I believe God wants us to enjoy our everyday lives. In John 10:10, says that Jesus came to us so we may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). This can be understood as a fulfilling life where we are at peace and satisfied.
Now, it is not only fair to say but necessary, too, that life gets complicated despite our faith. Often, we dream, plan, and hope for the best but events and people get in the way. So, although we believe that God wants what is best for us, we also recognize that while we live in this life, we all face challenges, conflicts, illnesses, and things beyond our control and power.
However, there are many more things within our control and power that hinder us from experiencing the promise of life Jesus gave us. When we lie, envy, gossip, cheat, become greedy, and treat people poorly, to name a few, we stop the flow of life coming from Jesus into our lives. We may believe right about Jesus, but we struggle to live right as Jesus.
The key to understand and deal with the tension between what we know God wants for us and the challenges of the struggles we face is to receive first the healing Jesus has for us and then commit to stay by his side every day.
Let’s look at Matthew 11:28-30 to hear what Jesus says on this matter,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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 talking about two main things here: his rest and yoke. The rest Jesus mentions here refers to the healing and redemption from the things that hurt, oppress, and destroy us—all of which disfigure God’s image in us.
When Jesus gives us his rest, all the ugliness of the heart and mind is forgiven and transformed. The apostle Paul speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 5:17 by saying, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
So, when we hear Jesus talking about rest, it is not the kind that you find a couple of weeks in the summer but as the relief in life that leads us to experience the fulfilling life Jesus promised to give us. We are talking rest in our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and spiritual uncertainty. It is a rest that gives us peace by making us whole.
Now, this does not just happen because we believe or pray in the right way. Jesus explains the process in these verses.
When Jesus says, “come to me,” he offers an open invitation to everyone who hears him. This is an invitation aimed at all people to bless them with satisfaction and fulfillment and bring them to a place of belief, trust, and a deeper level of commitment to their faith.
For those without Jesus, it is equivalent to a call to believe in him, repent and confess sin, welcome healing into their lives, and follow Jesus as new disciples. For those who are already believers, it is a call to follow him as committed disciples. Perhaps it is also a calling for reconciliation and a “coming back” to God to turn their lives over to him completely. The invitation is to be saved and to be healed, reconciled, and renewed in either case.
This coming to Jesus by accepting his invitation is the blessing of new life that changes everything. It means that we no longer are at war with God and each other. We no longer fight and destroy each other. We no longer are slaves to sin and brokenness. We no longer are infested by fear, anger, hate, and guilt; all those burdens have been lifted from us; they no longer weigh us down, control us, or define us.
This is what Jesus means by us coming to him with our burdens and letting him give us rest. Jesus wants to heal us and help us live in complete trust in God. He wants to position us through our faith in him to begin enjoying our life in the ways God intended for us to do so.
When we do this -believe and trust God- we find enjoyment, peace, and fulfillment. However, if we want to keep these blessings and grow in them, we need more than belief; we need commitment.
Here is where the “yoke” comes in. Jesus said, (paraphrasing), “I will give you rest, but you need me to keep it. Otherwise, you will squander it as everyone else has done when they think they can make it on their own.”
The yoke is not a joke; it is commitment and hard work. In practical terms, yokes are used to link a pair of animals so that they can haul a load together. They are primarily used with oxen for plowing soil (see picture). The yoke is designed to carry and pull the weight of the harness together to help get the work done.
So, in the context of Jesus’ invitation, what did Jesus mean when he mentioned it?
Jesus was talking about our continual walk alongside him. Think of Psalm 23 for a moment, “The Lord is my Shepheard, I shall not want nor fear the valley of the shadow of the death.” This psalm conveys the idea of what Jesus refers to as the yoke, meaning we belong mutually. In the same way, the yoke is about trusting God by telling Jesus: guide my steps, set my direction. It is not about controlling us but for us to not forget that we are not alone. To keep us close. Because if we stay close to Jesus, we can listen to him better, we can see him better; we will have a supernatural sense of security and confidence because we know to whom we belong and with whom we are walking.
This is a critical understanding of Jesus’ invitation to come to him for his rest. And this is not only about relief from burdens but a transformation of who we are. Jesus wants us next to him because he knows we can’t become what we can’t see, hear, or understand. But, if we are close, we learn faster from him, and we become stronger and wiser to live our best life in this world—an abundant one.
This raises a challenging question for us: How can we expect to receive and dwell in God’s blessings when we wander so far away from him that we can’t even see, hear, and feel him? That’s when we get lost and squander the blessings.
Consider the story of the prodigal son, how he decided to go away from his father and family. He demanded his inheritance to go live on his terms, just to squander them all. As a result, he lost what he had been given as much as he lost himself.
Just as the prodigal son, in many ways, we go on our own away from God and get yoked to all kinds of bad stuff and people throughout our lives that bring us burdens, hurts, and brokenness. We get robbed of the rest of God in our lives because we get yoked to greed, anger, addictions, hate, even to the wrong people that should not be a part of our lives because instead of contributing to our wellness, they diminish us.
It is not the will of God for us to be yoked to what destroys us. For this reason, Jesus wants to set us free from all bondages and break every chain—whether they are chains of the mind, heart, or the spirit. That is what Jesus means when he says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
As you can see, Jesus’ yoke is not to oppress us or to become a new burden on us but to instruct and guide us into a life of freedom; to give us strength and confidence by not being alone; and, to carry us when we are weak or lose our way. The yoke is the request Jesus makes of us so he can form in us a new character and mindset, one that is consistent with the kind of blessings he wants to give us. It is then when his power is released into our lives.
And one of the most important things is that the sooner you get yoked to Jesus, the sooner you will get on the right path for your life. For me, for example, I am so thankful that when I met Evelyn, I was a follower of Jesus already; otherwise, I would have missed her completely. As the Psalmist also says in Psalm 23, “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” Indeed, I was led to her, and I have been led all these years to serve many people and now to you too.
All this to say, the yoke of Jesus is the key to fulfillment, growth, and fruitfulness. So, don’t wait until you have gone astray and missed the right paths in your life. That always comes with a high price, usually in years and opportunities that don’t come back.
My friends, the invitation today is to surrender to Jesus completely. He said, “learn from me so you can find rest for your souls.”
So, let us not be obsessed with the blessings but strive for a good life as Jesus instructs it to us. Let us let Jesus guide us and let us be good learners as we wholly surrender our lives to him.
As you may see by now, it is often not about how hard we pray for the blessing but just staying with Jesus and learning what he is teaching us.
Do you want to receive refreshment and rest from your troubles? Do you want a fulfilling life? Then, stay with Jesus, the giver of life. Let the yoke be on you.