For residents of Butte County, this week has been a tough one. We have endured so much these past few years, and the smoke in the air is a grave reminder of it all. On Wednesday morning as the smoke rolled in, the sky turned orange, and the sun shone red, I found that I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t outside inhaling the smoke, I was standing at my counter staring out the window at the orange glow, and remembering. I was remembering the chaos, the uncertainty, the fear that came with the smoke the last time it settled in our county. I was sitting in the anxiety and letting it flood over me. My body took over any rational thought, and panic set in. I know I am safe, I know this isn’t the same as two years ago, I know that the smoke will clear eventually. However, my body wasn’t convinced, my heart was hurting and heavy.
Coupled with the reminder of those terrible weeks almost two years ago, is the current state of the world: the virus, virtual learning, changes in ministry, being cooped up with my kids, my birthday coming up. There is so much to hold in my brain, so much to hold in my heart, and yet Jesus says to us in his word: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28)
In that moment, at my counter, I took a deep breath, several actually. I reminded myself that Jesus wants me to come to him in these moments. We are weary; we are carrying heavy burdens. He wants us to come to Him when it feels like too much. He wants our burdens so he can trade them for his, and lighten our loads. He wants to give us rest. He loves us so much that he sacrificed his own life so that he could carry these heavy burdens for us. He died so that we no longer need to walk under the weight of the world, we can hand it over to him, and rest. Handing over our burdens looks different for everyone, but it consists of giving up our own control, taking his yoke (which is light), and finding 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.” Matthew 11:29
Jesus was talking to people in this passage that were very familiar with yokes. A yoke is the wooden harness used on pairs of large livestock when they are pulling a load. When choosing what livestock will pull a heavy load, you choose two animals: equal in strength, energy, and ability. Jesus is asking here that we take his yoke upon us, so he can bear our load. When we are unequal in strength, energy, and ability, God will fill those gaps. He is asking us to come under his yoke, he’ll take the load, and we can enjoy the ride. He’ll take our burden of anxiety, and we can take his yoke of peace. He’ll take our burden of fear, and we can take his yoke of security. He’ll take our sorrow, and we’ll take his joy.
If we are in a yoke with Jesus, he takes the control; we are learning that he is trustworthy. When we take his yoke, we acknowledge that he is in control, and his control is good. He is gentle, and humble. He will teach us gently; he won’t swing us around and drag us through mud we aren’t ready for. He will tread carefully; he will carry our burdens and acknowledge our fatigue. He alone knows us better than we know ourselves; he will know when we are ready, but we have to allow ourselves to be taught to let go. We have to let go of what we think education should look like, how we think our children should act, how we think this virus should progress or not. We have to let go, and let God do the work, let him carry the burdens and lead us.
The conclusion of these verses is that we will find rest for our souls. My soul is tired; is your soul tired? Our souls are tired of the unknown, the new, the change, the restrictions, the decisions we have to make. We are tired, and for good reason. Doesn’t soul rest sound like a beautiful thing? God is offering this soul rest to us if we will just hand over our burdens. We must come to him, take his yoke, give him the control, learn from him, and find soul rest.
“For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30
We need an easy yoke, a light burden; this is all we ask. If we turn to him, take some deep breaths, and ask God to carry our burdens, we can find this soul rest. We can have burdens that are light, and a yoke that is easy to bear. And it will be daily, it will be constant. I will have to take a million deep breaths, say a million times to myself “Lord, take my burdens.” But if I can find soul rest, it is worth a million resets and restarts.
So turn on the worship music, read the bible, text an encouraging friend, drink the good coffee. Whatever it takes let’s remind ourselves that his yoke is easy, his burden is light, and he wants to trade us for ours.