I awoke to pitch darkness. I hadn’t slept more than thirty minutes and my heart sensed that sleep wouldn’t return soon. A friend’s husband lay in the hospital, having received the dreaded news, “The cancer is back—in the brain and spine now.” My whole being hurt for my friends. What a heavy load! And yet, somehow my spirit was lifted through my sacred vigil of prayer. You might say I felt beautifully burdened for them. How could this be?
In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus promises rest for our weary souls. Strangely, His rest comes as we bend under His yoke and embrace His burden. He clarifies in verse 30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we allow Jesus to lift our burden from our backs and then tether ourselves to Jesus’s yoke, we become harnessed with Him, in step with Him and all He allows. When we bend under His burden, we share in His sufferings, which ultimately allows us to share in His comfort as well (2 Corinthians 1:5).
My concern for my friends was a heavy burden. Yet I felt grateful that God would allow me to carry them in prayer. Gradually I ebbed back to sleep and awoke—still beautifully burdened but now under the easy yoke and light load of walking with Jesus.
What are you carrying today? How will you give that burden to Jesus?
Christ’s words offering rest to the weary (Matthew 11:28–29) seem to be connected to His discussion of oppression. In Judaism, the word yoke was often used as a metaphor for God’s law. A yoke was used to train an inexperienced ox by yoking it to an experienced one; in the same way, the law could function as a training guide. But the word yoke was also used to describe political rule, and rest to describe deliverance from oppressive rule. For example, in Isaiah 14 God promised to remove the Assyrian’s burdensome yoke and bring the land rest (14:7, 25).
Both the Roman Empire and religious teachers of Christ’s day (the scribes and Pharisees) used their authority in burdensome ways (see Matthew 23:4). So Jesus invited those worn and wearied by such burdens to live instead as subjects under His compassionate leadership in God’s life-giving kingdom.