At that time, Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“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.” (Matt 11: 25-26; 28-30)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
The twinge in my shoulder is a warning; I’ve been slouching again. If I ignore it and don’t pay attention to my posture, I’ll end up with a slipped rotator cuff. I definitely don’t want to go there again.
It usually happens when I’m more tired or stressed than usual. Without being aware of it, my shoulders slump forward and stay there. The aches and pains are the signal to be intentional about straightening up. And the change is remarkable: as soon as I put my shoulders back where they should be, my head feels clearer and the fatigue seems to slip away. Obviously, we weren’t physically built to function well while slumping.
We also aren’t equipped to function well mentally while spiritually slumping. Getting my spiritual shoulders lined up with God’s truth has an immediate impact on how I think and feel. My circumstances don’t immediately change, but how I look at them and deal with them does.
Of course, there are other things that contribute to shoulder trouble. A major one is lifting what is too heavy for my strength, or doing too much lifting at a time. I need to be aware of my own limitations if I want to keep my shoulders in good condition.
There are so many times I’ve tried to shoulder loads that were far beyond my ability to carry. I’ve tried to be a one-woman rescue team for the struggling, thought I knew answers when I didn’t even understand the questions – in short, when I tried to be God, instead of working with God and under His leading.
I’ve also put some other loads on my shoulders – burdens of guilt for not being closer to the kind of person I want to be, for not doing enough for God, for failing Him in ways large and small. Those are loads Satan keeps putting on me, and God doesn’t want me to carry them. If I’m lugging those around, I won’t have a lot of room or energy left to carry what He has designed for me. Thankfully, I have made progress in recognizing the source of those burdens and deciding not to accept them.
Jesus’ message in these verses tells me I must become like a little child, who has the wisdom to know my need. Then I take the hand of one much bigger than I am, who knows so much more than I do, and who loves me and cares for my every need. When I do that, I won’t be staggering under loads I was never meant to carry.
I can choose to be yoked with Jesus, or opt instead to put the weight of the world on my shoulders. That weight can come with one very heavy thing, or 100 small things; the effect is much the same. The Jews who tried to carry the weight of the law, plus the minutiae of countless regulations the priests had added to it, weren’t able to stand up under it. It was too much for any person to bear on their own.
Jesus has not left me on my own. He wants to walk beside me, shouldering the bulk of my burden. He is gentle; not a harsh task-master who wants to load me up with more than I can handle. He’s humble in heart; He’s not going to expect me to feed His ego, demeaning myself in the process. He doesn’t want me to be a slave to what people think of me, what Satan taunts me with, or to the acquisitions that promise almost everything and deliver almost nothing.
We all carry a yoke. I want the yoke on me to be what God has given me to carry, with Jesus alongside every step of the way. I need Him to keep me steady when I start to stumble, to shoulder what I can’t, and to keep me aware that He’s as close as my breath.