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What’s in your knapsack?



I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.







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One of the first invitations Jesus ever extends to people is one of rest. He says it in plain terms to the ones who feel exhausted, “Hey, are you tired? Come to me and I will give you rest.”

He goes on to say that if someone would spend time with him, and learn from him, then they would figure out how to live light and free, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

I’m a word nerd when it comes to the Bible. There are few things I love more than taking a piece of scripture, tapping on it from all sides, and waiting for something to break open that blows my mind and expands my faith in God.  

So let’s tap, shall we? 


“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Even if you don’t go to church or have never opened a bible, the chances are still pretty high that you know this verse. 

You’ve heard it before. 

We’ve all heard it before. 

To me, it is one of those statements that I can easily brush over and move past quickly because I think I know what it’s saying already. 

But that word “burden”… that word likely doesn’t mean what you think it means. 

The word burden at times can mean “a heavy, crushing load.” That’s how we typically use the word in a conversation. We think of burdens as a bad thing, as something to avoid. 

But there are two types of burdens in the Bible. There are the heavy crushing loads, absolutely, but then there is another kind of burden and this is the kind of burden Jesus is talking about when he says, “It’s light and it’s a fit for you.” 

This second burden translates from the Greek as “phortion” (for-tee-on).

This word literally means knapsack. Backpack. A soldier’s pack. Yes, that’s right. The burden Jesus is talking about is a backpack. A load. A burden that isn’t heavy or crushing. Rather, it is something we are fit to carry. 

If you and I were going on a trip, and we each had our own backpacks custom-packed for what we needed individually, it would make no sense for me and you to swap backpacks. You need what is in your pack. I need what is in my pack. At the same time, I cannot carry your backpack throughout the trip. That would be too heavy. You and I need to shoulder our own loads and Jesus is basically saying here, “You are equipped for this. You can do this. I’ve got you.” 

Those kids? You’re the right person to parent and guide them.  

That project? You can finish it and you don’t have to limp across the finish line. 

The speaking engagement? You are qualified. Fear not about getting on stage and sharing your truth because God knew exactly what he was doing when he asked for you. 

But why does it feel so heavy? 

Why do I find myself carrying things that feel too bulky or weighty? 

Why do I sometimes feel like I am crumbling, struggling to find any rest for my soul, when anxiety is raging and the lies are loud? 

The answer lies right in this piece of scripture: we don’t rest or feel any kind of energy when we start carrying things we were never meant to carry. 


Last Christmas, I spoke to a group of high school students about this idea of rest and I broke down this same scripture. I knew Lane had bought me a backpack I really loved for Christmas and so I asked if I could use it early as a demonstration.  

I filled the backpack with about a dozen ornaments that I took off our tree. Bright, gold, and glassy ornaments placed in the backpack. I explained to the group that these ornaments are fragile, meaning we do have to be careful with the things that are in our backpack. 

We have to be careful with who we love.

We have to be careful with the jobs we do. 

We have to be careful with our emotions and who we give our heart to. 

We have to be careful with what God called us to care for. 

As I hoisted the backpack full of ornaments on my shoulders, it was easy to carry. I was doing great. But then I took a few other objects and tried to maneuver into the backpack:

A 10-pound weight. A kettlebell. A cast iron dutch oven. 

These things were h-e-a-v-y and it was very clear from the start that they would not be able to fit into the backpack without breaking the ornaments. Even if I managed to find a way to fit all of it inside of the backpack without breaking anything, I still would not be able to carry the pack any longer. It would be too heavy. I would run out of steam quickly. 

This is what we do on a daily basis. We add heavy things to the load we’ve already been called to carry. 

We add stress.

We add worry. 

We add doubt. 

We add stories that haven’t happened yet.

We add our worst fears. 

We add the need for approval. 

We add the need to be at the front of the pack.

We take all these heavy things— things that are just as weighty as pots, and pans, and weights, and anvils, and we try to carry everything all at once.

We start shoving Anxiety in all the compartments and the knapsack gets heavier. We add a few bricks of fear about the future and the past and we try to keep trekking forward. We include just a few extra packs of worry about those things that happened yesterday. We think, “This will be fine. These little packs are light.” But enough of them shoved into the knapsack will only make it heavier, harder to carry. And then the exhaustion will set in as we huff and puff our way through the journey, wondering why we are so tired and undone. 

How can we be so shocked when we break so quickly? 

Here’s what Jesus was not saying:

He wasn’t saying you can handle it all on your own. 

He wasn’t saying you should do things how you’ve always done them.

He wasn’t saying the entire world and all its needs could fit in your backpack. 

All he was saying this passage was, “The burden I’ve designed for you is manageable. You’ll need my support, yes, but I have so much for you as an individual that you were made to carry.”


Here’s what I want you to hold onto today, grab it tight if you don’t know it as truth already:

Exhaustion will quickly seep into your being if you are too fixated on what others are carrying.

Your eyes will grow tired and your spirit will sink if you bench yourself from the story because you’re too busy being a spectator, wondering why they got what you wanted. 

God did not bench you— you benched yourself the moment you stopped working with your calling and you started obsessing over the calling of other people. 

At the end of our lives, we are going to account for how we handled the load we were given. This might seem scary but it will be such a joy if we can walk into heaven singing and knowing, “I stewarded what you gave me. I gave this life everything I had.” 

When you work from a place of knowing that God has a) equipped you b) assigned you and c) provides steam for you when you’re running out then the exhaustion cannot stand a chance. If you keep going back to the power source, you won’t be working from empty anymore. You’ll start each day full knowing this is just another chance to pick up your backpack— a load made just for you— and keep on going forward. 

It’s a decision to rest in something bigger than yourself. It’s a decision to tell yourself the truth— even when the lies are so enticing and they seem much more believable. It’s a decision to focus on what is in your backpack and give yourself wholeheartedly to the people and the plans and the projects that need you most. 

The mission God has for you is a good one. Maybe it doesn’t look as you thought. Maybe parts of the story you were deadset on just haven’t arrived. But nothing, as painful as it is to say, is accidental. It will all make sense one day, even if we don’t see how until we get to the other side of Heaven. But I know this: life is not on pause just because all the pieces haven’t shown up. 

The backpack is still full. There is still so much to dig into. There is still a lot of needs with your name on it. And you, my dear, are equipped to carry this load. It’s not anything heavy or ill-fitting— hand that stuff back to God. But it is a lot of little things entrusted to you and only you: lives, and jobs, and hobbies, and causes, and plans, and missions. It’s a full and beautiful load if only you would train your eyes to see that it is enough and you are not the accidental carrier of this backpack. It did not come to you by chance or mistake. 

You are equipped. Call on his endless supply of rest as your fuel.

Power up.

Shoulders back.

Backpack on.

Let’s move. 


  1. Gail says:

    Hannah, this is one of the greatest lessons I have ever heard. Thank you for this beautiful perspective.

  2. Emma says:

    Wow! This is exactly what I needed to hear! In a world that encourages us to accomplish all we can and take on more than we can handle, this was a much needed reminder. My load does not look like everyone else’s, and that’s okay. My calling is specific, and it is manageable because it suits me. Thank you! <3

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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