Updated: Sep 7, 2021
We were created by God to live with a healthy rhythm in life, but far too many are living without margin in every area of our lives. We fill our calendars. We can’t say no. We live with a harmful drive to achieve. We’ve lost hope that it will slow down anytime soon.
Jesus offers us such a gift in saying that he has come to give us rest. This rest is found in a grace that doesn’t demand that we jump through all the hoops or get everything right. The rest that Jesus offers is an unmerited favor for anyone who comes to Him. This grace is best experienced in community. We can learn from Jesus as we learn from one another. When we do Church with one another, we lift one another up, we protect one another’s boundaries, and we carry one another’s burdens.
Some of us have experienced great loss this year, and it’s been troubling. This year has caused some of us to doubt our faith and the things we used to hold tightly. Some of us feel broken because of the pain in our country and in our world.
There's a story about a man attending a little league baseball game. The children were all on the field or in the dugout, playing their hearts out. It was only the first inning, and the score was already 16 – 0. One team was losing in a landslide. The man walked up to the dugout of the losing team and asked one little boy if he was discouraged by the score. Had he lost hope? The little boy looked at him, a little puzzled, and said, “Why would I be discouraged? We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet. There is always hope!”
That’s one way to look at the challenges that we face in life. The Church, throughout history has had the audacity to have hope in the face of trouble. It stems from the victory of the resurrected Jesus Christ. When things looked the darkest for Jesus, as he hung on the cross, he knew it was far from over. The tomb would not be the end, he would defeat death and come back to life. With this as the Church’s backdrop, there is always reason for hope.
In the Gospels, Jesus was always offering hope to those around him. Whether it was a crippling disease, an oppressive government, a physical or spiritual hunger, or an evil attack, Jesus would meet people right where they were. The characters in the scriptures knew that if Jesus is here, then hope is here.
LIFE IS HARD
There are times when we’re in need of a reminder that there’s hope. Life’s circumstances have a way of leaving us hopeless. I would argue that there is nothing in life that can steal our hope more than when we find ourselves weary, tired, or worn out. I would imagine that there are many who know exactly what this feels like. Waiting for a diagnosis, paying off bills, saving a marriage, enduring Covid-19, and trying to grow spiritually. It is times like this when we feel like we can’t keep going and all we want to do is give up.
It’s like the famous NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Jesus was aware of the tendency of people to shoulder heavy burdens and for this to cause them to lose hope. Jesus spoke to his followers about John the Baptist’s faithfulness in the midst of prison and the questions he was asking about Jesus’ identity. He was losing hope about whether or not Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and if his work had been in vain. In light of this, Jesus speaks these words in Matthew 11:28-30,
“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.”
Jesus is doing a couple of things here in this passage. First, he is acknowledging that life is heavy. We live life without margin. We are hard on ourselves. We work hard to keep up with others around us and we get weary. Jesus is normalizing this for us. We shouldn’t feel bad when we feel crushed by burdens. We shouldn’t feel like a failure. When we do, we often shy away from going to God for help, and we avoid being vulnerable with others as well. But Jesus tells us that if we are weary, we should come to Him. It’s an invitation.
Second, Jesus offers us a solution. He tells us to exchange our yoke for another. A yoke is a wooden harness that a farmer would attach to livestock to plow a field or to pull a cart. The yoke would help keep the livestock safe as they worked and would help the animal submit to the farmer. There were some people in Jesus’ audience who were submitting to a way of life that was law-based and was hard to live up to. It was religious and legalistic. It was performance-based and driven by the need to succeed.
The yoke he was offering was one of grace, mercy, compassion, and love. One yoke causes people to become weary. The other causes people to find peace. He invites us to remove whatever yokes we have had around our necks and to place his yoke upon us, because His is easy, light, and gives us rest.
IS YOUR YOKE CRUSHING YOU OR GIVING YOU LIFE?
Jesus offers hope for the weary by reminding us that our value isn’t found in how well we hold it together when things get tough or how we compare to the people around us. Our value comes from the love that he has for us and the grace he gives.
If you find yourself weary today, whether because of circumstances you can’t control or situations that you are responsible for, I want to offer you hope today. I want to offer you hope for a better tomorrow, hope for true purpose, hope for a clean slate, and hope for peace and rest. It’s found in Jesus. Because when he is here, hope is here.
What’s interesting about Jesus’ illustration about a yoke is that a wooden yoke would not be typically worn by a single cow, it would have been in tandem with a second cow. They would work together to pull and plow.
The reason it’s so important for us to belong to a church community is to do this Christian life together, side by side, not alone. The rest we find in Christ is best experienced alongside others.
THE CHURCH CARRIES ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS
Paul writes to the church in Galatia about the importance of living in community with one another. He makes comments in light of the struggle that it is to avoid sin in life, but he makes a statement that when lived out, puts us in line with the invitation of Christ to live his way.
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
To live in line with the way of Jesus is to be willing to meet the needs of others. When we see someone else in the Church who is weary or burdened, we come to their aid with joy because it’s in doing so, that we offer hope to them. Burdens come in all shapes and sizes. Some burdens are self-inflicted. We can help shoulder these burdens by offering grace, forgiveness, and a willingness to help navigate a better way. Some burdens happen to us: a divorce we didn’t ask for, a sickness that was unexpected, a job loss that is devastating. In these instances, we can carry each other’s burdens by being a listening ear, by bringing a meal, or by meeting a financial need.
Here is the good news: When we love one another in this way, we fulfill the most basic law that Jesus required. We love God with our whole heart, and we, in turn, love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said all the law of the prophets hung on those two things. That sounds like hope to me. A hope that no matter where we find ourselves today, Jesus offers us rest and peace, and we don’t have to go it alone.
When we invest in the relationships God gives us within the Church, we find help in living within our margins. Sometimes we need someone to help us say “no.” No to the things that occupy our time, occupy our attention, or occupy our resources. Sometimes we need someone to remind us that we are loved by God and that’s enough. Sometimes we need someone to help us slow down and rest in the grace of God.
Are you weary today? Are you burdened by life? Come to Jesus and find rest. You don’t have to do this life alone. We are in this together and that gives us hope.
-Provided by "Back to Church Sunday"
-Edited by Shauna Neville