Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
A few nights ago, my 11-year-old could not sleep because he was so worried about an upcoming test, about forgetting deadlines, about making a wrong move in his next basketball game. He summed it up like this – he was afraid of failing everything. He was, literally, curled up in anxiety, pressed in by all the pressure. It felt like, to him, that the entire world was on his shoulders. He said – I could be practicing trombone right now. I could be reading to complete the book challenge. I could be doing the bonus math questions. There’s so much I need to do!
Oh, yes, I saw myself plain in his anguish.
Because this is me. I get wild-eyed with can-do, must-do, should-do lists. I get so tightly wound-up, domino after domino of what-if falling in my mind. I don’t want to fail in the tasks God has called me to complete. I don’t want to miss anything I am supposed to do. So I get frantic, plan my days out to the minute, get frustrated if anything goes amiss or if my introverted-need-re-charging-nature doesn’t comply with the pace I want to keep. I take on guilt because my bookworm/writing self isn’t keeping the house perfectly clean. I number the ways I must be falling short as a mom. There’s so much I need to do! I could be…I could be…I could be…
….and so I pile the burdens high and heavy with my expectations, my need to control things. I trade the yoke of freedom for one of fear. I stop delighting in the things that would usually bring me joy. I forget to take in the fresh air and sunshine because I’ve gotta’ get to that next thing. I get paralyzed by the details of life. I try so hard that I end up, at the end of the day, exhausted and empty.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever forget that the work we do for the Lord can – and should – be done with joy and peace? Do you ever forget that our source of strength is not our own resolute will but the power of the Holy Spirit?
Do you ever get so caught up in results that the process –trusting His faithfulness, finding gladness in His love, and learning more about Him through relationship – goes by the wayside? Do you ever forget that God and God alone controls our outcomes and does not expect us to bear the burden of bringing it all together? Do we forget that He alone is able to redeem, restore, make pathways clear, make all things new?
Do you forget that Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light?
For me – the answers to those questions are yes, yes, yes, and yes again.
Yoke. It’s an old fashioned word. By definition, a yoke is used to help people bear the load on their shoulders. It implies hard labor. It can be a symbol of enslavement, servitude. It’s also used to guide animals, joining two together as they work – often it is to pull equipment of some kind. Man or animal, someone wearing a yoke is not exactly free to go as they please. They must submit to the burden – the heavy load, the duty, the responsibility – on their backs.
I think of Luke 9:23, when Jesus says that we must take up our cross and follow Him, knowing that obeying His commands instead of following our own way will mean sacrifice and hardship in this life. I think of how He asks us to give up our lives in order to let His life shine more fully through us.
These commands don’t exactly bring the word light to mind, do they?
There is no doubt about it – we have good works to do in this world to glorify the Father. We have purpose in His kingdom and a calling to love in an active, tangible way. We are co-laborers with Christ. Doesn’t this mean, sometimes, that we must be willing to work hard for His glory?
Yes, it does. But here’s where the hope of His invitation comes in – with a little change of emphasis, a big change in focus. We are co-laborers with God. (2 Cor. 6:1)
So when we submit to His authority – taking His ‘yoke’ upon us so that He is the one guiding our lives and our work here on this earth – we are obeying a Lord of mercy and grace. Our Master is a Savior who knows our weaknesses and gives us His own strength. Our God speaks peace. Our burdens are made light because He is joined with us. He lives within us! The weight of our work, our struggles, and our hearts are borne on His everlasting arms. So as we pick up our cross, as we give up our lives for His, as we do our good works – and we can carry on in peace. We get to talk to Him, know Him, and hear from Him along the way. We walk in His abundant life, in His joy. Even as we labor – because it is with Him! – our souls are at rest.
And, just like you’d expect, that’s what I told my son he needed on that night — rest. His frantic worrying would not help him do the things that he was responsible for the next day – school and ball practice. Most of what he was worried over was out of his control. Most of what he was worried about were things that seemed enormously important – but, in the long run, won’t affect him all that much. Some of the worries he stressed over were things I could help with, take from his hands – if only he would’ve come to me sooner…if only he would’ve let me help.
I, of course, did not like seeing him feel like this. Because he is my child – he is eleven – and I want him to enjoy being a kid! I don’t want him so paralyzed by the possibility of making mistakes that he can’t be present to his life. I don’t want him to worry about making a mistake in band class – I want him to pick up that trombone and relish every booming note. I want him to feel like he is running faster than the wind down that basketball court, whooping with delight over every basket the team makes – even if he is not the one scoring the point. I want him to study to the best of his ability but to know that his final grade does not define him. I want him to know that we are always here to back him up, always here to help him, and it is a good thing to go to someone wiser and stronger when he is unsure and overwhelmed. I want him to fall into the comfort of his bed at night and sleep without fear, knowing that he is secure and he is loved…knowing that tomorrow, whatever may come, rests in Hands bigger than his own.
Y’all, I don’t want him to miss the joy of being a child. I don’t want him to miss the wonder of this life he has been given.
And I can’t help but think that our Father looks at us and thinks the exact same thing.
He doesn’t want us to miss the delight of belonging to Him, in seeing the beauty and pleasures He has given us in this world. As we live out His purpose for us – in our families, in the work we are called to do, in the regular moments of every-day life – He does not want us to be anxious and overwhelmed, bent under the weight of our burdens.
Jesus said it Himself – He is gentle. He is humble in heart. He loves us. He has such compassion on us that He went to the cross to carry the heaviest burden ever placed on a man – the weight of every sin, every broken piece of this world, every sickness, every shame. He took those on so we would not have to carry them ourselves.
If you are curled up in anxiety, if your work for the Lord has lost its joy, if you can’t remember the last time your soul was able to breathe – if you are feeling wild-eyed and frantic – it’s time to go to Him. Put aside everything – every list and every I could be…
Because what you need is His rest. What you need is Him.
You must make time for this – because even if you get everything on that list done and miss the joy in the process, miss the peace of His presence, then you will be missing the greatest treasure and the point of it all – that we belong to Him.
Every outcome, every long-term result is in His sovereign hand. Our part- obeying Him, loving Him, and living in the fullness of His joy – is a gift of His grace. He paid such a high price for us to have this abundant life, this freedom in Him – He broke every chain and every heavy yoke that was upon us…and there is no need for us to pick them back up again.
So ask Him for that rest. Ask Him to bring back your laughter. Stretch out your hands and surrender the heavy burdens and take on His easy yoke instead…whatever your purpose, whatever your call – be present to this life He has given to you. Be present with Him….and find that strength and joy are in His dwelling place. (1 Chron.16:27)
For the kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. –from Romans 14:17