“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.”
Has there ever been a time in your life when the words "come to me all that are weary and carry heavy burdens" resonated more deeply?
If I had to guess, I would guess you're exhausted right now. You've been overwhelmed for months. Some days, you don't even understand why. That's how I've felt over the last several months, and countless people I've spoken with echoed the same feelings. They're tired. They're conflicted and confused. They both have more time than ever and no time at all, and time itself feels strange and wrong. Sleep comes less easily. The cumulative effect of living in a time of pandemic and civil unrest is exhausting.
But maybe you're not experiencing that right now. Maybe there was another time in your life when you carried a much heavier burden: the sudden loss of a job, or the sudden loss of a loved one, or the loss of independence, or the sudden onset of a terrible disease.
No matter what burden pulls you down, Jesus offers rest. But it might not be what you think.
The term yoke was often used in the rabbinical tradition to refer to obedience, as in obedience to the Torah, God's laws. I take Jesus' words "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" to refer to obedience to his teaching, his way of following God's laws.
I don't mean that Jesus is saying obedience to him is easier than obedience to the Torah. I mean that when we follow the way of Jesus, the way of love, when we obey what he teaches us, that way is full of life and peace in a way that lifts our heavy burdens from us. Living the way of Jesus is freeing. It frees us from loving for ourselves, frees us from slavery to selfishness, frees us from bitterness and hate.
What does this mean for those of us exhausted during a pandemic? Jesus isn't promising to remove us from the bad situation we are in. Instead, I believe that Jesus is offering a relationship that gives us life and rest, even in a time like we live in now. If we choose every day to obey him, if we choose to abide in him, we can experience life and peace no matter what we're going through. May God give each of us the grace to obey our master Jesus and live in his way, every day, and experience the rest he promises us.