negotiated. For instance, someone manages her work, household, and usual routine with ease, until her father is diagnosed with cancer. She is devastated, but marshals her strength and carries on to the amazement of onlookers. Next, her teenage son is expelled from school; and her husband loses his job; and her oldest child drops out of college. Miraculously, she holds it together, and everyone marvels at her resilience.
In the midst of all this, she maintains her leadership of the homeowner’s association, the PTA, her tennis club, and church board. People begin writing odes to her strength and determination. But then she comes home one evening, and finding the washing machine broken, she loses her mind and has to be hospitalized. Only the most obtuse observer would say her breakdown was the result of a broken appliance.
Back-breaking strain is rarely, if ever, the result of a single event or trauma. It is cumulative. The last straw lands on our backs, the trouble stacking up like falling snowflakes. Finally, the weight of it all comes cascading down, and no amount of soldiering on, doubling up, or internal pep talk can stop the avalanche. At such times we might need some additional help from the medical community. There’s no shame in that admission, as physicians, counselors, pharmacists, and mental health professionals can be God’s gifts to us. But at such junctures, while sitting broken and overwhelmed by the life we have accumulated on our shoulders, it’s a good time to learn the necessity of off-loading some unnecessary burdens.
The world won’t end if you resign from a few of your volunteer commitments. The church has been percolating along for centuries, so if you surrender your seat in the choir or on the session, I’m sure it won’t collapse. Trying for that promotion – which provides more ego boost than actual dollars in your banking account – is likely not worth the extra weight. Granted, much of what we carry can’t be mitigated: A parent’s sickness, a loved one’s addiction, a broken washing machine. But many of our heaviest burdens, we willingly picked those up ourselves, and the load becomes increasingly unbearable.
An often quoted verse from Scripture says, “Cast all your cares on God, because he cares for you.” It’s true. This is exactly where those concerns we can do nothing about should be placed, but as to the burdens we have picked up on our own, those don’t need to be cast on the Lord so much as they need to be cast aside.