Are you continually tired and worn out? Do you need relief? Rest is available – but we must acknowledge that we need help and take the steps necessary at our own initiative to receive it.

[Jesus speaking] “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.”—Matt 11:28-29

Jesus is speaking to a crowd (and to us). He offers for all who labor and are heavy laden (or weary and burdened, NIV) to come to him. Jesus doesn’t say if you are or when you might become. It’s a condition that already exists. As S. K. Weber in Volume 1 (Matthew) of the New Testament Commentary describes this, “It conveys the idea of continual weariness and exhaustion, without a minute of relief.” People need rest! And Jesus knows it.

Everyone can relate to this. We all get weary and exhausted. Caregivers can relate to it even better than most! The needs and demands of our loved ones seem overwhelming at times. Jesus’ heart aches for each of us. He doesn’t like seeing us struggling on our own. He offers help. He doesn’t wave a magic wand and give the help to everyone automatically. We must take the initiative and act. We must realize we need help and then go to Jesus for that help. Even then, the burdens are not taken away from us. Rather, Jesus offers a way for us to bear the weight of our problems. We are to take his yoke and learn from him. Jesus’ yoke is not put or forced on us without our approval, we must take it.

What do you think of when you hear the word yoke? Does that sound pleasing to you? Maybe someone living in an agricultural society who understands it better would first think good thoughts when they hear that word. Maybe you don’t think as I do, but when I hear the words–take my yoke–my first thought is…maybe it would be better NOT to take it! Why would I want to voluntarily be bound by a yoke?

When I think of a yoke, I picture a big, heavy wooden bar that is around the necks of two big animals, like oxen, that connects them to a plow or wagon for them to pull. This seems like a picture of being trapped into heavy work directed by someone else without any freedom! Well – with a yoke, yes, two or more beings are joined together. Yes, they are doing heavy work. And, yes, they are doing it at the instruction and guidance of another. However, because they are joined together, the heavy load that would have been unbearable for one is now bearable and manageable.

We must realize that NOT taking Jesus’ yoke doesn’t mean a heavy load will not be present. It’s not a question of whether we want a heavy load or not. Actually, as most of us know, in life we will have burdens. The question is will we ask God to give us his power and direction so it is less burdensome on us. If we don’t ask God for help, then the burdens are heavier than we can handle. God knows what we are designed for and what loads are manageable for us. He knows what is best for us. So we should choose to allow him to direct and guide us.

Once we take the yoke of Christ, then there is the process (not one-time event) of continually learning from him. We see Christ’s example throughout God’s Word. (see John 13:15, Eph 4:20, Phil 2:5, 1 Pet 2:21, 1 Jn 2:6). We are to study his character and his ways, hear and obey his commands, follow his steps and walk the same way in which he walked. In Matt 11:29, Jesus tells us himself that he is gentle and lowly in heart. What does this mean for us? One, it’s comforting to know that the one controlling our yoke is gentle and humble, rather than rough, violent, angry and pretentious. Two, if we are to learn from Jesus, here is a lesson for us–we are to strive to be like him, a humble person. If we take his yoke and learn from him, we will find rest for our souls. Are you ready for some relief?

My Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for your Word and your example. Thank you for knowing us, loving us, and always being available to us – just waiting for us to come to you. You don’t force yourself on us. You know we are hurting, tired, worn out and so needing rest. You hurt for us. You designed us and you know what we can and cannot bear. We don’t. We try and try to do what we think is right. Maybe even what we think you want us to do. Yet, we just feel the weight of the heavy load and see no relief in sight. Even with all of that, it’s so hard for us to turn over the control.

Admittedly, when I used to hear this passage, I would hear only the words I wanted to hear. I loved the idea of coming to you and receiving rest. I think I overlooked the parts about taking on your yoke. Am I the only one who always wants to be exempt from the hardships – even if it means I learn less? Please forgive me for desiring this! We are not exempt from work or carrying a burden. But, it can be more manageable, easier to bear and less painful. You want to lessen our burdens, provide us with your power and direct and guide us as to where we are designed to go. We just need to allow you to do so.

Lord, I am tired, scared and not sure of the future – for me and/or my loved ones. Thankfully, you know what is to come and when. Nothing that is happening or that will happen is a surprise to you. You have been preparing us for this time. You love us and you want to help us. We don’t want to handle our heavy burdens on our own. We can’t. But you can. Please give me clarity as to what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it is to be done and the strength to handle it. I know you are with me and those I love. I’ve said the words – I submit to you and I want you to live your life through me. Now show me how to faithfully live that out. Finally, as I spend time in prayer and in studying your Word, please open my eyes, ears, mind and heart so I may learn from you – so you can teach me. I pray all this in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.