Laying Down the Burden of Self

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He then clarified exactly what burden he was seeking to relieve us of.

He did this by describing the cure. “Take My yoke upon you,” he said, “and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If Christ’s meekness and lowliness of heart lift our burden from us, it’s our pride and arrogance that create it in the first place.

We make ourselves hard to live with. Jesus relieves us of the burden of self.

A. W. Tozer focused on these words of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30) in chapter nine of The Pursuit of God. Tozer pointed out three related burdens that we place on ourselves.


Tozer is often at his best when describing sin. He does so with such psychological precision that it’s hard not to recognize a bit of yourself in his words. His brief description of the proud person has that power:

“The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. 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.”

His description of the blessedness of the meek person is all the more attractive by contrast.


The constant attempt to make ourselves look good before others brings with it the constant “fear of being found out.”

“There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression.”


It isn’t easy to see exactly how Tozer distinguishes artificiality from pretense. He doesn’t dwell on either of them. (This is the shortest chapter of the book.) Perhaps it’s what happens when pretense becomes an ingrained habit.

It’s the mistake of thinking that our problems can be solved if we can convince others that they’re solved. It’s what happens when we lose touch with who we really are because we are so focused on who we want to be.

For these three sicknesses there is only one permanent cure, the one that Jesus offers:

“Rest is simply release from that burden. It is not something we do, it is what comes to us when we cease to do. His own meekness, that is the rest…The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”


NEXT: Learning to See All of Life as Worship


This Post is Part of a Chapter-by-Chapter Look at A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God

  1. This Voice from the Past is Still Calling for the Seekers
  2. The Larger the Heart, the Less It Holds
  3. God Tore Down His Veil, We Protect Ours
  4. We Walk by Faith Not by Sight, Not by Imagination
  5. Three Tips for Cultivating Spiritual Receptivity
  6. Has Everybody Heard the Speaking Voice?
  7. Seeking a Practical Definition of Faith
  8. Victorious Spiritual Experience Summed Up in Three Words
  9. Laying Down the Burden of Self
  10. Learning to See All of Life as Worship

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