I’ll spare you from the rest of this November day from 1980 something. My Day-Timer notebook used to shift from events written in for each hour to every half hour, come the holiday season. As a senior pastor’s wife, minister of music, mom, daughter, sister and friend, my days filled up without the holidays. The extra ministry demands of Thanksgiving through New Year’s often packed every half hour on most pages of November and December.
Whether leading a family of two, a business of thousands or anything in between, all leaders know that the upcoming holiday season brings lots of extra joys in tag team with more demands and responsibilities. We don’t want to say this out loud, but deep in our hearts we might secretly feel like the holidays are a bit of a burden.
Beyond the holidays, life will present us with seasons where yokes feel heavy and burdens don’t seem light at all. The realities of our circumstances don’t seem to match up with the truth of Matthew 11:30 where Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Some of us are facing the first holiday season without a loved one. Others are facing major financial setbacks, unemployment, illness, divorce and other life altering events. Sometimes it feels like a pile on as we try to manage several things at once. I remember a season of personal illness, financial hardship, death of a parent and job loss all occurring simultaneously.
So, other than quitting or toiling along with bitterness and despair in our hearts, what can we do when we feel overloaded for an extended period of time? I’m positive that Jesus is not indifferent to our plights shouting “Rub some dirt on it!” from heaven. He is, in fact, the opposite. Hebrews 4:15 assures us that “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses….” I often become teary-eyed over the third verse of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear:”
And ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow.
You might be under a crushing load today, bent low in spirit, wondering how to keep moving forward. It may even sound laughable to you that Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but he did say it. Understanding what he meant by it may straighten your form back up even today.
In Matt. 11:29, where Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you,” the Greek word for take means a deliberate lift or taking up. The word for yoke referred to a double wooden harness used to link two animals together so they are able to do work that neither of them could accomplish alone. Jesus is saying we must choose to put our necks into the double yoke he offers to us so that we are able to make our way through the hard grounds of life without collapsing. He isn’t saying we won’t experience painful, heavy times where the load is unusually high. He is saying that we can make it through if we remain side by side with him.
In verse 30, the word “easy” in Greek means pleasurable, delightful or comfortable. As crazy as it may sound to you and what you are facing today, Jesus is telling us that even the most challenging, scary, painful days can be good when he is at our side and we are working in tandem with him. Days that would make normal humans collapse under their weight can be navigated with strength and joy for the child of God.
Think about how close together two horses heads are in a double yoke. They are literally breathing in the same air. That’s how we are to be with Jesus, so intimate and close with him that we hear every whisper of encouragement, every “Attaboy” of praise and every single “I love you! We got this!”
Yoked firmly with Jesus, we can face anything life brings our way knowing that we don’t carry the weight of it all alone.