Knot for Nothing

A student of mine sent me a pretty ambiguous text yesterday: “Can I call you later?”  This always puts me on edge a little because I never know what is coming.  Did I offend him on Sunday night during my message? Are his parents upset with me for some reason?  Is he going to ask me to do something I really don’t want to do but will feel guilty if I don’t?  Little did I know how glad I would be that he called.  He had had a horrible day at school.  One of his persistent mockers decided to get the rest of their peers involved during Chemistry class.  Stabs were taken at this student’s faith, virginity, and overall purity.  Each was coupled with an invitation for others to chime in.  As my student withstood the barrage quietly, inside he was screaming to the point of emotional exhaustion.  

The question I received when we finally got on the phone was also simple.  After sharing the story he asked, “What do I do with this at the end of the day?”  Allow me to pass on to you what the Lord passed on to me, and I in turn passed on to my student.  Jesus is the very One who said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When we reach emotional exhaustion, rest is exactly what we need.  So what do we do at the end of a long day at school or work when our emotions have been twisted into a painful, tiring knot? 

Give Your Emotional Knots to Jesus

Jesus longs to give us rest.  He can see the intricacies of the knots in our hearts and knows how they cause us to be so “heavy laden” inside.  Carrying around the increasing ball of emotion is wearisome indeed.  That is why Jesus asks us to take the knot and place it into His hands.  It is only when we place that knot in His hands that we begin to experience the rest He promised us.  The question then is, how exactly to do I put that knot in His hands?

Cast Your Anxieties on Him

When Peter commanded us to “Humble ourselves” before the Lord, he tied it directly to our “casting our anxieties on him” (1 Peter 5:6-7).  One of the things that can hold us down is our attempts to carry all of our emotions around and deal with them on our own.  God wants to lift us up, but we cannot experience His relief while we are carrying the burden ourselves.  As we begin to share the emotions we are experiencing with God as best we can, He begins the work of untying the knots.  Each confession, each declaration, each shared frustration results in one more area of our heart being deeply known.  It is here that we often begin to experience some freedom.  There is one more thing to consider though, lest that freed-up space be filled with something even worse (cf. Matthew 12:43-45).  

Be Filled with the Spirit

Let’s agree there are different views on what it means to be “filled with the Spirit”.  Without delving into those areas, let’s focus on the one we can all agree on: being filled with the Spirit means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus wants us to overflow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  One of the things we need most from the Holy Spirit when we are loosed from our emotional knots is to be tethered once again to peace.  Peace is found in the description of the Holy Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and in addition, peace is exactly what Jesus promised to give us (John 14:27).  Having received this peace, our hearts no longer need to be troubled.  

So, the next time your students seem like they are all knotted up inside, lead them to the throne where they can begin casting their anxieties on Jesus.  As they do, He will reach His hands in and begin to divinely unwind the deadly ball of emotional knots in their hearts.  My experience has been that more often than not, when someone does this, they leave with the peace Jesus promised – the peace that keeps their hearts from being troubled or afraid.

Shaun McDonald has been serving as youth pastor at Open Arms Church in upstate New York since 2008, and has been involved in youth ministry since 2004.  He has a passion to see Christ take root in the hearts and lives of youth and their families.  Coming from a tumultuous and rebellious background, Shaun can think of no greater privilege than sharing the greatest hope of Jesus Christ.  Shaun received an Associates Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Bachelor degree in Religion from Liberty University, and is working on his Master of Divinity in Discipleship and Family Ministry through The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Shaun, his wife and their three children live in Rotterdam, N.Y. You can read his devotional blog at

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