Yokes and Burdens

I am 36 weeks pregnant and I’m tired. I am trying hard not to let the pity party that lives in my head seep out into my conversations, status updates, or blog posts. But it’s there. I am so tired, y’all, and it’s not just because there is a very active baby living inside my body, squirming constantly and making me wish I could just be unconscious for the next several weeks. No, it’s not just that. I’m going on a full year of feeling weary and it’s starting to get to me.

You know how Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, 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. (Matt 11:28-30)” This is one of those passages that is equal parts comforting to me, and also kind of confusing. It’s almost as if I know that I should be comforted and so it helps a bit. But, if I’m being honest, I sometimes struggle to really embrace what is being said here.

I don’t like to admit that sometimes I argue with Jesus in my head. I don’t want to mislead anyone or come off flippant, ya know? But when I read the part about the yoke being easy and the burden being light, I just think, really? Because this still seems kind of heavy, Jesus. And you’re still calling it a burden and a yoke. Last time I checked, hitching up a yoke to something meant you were getting ready to do some serious work. We’re not just pulling a few weeds to make the place look nice. We’re plowing up some earth and making some muscles sore.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a light burden might be. Is it just light in comparison to other burdens? Is it so light that it doesn’t feel like a burden, but rather something that’s fun and exciting? What kind of rest is this that Jesus is talking about? In talking to Michael about all of this, he brought up some good points. Jesus is addressing the weary– those that are beaten down, discouraged, and hopeless. And to get to that point, it’s probably because there is no end in sight. But Jesus is effectively saying, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

I think the idea of my burden being light has much to do with my perspective on this world and what is yet to come. If I believe that these present circumstances are all that matter, and I forget to fix my eyes on heavenly things, then of course my “light” burden is going to feel as if it is ready to crush me. But if I remember how Christ suffered what was set before him (and the reason why), I can truly take comfort in knowing that there is rest at the foot of the cross.

I think my yoke being easy and my burden being light also has to do with how I view what Jesus calls me to do. The specifics will change as my life circumstances change, but ultimately I am called to obey him by living out the Gospel. And without minimizing how difficult that can sometimes be, I have to ask: what is the alternative? Forgiving others, loving the unlovable, sacrificing time and resources– these are hard things and they often feel heavy. But, again, what is my alternative? To harden my heart as I consciously cling to things of this world? To seek worldly wisdom that tells me I must look after myself and protect my interests at all costs? That is a heavy burden, my friend. And it is one that will destroy me.

And so my encouragement to you, but mostly to myself, is a reminder to fix our eyes on the One that offers rest for our souls. For without that, what else could we possibly possess that matters?

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