Jamie is typical of many Christians in modern North America: he prays somewhat regularly… he tries to do the right thing.
He reads Jesus’ words in Scripture:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt 11:28–30 NLT).
… and like many others, Jamie wonders, “If Christ’s yoke is so easy, then why is life so hard?”
How can we make sense of this contrast?
Concept of Being Yoked
In Jesus’ day, people would have been very familiar with yokes. But in modern times, first-hand yoke experience is rare. Unless you’ve been in a three-legged race, that is.
There, you get some idea of what it takes to move in harmony with another person. You have to coordinate steps: same direction, same time, but in a mirror image of your partner. A failure to do so will result in slow progress, spectacular wipeouts, and even pain.
Just thinking about the concept of “being yoked” to someone highlights some valuable spiritual lessons. But to cut to the chase, being yoked is not the end goal… it’s actually the beginning of an ongoing cooperation. This is perhaps the first of many things we tend to overlook on the road to easy yokes and lighter burdens.
What We Overlook
If yoking is not the end goal, then we have to ask, “Now that I’m ‘yoked,’ what’s next?”
Someone has to lead… and someone has to follow!
Want to watch a catastrophe in the making? Put two strong-willed leaders together in that three-legged race, and let the games begin!
That’s why farmers search for the right combination of animals. If they can’t cooperate, not only are they useless, they can actually be dangerous!
So, back to our friend Jamie. If Jaime believes in Christ, then why is life so heavy?
I think it’s because we humans get confused about who is the lead in that relationship.
How many times do we find ourselves trying to direct Christ’s power to our goals?
- God… please bless (what I’m already doing)
- I just have to have more faith, then I’ll get what I want
- If I believe, then I will receive (otherwise known as prosperity theology).
Let’s be honest: we love the idea of having Christ’s power available to us. But we don’t like the idea of having to go where Christ says to go. We are independent spirits with an agenda.
Yet how many times have we wandered from Christ’s lead, only to complain about how crushing life has become? The imagery of a yoke allows us to see both the ugly truth and the hope-filled solution.
The ugly truth is we are the ones who break the “yoking” with Christ. Christ’s broad shoulders are still available to bear life’s burdens, but our fierce desire to go our own way brings all the burden squarely on our shoulders. We break away for many reasons:
- God’s timing isn’t fast enough for us
- We have a “better idea” (Better than God? Really?)
- We don’t need/want help
I wonder what Christ thinks at that point: waiting and longing to lighten our load… watching us struggle under the crushing weight of our own making… inviting us back to the easy yoke, where burdens are light.
The sooner we realize we can’t harness Christ’s power for our personal gain, the less we fight the easy yoke.
The sooner we recognize there can only be one leader, the sooner we can share the load with the broadest shoulders in the universe.
That means we may end up going where we don’t want to go.
But I guess that’s why we’re called to be Christ followers… not Christ leaders.
Where have you seen burdens lightened? What do you do in order to remain yoked with Christ?