“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.”
In my previous blog, When Grace Heals, I referred to Matthew 11:28-30. I am dedicating an entire blog to this verse because it has played a big part in my healing from my works-based mindset.
Have you ever worn jeans that had you sacrificing comfort for looking good? Sometimes I insisted on wearing jeans that were not functional because I couldn’t accept that the number on the tag was too small. Makes perfect sense to choose the right size, but I didn’t.
When something doesn’t fit right, we cannot move freely and enjoy our activities. This analogy describes how uneasy I had become in my Christian life.
- I would read my Bible and pray – my burden was heavy.
- I would be sharing the Bible with a friend – while feeling weary.
- I would attend every church event and offer hospitality – I did not feel rested.
I knew this wasn’t how I was supposed to feel as a follower of Jesus. So for the entire year of 2022, I attempted to understand why following Jesus felt so uncomfortable. It was as if nothing fit right anymore: my theology, church relationships, and purpose in life.
I can best describe what was happening to me with the imagery Jesus employs in Matthew 11:28-30 of yokes, oxen, fields, and plowing a field.
When Jesus taught the people in his day, they understood the analogy of yokes and oxen. They knew that Jesus’s invitation offered freedom and partnership compared to bondage under the religious Pharisees who insisted they perfectly obey the law.
The people who heard Jesus’s message also understood that yokes were custom-made for the animals attached to them. The farmer would consider the fit so the animals were not hurt while plowing, which lightened their load. The pairing of the animals also was taken into consideration. A good farmer knew that a fixed yoke was unyielding and caused harm to the animal, constricting them in their work.
If I were to apply this ancient way of plowing to my relationship with God, I would say I was wearing the fixed yoke of legalism rather than the custom yoke of Jesus, and that is why I was feeling unrest and heavily burdened. But I didn’t know why my yoke was unpleasant and burdensome at this time.
After months of praying, crying out to God, researching the history of the Church I was a member of for decades, framing the beliefs taught to me, and observing my behavior, the Holy Spirit led me to a conclusion. I was trying to establish my own righteousness through my works rather than entirely depending on the righteousness of Christ. I assumed a responsibility that was not mine to take. Jesus paid the price for my sin, and I didn’t have to keep paying the cost myself.
You will likely take on other yokes when you don't understand the yoke of Jesus. All other yokes are ill-fitted and harmful. Only Jesus is the perfect fit for our souls.
I believe the Holy Spirit called me out of a works-based system when the burden of living up to the heavy standard of the law became impossible to carry.
I took Jesus up on his promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, and it lifted my burden and flooded my soul with relief. Jesus said, “Diane, get rid of all that judging and religion and take up my yoke because you can’t do this Christian life for one second without me.”
God has revealed to me that I can’t convince Jesus to do something for me because of my goodness. It is His goodness that makes me right with Him, not mine. With this understanding, I’m not performance-driven ANY MORE!!! I also joined a new Church that teaches a grace-based doctrine of salvation. Those terrible feelings of not measuring up are gone.
Going back to Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus wants me to imagine that I am attached to Him, a gentle and humble partner, through a custom yoke. As we walk along the path of life, Jesus does the heavy lifting for me. I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS LIFE ALONE! He knows I can never be made righteous by my work, so I rely on His strength and effort.
I thank God that I felt oppressed and burdened in 2022 because it was a necessary struggle to give me the courage to walk away from a tight, ill-fitting, uncomfortable way of life. Galatians 5:1 resonates with me more than ever!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
And to God be the Glory. Amen.
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