There is a rest that is only available to those who wish to awaken from the slumber of trying too hard. To those who have carried a weight never intended for their shoulders. Those seeking to fit into an impossible template. You show up to as much as you can. You lift up as many as you can through your energy. You walk the halls with a backpack full, drive to the activities with the minivan loaded up, or simply chop away at a task list that never seems to shrink. You volunteer, give, sing, smile, set up and/or tear down, midweek youth group, sign up for the latest Bible study, catch up on the right podcasts. You rush to be home before home has gone to bed. You care for the home hoping the home will all come together before the day slips away to slumber.
You so want your home screen to be your real home. There is a deep-seeded desperation for posted pictures that feel like an incantation to become incarnation. Whether work, school, home, church, or something else, you hope the smiles are believed and showing up is enough.
But in the end, you actually want someone to show up for you. You don’t dare utter the words because of some ill-informed view of humanity and weakness, or something. But really you are the one that needs the energy, to be lifted up, to be cared for, to be listened to. You need some of that energy you are giving away to be directed at your real struggles. You want the weight of always living up to some fictional standard or trying to be someone you’re not to be lifted. You want to wake up and realize this was all a dream and there is actually a better way.
Well, guess what. THERE IS A BETTER WAY!!! This is EXACTLY what Jesus teaches. He invites us to wake up to a better way. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What is the prerequisite for experiencing a rest from the fatigue of simply trying to do life and Christianity well? Are you weary and burdened? Are you trying too hard to be the perfect version of what you think you should be? Let me share a secret that few people realize in a socially saturated society: the perfect story we so desperately seek to project is nothing more than a manufactured myth.
Let’s put it another way. If we claim to follow Jesus and can manage our faith on our own, then it’s probably not biblical Christianity. God is not the cosmic cheerleader standing on the sidelines of life shouting purpose filled pithy statements hoping it reaches our ears. The image we have in the Scriptures of God who is both for us, with us, and fighting on our behalf.
He searches for us when we hide in our shame
He provides refuge so we can have rest from the storm
He goes through the fire with us
He provides when we stumble into a wilderness of our own making
He sits next to us as we weep over the lostness of others
He chases us down meeting us on the road to our next bad decision
He searches the forest to bring us back to the flock
He Illuminates every dark corner because we are cherished
He stood in the gap between God’s wrath and our sin making a way where there was no way
All of Scripture shouts in one chorus that God’s been with us, working in and through history so that the Messiah could be born to set his people free. Sure, we are broken and messed up beyond repair. That’s ok because God doesn’t seek to repair us, he seeks to redeem us. And when he redeems us, he offers himself to us. If you are redeemed then Jesus is relationally present throughout the entirety of your life, and his presence is sustaining. God’s presence is God’s provision, plain and simple. We can rest in the journey no matter how difficult it may be because God is with us. We have been given redemption rest because the Redeemer is forever present.
“Weary and burdened” was language often used when referring to the daily labor of carrying a pack on one’s back.  A worker who had carried a pack all day was, as my granddad used to say, “dog tired.” They needed relief and rest. Now imagine this, a worker picks up a pack that needs to be delivered to a city in a far-off distant land. It is a trip that will take weeks to accomplish as he will have to travel over a harsh and dangerous landscape. Now, imagine that he picked up the wrong pack. Through the journey he faced cruel weather conditions, wild animals, and even had to navigate in so he wouldn’t come in contact with thieves. He endures a journey protecting and caring for something he was never intended to carry.
Some of us are just plain daily exhausted, down in the depths of our souls. As described earlier, we try and try and try some more. But I wonder if we are carrying around a pack that wasn’t meant for us? I wonder if too many of us are shouldering the burden of perfection and thus our pack is filled with worry and anxiety. Or maybe something else is in your pack like financial stress, or a strained marriage. There are so many burdens in this broken world, none of which God wants us to shoulder alone. In fact, Jesus invites us to set down our packs filled with burdens and, “Take upon my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Let’s talk about the word ‘yoke’ for a moment. This was typically a piece of wood that was placed on two or more animals so that they could work in harmony together. When they were yoked together under this piece of wood they acted as one agricultural machine. The yoke was a tool for submission. Now, the Jewish people were used to this word being used as a synonym for submission. For example, they understood ‘the yoke of the law’ to mean submission to the law. Nevertheless, the original meaning of yoke is the piece of wood carved to fit around animals so they may work together.
This is where history gets fun! Where would a farmer purchase a yoke or have a yoke fashioned? A carpenter. And what was Joseph’s trade that he had taught to Jesus? Carpentry. Jesus would have literally carved many yokes for customers throughout his years in Joseph’s workshop. So, Jesus is inviting his listeners to put down their packs and submit to his way and teachings. Now when he says that “my yoke is easy” he wasn’t suggesting that, “if you follow me you can be lazy and do nothing all day every day.” The word easy is a Greek word that means well-fitting. When someone would have a yoke created for their animal all kinds of measurements would be taken so that the yoke could be customized to the animal’s dimensions. Jesus was saying that each one of us are tailormade to be in relationship with him. The reason we can find rest in the journey is because we are stepping in the footsteps of Jesus. In his footsteps, living under his authority, we can have confidence and peace. Why? Because then we have discovered life’s greatest treasure…the answer to where do I belong?
Jesus was suggesting that we are all created to live in relationship with him. And until we live according to his ways and desires, we will never find rest for the journey. Let’s summarize Jesus’ invitation to us all: put down and stop living in submission to the burdens you were never intended to carry, and discover that you were created to follow me, there you belong and there you will find rest.