“My yoke is easy and my burden is light . . .”

Come to me all of 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

This is one of these verses which sounds nice and for a while you can take comfort in it.  Until things really just get pushed too far and you realize that you have no idea what the blazes it’s supposed to mean and it doesn’t even seem to be true as far as you can see.  What is Jesus’ yoke anyways?  If we say it’s living in obedience to God as Jesus did, then we’re even more up the creek without a paddle.  Anyone who has actually devoted themselves to following God’s instructions will figure out in pretty short order that God is forever asking people to do things which are hard, if not practically impossible.  Look at scriptures:

Abraham, leave your home and your family.  I’ll tell you where you’re going later, but just go now.

David, take a small rock and go kill that giant.

Hosea, marry that woman who’s going to cuckold you and redeem her with your love.  Make sure every knows about your humiliation so they see a model of my Love for them too.

Jesus, give up your glory to live among the fallen then let yourself be tortured and killed.  

Paul, you just keep on preaching until they kill you.  And when you’re whipped bloody and imprisoned, be sure to count it all glory.

God’s ways are many things, but easy and light don’t really fit the bill.  So what is Jesus talking about here?

I think that I’ve figured it out.  This is going to take a minute, but stick with me here.

The first thing we need to know is that one of the greatest lies the world tells us is that a good life, and perhaps especially a good Christian life, is having safe, respected, comfortable, hopefully prosperous lives.  But over and over in scriptures we see that God calls people to live recklessly in following Him.  God never guarantees our safety or comfort or even respectability.  Instead He asks us to give up absolutely everything in order to follow where He leads.

One of my favorite verses of scriptures is where Jesus says, “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  (Matthew 6:33)  To me this means that we are called to do what God asks us to do regardless of the cost and trust that God will cover you.  Know that your kids would suffer in daycare?  Then have a parent home to raise them and trust that God will cover you.  Know God wants you to help someone who needs money to get their car fixed?  Then give them your savings and trust that God will cover you.  Know that God has called you to live in an impoverished neighborhood?  Then move there and trust God to cover you.  Seek first God’s kingdom.  Always and in all things, regardless of the cost.  Because God will cover you.

Now, the problem is that inevitably, there is a cost.  There is suffering involved.  Sometimes it seems like God’s not doing His part.  There’s not enough money to pay the bills.  Your car breaks down.  Your new neighborhood is dangerous and unwelcoming.  And you begin to think that maybe you’ve just been foolish.  God isn’t really going to cover you.  He wants you to use good judgement and take care of yourself, not do foolish, reckless things.  After all, you’ll find more than enough good Christians who will tell you just that.

This is, I think where Jesus’ yoke comes in.  Just a couple of verses before the famous yoke verse, Jesus prays to his Father, “I praise you Father, lord of heaven and earth because you have . . . revealed [these things] to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)  It comes down to a child-like trust.  This is Jesus’ yoke.  Even in the midst of disaster, we can trust that God is in charge, that He has a purpose for what is happening.  Or if it is an attack of the enemy that He will aid us in the battle so that we can overcome.  So you trust.  You don’t despair, you don’t curse God or your lot.  If you allow the Holy Spirit to work, you will even find that the fruits of the spirit continue to grow.  Instead of anxiety, there is this joy and peace.

And then you begin to wonder if you are crazy.  It doesn’t help that people keep coming up to you with sad puppy eyes to ask in tones usually used for those suffering from dementia, “how are you doing?”

“Fine,” you reply with a smile.

“No really.  It must be so hard.  It’s OK not to hide behind a strong face all the time.”

“Um, well I have my moments, but really, I’m doing well.  I’m just trusting God, I guess.”

“Of course.  Well, if you ever need to talk . . .” and they pat your hand and walk away.

(That’s a best case scenario.  At worst, they do like a good friend of mine once did and say, “stop feeding me a bull s**t sandwich – of course you’re not OK!”)

So you begin to wonder.  “I thought I was OK.  Actually, I’m pretty happy.  Maybe I am just kidding myself.  Maybe I’m subjecting myself to some weird form of self-induced brainwashing and really I should be majorly depressed and planning a trip to the doctor for some happy pills.  What if it’s not really God and I’m just CRAZY?  Ahhhhhhh!”  Or at least that’s what you say to yourself if you’re me.

