The election is over! We now have a new President-Elect. As I sat back and watched social media during and following the election, one thing became very clear: No matter what side of the political spectrum people are on, everyone is tired of the way things are, and there is a lot of fear and unrest about the future. I totally get it. If you are feeling anxious or fearful, let me make it all better. Allow me to share one of the most used, sometimes misused, dare I say cliché verses with you. 🙂
“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
We love to quote this verse. I think we especially love to focus on the “rest” part and the “easy and light” part. We love anything that makes our life easier. I was reading this passage the other day and it occurred to me, “Wow, Jesus is basically asking us to be His horse.” This got me thinking about horses. Horses are magnificent animals, aren’t they? When I think of a wild stallion running free across the plains, it gives me a good feeling, like watching an old John Wayne movie. But as I thought more about this passage, I don’t think that this wild stallion picture is what Jesus is saying brings rest. He says, “take my yoke upon you.” What is a yoke? A yoke is what connects the workhorse to the load that it is pulling. It holds the horse in place.
Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes in the past I have read that passage and thought, “Man, Jesus’s yoke is neither easy nor light, and it is anything but restful!” This passage didn’t seem very true to me at all. Here’s the thing: if we believe the Bible is the Word of God, (which I am assuming you do) and we believe it is absolutely true without any error (which I also assume you do), then we can assume that it is true when Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is not a heavy one we have to carry. Logically, we can assume that when His yoke doesn’t seem easy or light and we don’t feel rest, then maybe it says more about us as the horse than it does about His yoke. Are you with me? When we feel like His yoke is actually difficult, scary, or painful, perhaps we have actually not taken His yoke upon us at all, or maybe we are under His yoke but fighting for control. Maybe it is us who have not learned (to quote the movie Shrek) to be a “faithful steed.”
Do you know what a horse’s job is, when it is yoked to a load? It’s actually very simple: to walk when the master says walk. To run when the master says run, to turn left when the master says turn left, and to turn right when the master says turn right. Basically, to do whatever the master says. It is the master’s job to know where they are going, to be aware of all the obstacles, and to carefully guide the horse to the destination in the best way possible. But it is literally the job of the master to provide for the horse’s needs, to protect the horse from danger, and to look out for the good of the horse. Presuming that the master of a horse is a good master and doesn’t push the horse too hard or overload the horse, the only time a horse experiences “a heavy burden” under the care of a good master is when it is fighting for control or not trusting its master. When a horse has a good master, it never has to worry about the destination; its job is literally to just put one foot (or hoof) in front of the other and obey the master. Then, and only then, is the yoke easy and the burden light. On the flip side, a wild stallion, though free to do what it wants, roams the prairies unprotected. It sacrifices the security, rest, and provision of being under a master for the freedom to be its own master.
I love this horse-and-master metaphor Jesus uses for our relationship with Him. God is a good, good master. The problem is that because of our sin, from the moment we are born, we have a deep-rooted desire to be our own masters. We tend to either run free and control our own lives as wild stallions or take on His yoke and fight it. What it means to be a disciple of Jesus is to make Him Lord and Master over us and every part of our lives. It’s on Him to direct us to the destination, to provide for our needs, and to protect us. All we are responsible for is to walk in obedience and put one foot in front of the other as He leads and directs. If you are having anxiety and turmoil in your life, it is most likely rooted in the fact that you are trying to be your own master. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Here he was referring to money, but this can be applied to anything, including ourselves. Either Jesus is our master, or we are. Almost every trouble we face in our lives can generally be traced to us, putting ourselves in the place of the master. It doesn’t mean that difficult things won’t happen in our lives. The apostle Paul faced many difficult things, but because Jesus was his master, he was able to say, “I rejoice in my suffering.” Even when things around him were in utter chaos, he found rest and peace, because he was under the yoke of a good Master.
As you look at every moment of your life right now, ask yourself these questions: Where are the areas I feel turmoil? Am I being the “faithful steed” and trusting and following the Master, or am I seeking my own way, trying to be my own master?