28 Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.
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Where do you rest best? In your own bed? In a hotel or a bunk bed or a sleeping bag? Think of times you have been unable to rest. Maybe you have wanted a nap, but it was in the middle of your workday. Maybe you had to stay late at the job to finish a project. Maybe you were worried, or you did something wrong and a guilty feeling kept you awake. What is the hardest work you have done that made your body tired?
In the Scripture, Jesus is describing what many of us often experience: being tired and carrying heavy loads. In both the Old and New Testaments, the word for “tired” means to be exhausted.
Today we would call this stress. Stress is a response to pressure or threat. Under stress we may feel tense, nervous, or on edge. The stress response is physical, too. Stress triggers a surge of a hormone called adrenaline that temporarily affects the nervous system.
How does our body react when we get stressed?
Our bodies may respond in a variety of ways: shoulders get tight, chest hurts, headaches, can’t focus, sometimes feel nausea, or may be grouchy. When stressed, we are overloaded in our mind – in our spirit – in our emotions.
When a circuit breaker in our home becomes overloaded, it breaks, and we have no electric power. We have to remove from the electrical circuit whatever was overloading it and reset the circuit breaker.
Our stress can become so great, that we begin to feel like a circuit breaker ready to blow. Unfortunately, sometimes people do blow. In order to recover, they must remove from their lives whatever is causing the emotional and physical overload and reset their lives.
How do we deal with stress?
The Mayo Clinic Staff recently published an article in which they said, “A less tangible — but no less useful — way to find stress relief is through spirituality.” We need spiritual rest, as much as we need physical rest. We need release from worry, tension, stress, guilt, fear, bitterness, and anxiety.
When stresses and problems weigh us down, the most natural response for the Christian is to ask God for relief: “Lord, I can’t carry this anymore. I’m going to leave it here with You.” So we dump the burden on God like a bag of garbage, and walk away with nothing unchanged inside. It is like resetting the circuit breaker without removing whatever is overloading the electrical circuit. We cannot be free from carrying heavy loads without letting some of those loads go.
Jesus said, “Come . . . take . . . learn. . . .” It is an invitation to receive rest for the soul. We come to Him, we take His yoke, and we learn of Him.
A yoke is a symbol of partnership
Jesus doesn’t have a load to give you. When you take Jesus’ yoke, there are two of you working on your stress, and not just one. Jesus says, “I will help you out with your problems. I will help carry your load.” He doesn’t add to your load. He doesn’t take all of our load. He says, “I’ll share your load.”
Our load begins to lighten as we learn to know and understand the Lord. The burden may not be removed, but our thoughts and responses change as we begin to trust the
Christ, believe His promises, and rely on His power. Half, or more, of the weight of our stress then shifts from our shoulders to His, and we will discover relief, though the cause of our stress may not change.
A yoke is a symbol of control.
We can use our human freedom to become yoked to a person or a thing that proves to be harmful to us. People use drugs, alcohol, and sex, thinking they will have release from stress. However, these activities can increase a person’s stress.
Where oxen are yoked together they are controlled by the master. When you are yoked with Jesus the load is lighter. When yoked with Christ we move together in the same direction and at the same pace. When you are yoked to Jesus you can’t go in a different direction than Jesus goes. He sets both the direction and the pace.
What is the rest that Jesus gives?
The word in the original language of the New Testament means to refresh one’s self rest, to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect one’s strength.
By being Jesus’ disciples we are doing his work. He is saying it is easy work, with a light burden. This does not mean the work won’t make us tire. But good rest will ease the good tiredness we feel.
Doing Jesus’ work means things such as being honest, putting other people first, being generous, forgiving people who ask us, sharing what we have, giving to God in worship, being loving and caring for others. Do you relax better after you know you did something badly or after you know it did a good job?
Questions to think about
- What heavy loads are you carrying?
- How would you describe the kind of rest you need?
- What are some things that cause you to have stress?
- What can you do to remove stress producing things from your life?
- What do you need to learn from Jesus to become less stressful?
- What are you willing to give up in order to have the rest you need?