See, we struggle with the yoke because it is easy and light.  We’re like oxen who have been trained up under too much weight- always having to lean into it, tug and pull and huff and puff at the exertion of carrying this heavy yoke.  And then Jesus comes along and gives us His yoke.  But it just feels wrong.  It’s so easy and light.  It can’t be right.  So a lot of us go back to our old, heavy yokes.  They’re painful, but at least they feel like they fit.

And then all of us Christians who have taken back our yokes (if we ever actually took them off to begin with – most don’t), sit up at night and worry just like everyone else.  And we live just like everyone else, because God can’t really think I’d be able to go there or do that – He knows what an unreasonable burden it would be.   That’s for saints and missionaries, not for everyday Christians like me who are just trying not to get into trouble.

And this is exactly how we lose our saltiness.  Then we wonder that Christianity is seen as fit for nothing more than to be trampled underfoot.  But Jesus’ yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  That’s a good thing to, because there’s no way we can go to the crazy places God wants to send us carrying our own yokes.   We just have to be willing to trade our worry and sorrow for peace and joy.  Give up our safety and respectability for gentleness and humility.  And trust that God will cover us.  And He will.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39. 

84 thoughts on ““My yoke is easy and my burden is light . . .”

  1. I have not read all the replies now, but will still read it. Tonight my friends and I were wondering about Jesus’ yoke and I googled to see if we can find some help. The first blog I open(this one)and I find some great clarifications! We were wondering why so many christians struggle and carry such heavy burdens when we are suppose to live differently from the world. One thing we realised is that even when we pray for a good outcome to our own and to other’s problems and things don’t turn out as we thought it would, He is always in control and whatever happens, He has reasons and good plans for it. It may be that our faith is tested or that the person you have prayed for needed to see an answer in their circumstances. We do not know. But I believe He is LOVE and that His plans are always good for us. Be blessed and thanks for the insights – it’s very edifying.

  2. Tell me where you want me to go and I will go there. May every fiber of my being unite in reverence toyour name. With all my heart i will praise you. I will give glory to your name forever, for you love me so much!! You are constantly so kind! You have rescued me from deepest hell.

  3. Unlike Rebecca, I think that Jesus’ yoke involves living in obedience, but like her, I think it involves trust. Perhaps one of the best words used in Bible to describe living with our neck in Jesus’ yoke is “abiding.” Jesus tells us to abide in Him. With a yoke, there can be a more experienced lead ox paired with a younger ox who is more submissive and will follow the lead ox. Christ wants us to simply go with Him. He will give us direction, He will offer His strength to get the job done, whatever He leads us into. I think that the yoke metaphor, like the branch of the Vine, gives us an image of being intimately connected with Christ. And that, I believe is the whole point of our salvation, being intimately connected to God. Like Rebecca said, He does ask us to do hard and impossible things. He does this on purpose. He wants us to give up trying to do things and deal with things in our strength and instead depend completely on His. It is when we feel weak that we will finally look to Him and receive His strength. Our God longed for intimate, loving fellowship outside of Himself to be added to the joyous fellowship He experiences within Himself. What did He do? He created us. We really are much more than just a charity case He feels sorry for. We are what He dreamed up when He desired fellowship. We are (or will be) the realization of Jesus’ “fantasies” about and desires for a Wife! He longs for intimacy with us, and to make it easy for this to come about, He made us weak on our own so we would have to be intimate with Him to survive. For when we are finally willing to be intimate, it is then that we see that the highest happiness is being loved by and loving Him, being delighted in and delighting in Him. His yoke is easy when we tell Him that we realize we can’t do what He has asked of us and desperately need His empowerment in both desire and ability. And when we start to dwell in this intimate connection with Christ, we realize that His yoke is not only easy, it is pure joy.

  4. Good piece of writing Its still easier than the way of the transgresser ,yoked to the author and finisher of our faith as he leads thru the power of the Holy Spirit,not by power not by might but by my spirit the mountains shall be moved!

  5. A most excellent article.

    I can absolutely relate to this, it’s funny when you think of it this way, it’s like we’re naturally inclined to rely on our own efforts, but it’s actually kind of silly when you really think about it.

