STORIES OF HOPE

Don’t Lose Hope: Yoked To Jesus

It was one of those days when the temperature was so perfect you just wanted to be outside. We had a hammock suspended along the side of our back porch and a screen to keep flying nuisances from interrupting the comfort it provided. The sky was that special kind of blue with big white clouds dotting the sky. The breeze was just enough to stir the leaves that had begun to turn yellow and gold (we lived in Georgia at the time where fall was a real thing). To top it off, I had a big tall glass of coconut lavender lemonade thanks to a trip to my favorite fall festival the week before. I’m still not sure it happened, but somehow my husband kept our three boys from invading that sacred space for the entire day. I lounged and read and rested all day long. It was heavenly!!! Rest…When I long for the promise that word holds, this is what I picture.

Merriam Webster describes REST as: repose, sleep; specifically: a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; freedom from activity or labor; a state of motionlessness or inactivity

When I think of rest, that’s what I imagine. Lazy days laying in the hammock watching the leaves dance above me in the breeze. Leisurely naps on the couch between movies as the rain beats down on the roof. Uninterrupted days sitting on the beach where the sound of the waves are my only companion. I’m seeing a trend here that fits perfectly into Webster’s definition of rest equaling repose and inactivity.

As the days seem to get longer, fuller and crazier, I find myself asking (let’s be real, maybe even begging) God for rest. Specifically, I want a large chunk of time without the stress of my ever growing “to do” list, without people that need me, without emails and texts and excess noise, without stress and worries and fears…I want subtraction. Let’s get rid of all the excess and just be lazy. My brain equates rest with less of everything outside of what I desire. Occasionally I find windows of laziness to grab ahold of and indulge like I’m competing for a gold medal champ in rest.

Rest…it’s a mandate for us from God, right? Remember the Sabbath day, to “keep it holy” is one of the 10 Commandments. It is rooted in the truth that on the seventh day of creation God RESTED. There you go…One day a week I’m supposed to be lazy! Yet somehow, lazy days often leave me feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and regretful. I leave my place of rest and immediately feel like I wasted a day while my list of tasks proceeded to get even longer. All of a sudden my stress has doubled and rest simply feels like an elusive ideal.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

“Come to me and I will give you rest,” says The Lord. I confess, when I read this passage, I read it through the lens of my definition of rest. I read through my idea of rest as subtraction. I want to stop right there and simply say “here I am Lord” and POOF He relieves me of all the stuff keeping me from resting. In my definition, this equates to doing nothing and having no one need anything from me. (Tell me I’m not alone in this!)

BUT GOD…This is one of my absolute phrases in the Bible, because it reminds me that He is so much bigger and better than my wretched, black-hearted tendencies…But God has a much greater offer than rest for our bodies, He wants to offer rest for our souls…

Jesus says, “Come to me…Take my yoke…Learn from me...” As a Georgia girl, one might assume I know something about life in the country and the inner workings of farming. Far from true. Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta I may have passed plenty of cows in pastures, but I know nothing about their behaviors and habits. In order to understand the kind of rest God offers, I had to dig in on the concept of yokes.

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plow or load the animals are will carry. When farmers wanted to train a young ox (male cow…I googled the difference between a cow and ox), they would pair it with a mature, well trained ox. The mature ox would show the young ox how to wear the yoke loosely and lightly. Without the leading and teaching from the mature ox, the younger ox would pull and strain and fight the yoke to wander off on it’s own path. When the younger ox is yoked to the mature ox, the mature ox pulls the brunt of the weight. He leads step by step, straight ahead without getting bruised or worn out. The load is made light for the young ox and he can end his day of labor at peace and rested despite the load he was charged with carrying.

This is the kind of rest God invites us into…He invites us to come to Him. To yoke ourselves to His Son to learn from him. Jesus knows how to carry the weight of our days, the priorities of our “to do” lists, the boundaries we must establish in our relationships and how to do it step by step to find rest for our weary souls. He left heaven to come to earth fully God, but also fully human. He experienced days where it seemed everyone wanted or needed something from him (Mark 9:15-22).  Jesus wept with grief over the passing of a loved one (John 11:33-35).  He felt the pain of betrayal by his closest friends (Mark 14:44). Jesus wrestled with following God over his fleshly desires (Matthew 26:39). His invitation isn’t to climb into bed and sleep until our stresses and worries are lessened. It isn’t a process of subtraction.

When I say “I need rest,” what I am really saying is that I feel worn out, burnt out and overwhelmed. Naps and lazy days, while they sound amazing and perhaps even are amazing in the moment, do little more than provide a temporary distraction. What I need is far greater than a temporary distraction. It is not simply the act of subtraction that I need, but rather that of addition.

As hard as I might try to reduce things, people or commitments in my life, it is futile until I add surrendering and yoking myself to Jesus. I need to be guided. I need to be shown and reminded how to carry loads lightly with love, with grace and with joy. When I am in need of rest, what I need is Jesus.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Are you in need of rest? Jesus says come walk with him and follow him. In Him you will find rest. True rest for our souls is found not in naps or distractions, but in knowing who He is and who we are in Him.

Go Deeper: Want to dig deeper on finding rest in Jesus alone? Watch this past sermon from Pastor Ryan Stone.

Tonya Annis, Hope's Closet Ministry Director

Posted by Tonya Annis