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Do you feel as though you are being dragged through life, that you are doing your best but never can quite keep up? Maybe it is due to a burden of some kind that is weighing you down. Perhaps it is the burden of physical pain. Or the burden of problems in your family. Or the burden of grief.
Here are Jesus’ words to any person who is stressed out, any person who is under pressure and any person who is carrying a burden of any kind: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).
The word Jesus used for rest is an interesting one. Sometimes it is used in the New Testament for chains falling off a person’s hands. It carries the idea of being released from any kind of bondage.
The same word is also used to describe a person who is in financial debt. Although God can provide for our needs, this really is a statement about our debt of sin and the repercussions of it. But the Bible says we have been justified, if we have put our faith in Christ, which means that our sins have been forgiven and the righteousness of Christ has now been placed into our spiritual account.
Lastly, in Greek literature the word “rest” is sometimes used to describe a door that you can’t quite open and then suddenly flies open. It is like gaining access to something. Maybe you have tried to get into a private event and you didn’t have the right ticket or the right pass or didn’t know the right people. We have access to God the Father through Jesus Christ.
So Jesus was saying, “You who are exhausted, you who are weary, you who are burdened with weight, come to me, and I will give you rest. I will forgive you of the spiritual debt that you have. I will put my righteousness into your account. I will break your chains, and I will give you free access into my presence.”
But it doesn’t end there. Jesus also said, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29–30).
A yoke was made of wood. To avoid pain or discomfort, it was hand-carved to fit the neck and shoulders of the animal wearing it. In ancient culture, the yoke was an expression that was used to describe submission. So when Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you,” it meant, “Submit yourself to me every day, in every way.” In contemporary terms, it would be like Jesus saying, “Give me the steering wheel.”
Some might say, “Well, that kind of freaks me out a little bit.” But before you bristle at that idea, consider this: Everyone is yoked to something or someone in some way. The question is who or what do you want to be yoked to?
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” When I think of a yoke, I don’t think of something that is light. But a better translation of “easy to bear” would be “well-fitting.” The carpenter would custom-design the yoke for the animal that would use it. And in the same way, when God gives you this yoke in which you are committed to him and submitted to him, it is not taxing.
Some people say, “The Christian life is a drag. It is just a bunch of rules and regulations. I don’t like to live by the commands of God.”
But my question for them is, “Which ones are you struggling with? Are you bothered by the fact that you can’t steal, kill, lie and murder people? Was that something you would have done otherwise?” God’s commandments make sense when we stop and think about them.
We can look at the commandments of God and say they are constraining and make life miserable. Or, we can see them for what they are: a barrier of protection. The Bible says that his commandments are not burdensome (see 1 John 5:3).
So when we are burdened, when we are overwhelmed with worries, when we are feeling as though we are being dragged through life, we need to come to Jesus. There really is nowhere else to go. Jesus did not say that when you are burdened or overwhelmed, you should go to counseling or go read a book or even go to church, although these things are good. Ultimately, the answer is to go to Jesus.
Yet modern culture would say something different. It would say that if you can just get that promotion, if you can just get that house, if you can just take that vacation, then you will find rest. Materialism would say, “Build it up, and you will find rest.” Pleasure mania would say, “Live it up, and you will find rest.” Religion would say, “Keep it up, and you will find rest.”
But Jesus says, “Come to me, and you will find rest.”