  6. Am Edwin from Ghana. I worship with the Church Of Christ Zebilla. I wanted to prepare notes about “yoke” for bibile teaching on sunday so i decided to google it and see if i could get any work on it and chanced upon this great work by Rebecca. There are numerous “prophets” in Ghana now who associate christianity with riches, popularity and real “comfort” only. It’s hard to convince a “christian” to be meek and sacrifice his riches and follow God. This work will help me more on my teachings tomorrow and i pray that people will chance upon this n many other worksby other brethren. Amen

  7. ” Come to me all of 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

    this is truly a word in season for me. I have been bothered by how as Christians we seem to make it difficult for ourselves and others to seek, find, serve and walk in God’s way even though we profess to do the opposite.

    – We constantly device our own standards which is indeed heavier than the Burden of Christ and we constantly struggle and sometimes lose the plot completely instead of allowing the Holy Spirit lead when we cast every burden unto Christ and take on his easy yoke whilst knowing that he is in total control as we do that despite of the situation

  8. I have a chronic illness that I have been dealing with since 1989. On top of that, ever since this illness came into my life, it has taken a heavy toll on my general health. I have had 11 surgeries since ’89, two of which went poorly and in each of those cases I spent more than a month hospitalized.

    Today was not a particularly good day. So as I often do, when I had cleared up most of my work I left my office and went to my bedroom for some rest. And laying there on my bed, i did what I was taught by the Spirit to do at times like this: I started naming one by one, blessings that I have been given by the Lord. I begin with the most recent blessing I have received and work backward until I have remembered for certain that “Jesus Yoke is easy.” It doesn’t take very many minutes of this kind of serious accounting to remind me that “God has me covered” today: Just like He has had me covered on every other day of my life.

    I have struggled often, but I have never struggled alone. First, God gave the Holy Spirit to comfort me, to strengthen me and to teach me prayer. Then He gave me friends, teachers, a Bible, a wife, a family and multiple other protections and loving protectors. His yoke is easy because I am never carrying it all by myself. And I will never have to. If I lose all else: Friends; wife; grandchildren, medication, freedom, money, rule of law, He will never abandon me.

    Your log entry is now four years old, but it still speaks to people. It speaks to people because it is the inspired truth. Over the course of four years, the words you put here have lifted many people like me, 57 of whom took the time to tell you so.

    God bless and keep you always.

    1. Fred, what a beautiful and encouraging testimony! Thank you so much for sharing and for your encouraging words. They are very timely for me. I’ve been struggling with bitterness and a heart made sick by hope delayed and I will have to remember your practice of recalling God’s blessings to help me counter that. Blessings!

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  10. Rebecca,

    I’m like everyone else who commented, googled yoke and stumbled upon your blog. It was ordained by God that I found it. I have been trying to handle all of my life on my own, without my husband, without my kids, and most importantly without God. I mean, I love God and read and pray alot. But when the adversary came along and threw a curve ball, I didn’t give it to God. I tried to do what I knew was best, not praying or asking God what He would have me do. I have been tormented by anxiety and fear for 4 months now. As soon as my eyes open in the morning it starts, sometimes it last for only an hour, other days it lasts all day. But your blog just broke my spirit, I was weeping as I read it and just felt His peace come over me. I feel so much better as I’m typing this. I have to give my life struggles to Jesus, I cannot handle them on my own. I have to let Jesus fight my battles, He has already won the victory at the cross, all I have to do is believe and let go. You used so many scriptures that I have been studying all morning, thank you for sharing, God bless you.

  11. Praise God for His revelation is given to those whom He desires… only few people know this truth. I 100% agree to this post. Thanks and God bless us all no matter what the cost might come. We love and obey God and His will.

  12. I was reading up on something called: Dark Night of the Soul, and somehow came to this blog.

    Very interesting opinions and I am thankful for reading them. However I have 2 question: why do so many people assume that God is their maid, and that He will clean up the collective (or personal) mess we have created?

    The second question: how honest are you being in your love of God? What if you got absolutely nothing in return, not even emotional comfort, – would you still be so interested in God?

    1. Oh, Emilio. You just haven’t read my more recent stuff. You could search for a post called “God is Good” or one which I think is called “Starving People” for starters on that subject.

      1. Thanks Rebecca – I’ll have a look. I indeed believe that “God is Good” but you as a mother know that kids don’t learn anything by you always cleaning up their “messes” – that was the point I was trying to put forward. Anyhow, I will definitely click around your blog more.

