There was no more money for milk.
Donations to the orphan house had been drying up for months. Week after week, they had gotten by with barely enough: a dollar here, some pennies there, drips compared to the river of provision they had once known.
The director rose from bed and thought of the hundreds of children still sleeping. They would wake up soon. They would come to the kitchen expecting milk, a staple breakfast food at the orphan house. And if God did not intervene, they would go away hungry.
He prayed on the two-minute walk to the orphan house. He asked that God would show compassion like a Father to his children, that he would not lay on them more than they could bear, and that he would somehow provide the money they needed for milk.
Poor and at Peace
If anyone had a right to be worried, George Müller did. For decades, he walked through trials of faith that would leave many of us shattered in mind and body. More than ten thousand children depended on him for food, clothing, and shelter throughout his lifetime. His orphan houses lived for years on the edge of poverty. And he had committed early on to never ask anyone but God for money.
But few people walked with more of the peace of God that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Over and over in his autobiography, or in his shorter book Answers to Prayer, readers find Müller poor, pressed down with cares, and yet at peace.
The key for Müller was prayer. John Piper writes, “When George Müller was asked how he could be so calm in the middle of a hectic day with so many uncertainties at the orphanage, he answered something like, ‘I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning’” (The Satisfied Soul, 308). How did Müller handle the burdens of ten thousand orphans? He took them, one by one, off his own shoulders, and he rolled them onto God’s.
In a sermon on Philippians 4:6–7, Müller tells us how.
1. Hear God’s Invitation
When we bring our worries to God in prayer, we will never meet a deaf ear or a reluctant glance. We will instead find a Father who gladly bends his shoulder to bear our burdens.
The children of God, Müller says, “are permitted, not only permitted but invited, not only invited but commanded, to bring all their cares, sorrows, trials, and wants to their heavenly Father. They are to roll all their burdens upon God.”
The command Müller has in mind — “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) — is just one example in a Bible full of invitations to roll our worries onto God. When we search the pages of Scripture, we see a Shepherd who gathers us up in his arms (Isaiah 40:11), a Bridegroom who makes our troubles his own (Ephesians 5:25–27), a King who hides us away in his tower (Proverbs 18:10), a Warrior who fights our battles himself (Exodus 14:14). On nearly every page, God invites us to come out of the howling winds of our worries and into the warmth of his home.
Our worries may feel close to us, but in Christ, our Father is closer. Hear his invitation, and come.
2. Roll All the Big Burdens
Sometimes, we feel that our worries are too big even for God to carry. Perhaps we don’t entertain the conscious thought, but deep down we doubt that the peace of God could ever guard our hearts and our minds as long as this burden lasts.
Müller recognizes as much: “But you say, how can I, a wife with a husband given to drinking, not be anxious?” We could name a hundred other worries that feel just as heavy. But Müller goes on to say, “It is the will of your heavenly Father that you are not to be anxious even in such circumstances … If you roll the burden upon God and cast all your care upon him, you will be free from anxiety even regarding this.”
We cannot place too much weight on God’s shoulders. Not one of our worries is too heavy for the God who has already traveled to the depths of our misery, carried our curse on his back, and then thrown off the chains of death (Philippians 2:5–11). To every worry, want, or weakness, no matter how big, he says, “I will supply every need of yours according to my riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (see Philippians 4:19).
3. Roll All the Small Burdens
But God cares about more than our biggest worries. He cares about the smallest worries that weigh on our hearts. If not one hair on our head goes unnumbered (Matthew 10:30), if not one tear on our face goes unseen (Psalm 56:8), and if not one cry from our mouth goes unheard (Psalm 6:8), then not one of our worries will go unnoticed by God.
“It is not simply great matters we are to bring before God, not simply small things but ‘everything,’” Müller writes. “Therefore, all our affairs, temporal or spiritual, let us bring them before God. And this for the simple reason that life is made up of little things.”
For the most anxious Christians, worry does not grow quiet when outward circumstances do. Even when all around is calm — our families healthy, our jobs secure, our friendships steady — worry can work with the smallest of burdens. So we must take even those, trifles though they seem, and roll them onto our Father’s shoulders. As Müller writes, “When we have any little burdens we must tell our heavenly Father, ‘I have no strength for this weight, I cannot carry the burden.’” And then remember: “Our heavenly Father is ready to do this for us.”
Over time, rolling every burden onto God can become as reflexive as a frightened child reaching for his father.
4. Keep Rolling
Of course, our worries will not always roll smoothly off our backs the moment we rise from our knees. Some worries have a grip on us that a single prayer can’t loosen. So, Müller tells us, we must keep rolling.
He says, “Now this is what we may have to do: not simply to mention our request before God but to go on asking again and again with earnest prayer and supplication until we receive.” Sometimes, relief from our worries comes only on the other side of earnest, pleading prayer, as when Paul received comfort for his thorn only after three petitions (2 Corinthians 12:8).
In one of Müller’s many stories of God’s last-minute provision, he gives us a clue as to why God sometimes tarries to bring us relief. He writes, “It was from the beginning in the heart of God to help us; but because he delights in the prayers of his children, he had allowed us to pray so long” (Answers to Prayer, 25).
God delights in the prayers of his children, and extended seasons on our knees can cultivate that same delight in us. When God calls us to roll our worries onto him not once or twice, but continually, he invites us to press deeper into his promises, linger longer in his presence, and eventually find, as so many of the psalmists did, that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
As Müller prayed on his walk to the orphan house, he met a fellow Christian who had risen early for work. The two exchanged greetings, talked briefly, and then parted ways. But a minute later, Müller heard hurried footsteps behind him. His acquaintance ran back, slipped some money into Müller’s hand, and said, “for the orphans.” Enough to pay for milk.
As Müller remembered the story, he wrote, “Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us” (Answers to Prayer, 14).
Why does God daily try our faith? So that he might daily bear us up (Psalm 68:19). Why does God fill our hearts with cares? So that he might cheer us with his comforts (Psalm 94:19). Why does God lay burdens on our backs? So that he might lift them onto his own (Psalm 55:22).
As worry lures us to bear the burdens of a broken world upon our own broken backs, hear your Father’s constant invitation to come to broader shoulders. Draw near to him through Jesus “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6), and know that the God who bore yesterday’s worries is able to bear today’s as well. Take your burdens, one by one, and learn to roll them onto him.
A version of this Op-Ed previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline “Roll Your Burdens onto God.”
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