The laundry is piling up. The sink is full of dirty dishes. The work deadlines are looming. My to-do list is spilling off the page. The technology that promised to make my life easier has just added more items to my list. Oh, and apparently dinner is a thing again today.
Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to Jesus’ words about how our souls can find rest in him:
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.
As hopeful as that sounds—rest for my soul!—I don’t entirely get it. Isn’t a yoke a symbol of work, not rest? I picture the oxen working the field with that wooden bar across their backs. If I wanted to paint a picture of rest, I’d describe a hammock gently swinging between two trees or a lounge chair on a tropical beach. Somehow the image of oxen doing heavy plowing doesn’t seem to me like the picture of soul-rest.
But recently I attended a conference by Lysa TerKeurst, who described what Jesus’ audience would have understood when he described this scene. Apparently when Jesus said “learn from me” in this context, he was referring to the process where a young, untrained ox would learn to pull a load from a more experienced animal. They shared a yoke so the younger ox could get a feel for what it felt like to pull, but the entire burden was placed on the older ox. Then the two oxen would walk together, side by side, until the young animal gradually grew stronger.
And so it is for us. Soul rest doesn’t mean we escape our reality and our responsibilities. God doesn’t give us a free pass from the things we’ve been called to do. But it does mean he carries the weight for us—the burden is on him. Our job is to walk closely with him, right by his side. It means we are never alone as we carry out the big and small tasks he asks us to do.
There may not be fewer loads of laundry. The dirty dishes may not go away. But maybe I can do these tasks with joy, knowing he’s standing right beside me at the sink, in the laundry room. Maybe my to-do list will seem less daunting, knowing that he’s helping me task by task, day by day.
My burden may not be smaller. But someone stronger is walking through it right beside me. And he’s the one doing all the heavy lifting.