    2. 1. People may think He will clean up their messes, but since He’s not going to, people eventually learn (whether in this life or the next), don’t they?

      2. I think the better question is — “How Honest ARE You To God?”
      I’ve gotten nothing from God before while I was going through one of the most painful times of my life. I was in so much pain and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any comfort or peace from Him. I’ve gone through many trials before, why wasn’t He there when I needed Him the most?

      What I learned was that I wasn’t being HONEST with Him about how I really felt. And how I really felt was angry. I was so mad at Him. How dare He make me go through this trial again (husband addicted to pornography) when I did everything He asked me to. Didn’t He clearly SEE that I wasn’t strong enough to go through this craziness again?

      So finally I unleashed on God. I screamed at Him. I yelled at Him. Ha I may have even cursed at Him. 😉

      And then I felt the most wonderful warmth and peace wrap around me, and a thought from the Lord came to my mind “See? I love you. I was just needed you to be HONEST with me.”.

      I believe a part of showing God we love Him is being completely honest and vulnerable with Him. That’s how He can help us the most. We have to do our part too. 💙

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  14. Rebecca your reflections on the subject of the ease of Christ’s yoke have touched people in many countries for eight years and now this evening this eighty-three year old in New Zealand. I was just searching to see whether anyone had ever expressed the thought that Christ’s yoke was also a symbol for His cross. Yours was the first site I opened up so I thought I would share the thought. Though not easy for Christ, he completed the work of His Father. That is the only reason our daily crosses could ever be easy for his followers through His gift of the Holy Spirit.

  15. Thank you for this great exploration of this small yet massive piece of wisdom. You do well to address the often angry doubter in all of us and share your experiential knowledge that vindicates belief in this scripture.

    I was speaking with my brother Michael about this very subject only this evening. I was very much the angry doubter but you have both helped change that.

    God bless you.


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  18. Weird, I just came across this article by accident and it felt great to read it.

    I agree. I needed this validation. I have everyone pressuring my husband to get a different job that pays more money. But I feel like a new job would literally break our family apart because all the stress it would cause and could very well lead to him relapsing.

    I get everyone pressuring me to get a job even though the Lord has clearly told me it would be a bad for me and my kids. And I also have people pressuring me to change my kids school (to a very bad school with a D rating) all so my kids could take the bus so my husband could use our car for a different job.

    I don’t know HOW it’ll work out, but I know that it will. I just wish everyone else would ask the Lord and get the same confirmation instead of thinking that a great income, nice house, etc = Happiness.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, it seriously would make things easier to have more money. I hate not knowing how we are going to pay rent every month. I hate having one car. I wish we had money. I HATE not being in control cuz I LOVE working and could easily make more money. But it’s just not what the Lord wants us to be doing right now. And it worries everyone else that I’m not MORE worried ha.

    Good times 🙂 Thanks again 🙂

  19. The crazy upsidedownness to it all is that we are asked to march to the beat of a different drummer, to listen with the ears of Christ, and do the unthinkable; to pick up that cross and follow Him. Reluctant at times for sure, but joyful in His presence makes this upsidedown world make sense! Thanks for your words of inspiration.

  20. After reading you thoughts on Matt 11:30 I wonder if you have ever read this passage in the context of who is speaking (Jesus), Who he is speaking to (Jews who make regular use of a wooden yoke and a team of oxen to plow fields and pull loads) And the rules and customs the Jews practiced in the making of those yokes, and the customs and rules the Jews followed on how hard to work a team of oxen. Each Yoke was custom made for a specific team of oxen, to minimize wear and injury on the animals shoulders. If one of the oxen died. the custom yoke was not re used, a new custom yoke was made to fit the new ox added to the team. Also the Jews were very careful not to overwork their oxen. An owner paid close attention to his team when they were plowing. If they showed any sign of fatigue, he would stop, let them rest, take them to water. The Jews also had specific rules on how far a team of oxen could be used to pull a wagon or cart with a load. The heavier the load, the shorter the distance the oxen would have to carry the load before being allowed to rest. But most interesting to me when I studied this topic was that each team of oxen were handed on a ‘case by case’ basis. There was no ‘one size fits all’ set of rules that said how much a good team of oxen must be able to accomplish in a given time with out a break. The work load was customized to each teams ability to carry out the work. This is certainly not the way we do things in America at work or school or even at most of our Churches…

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