“Come to me, all 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, NIV, emphasis added
Early in my life, I experienced physical and verbal abuse from my stepfather that gave me deep shame and insecurity. I believed and lived with the mindset that I wasn’t enough. This belief became an oppressive yoke that steered me away from God’s presence and blurred my vision of God’s affection for me. I could not hear God’s life-giving words to free me from this bondage.
I had absorbed every criticism, disappointment, humiliating and distorted word, every negative judgment, and each physical blow directed toward me by my stepfather. His voice shaped my belief that I was worthless. Through his disrespect, abuse, and abandonment, I took on the yoke of my family dysfunction.
Copyright: lakhesis / 123RF Stock Photo
Yoked to my stepfather’s rejection and my misguided idea of worthlessness, I could not enter into Jesus’ rest. I was convinced of things that weren’t really true. God doesn’t love me. He is angry and disappointed with me because I haven’t been a very good Christian.
These inaccurate thoughts reinforced my negative thinking and emotions. I believed these thoughts were rational and accurate, but they kept me feeling bad about myself and distant from God.
Those of us who were formed by the unhealthy dynamics of our parents and even our siblings may live for years without any conscious knowledge that this yoke exists. Yet it places tremendous pressure on us without our knowing how or why, controlling how we move, act, see and interpret our lives.
The belief that I wasn’t enough kept me from taking any risks. I easily gave up when challenged to grow as a person. I was easily overwhelmed and felt like a helpless little boy even when I was an adult. My heavy yoke determined my sense of identity. I thought I was stuck being this way.
Jim Koch, a local therapist I know, says, “Dysfunctional yokes have one thing in common; they distort the truth and therefore distort our thinking and actions. Dysfunctional yokes are crazy-making, robbing us from the joy of experiencing what God intended for us."
Jesus’ invitation in the gospel of Matthew is a call to all who are weary, burdened, and heavy-laden. Jesus is calling out to these people and saying, “Come here to me.”
But first we have to admit we are under a heavy yoke that it is tiring us out.
Jesus says his yoke is easy. It remedies our weariness and burdens, and addresses our negative mindsets. As we take on his yoke, we learn our true identities, discover our gifts, and find the purpose in life he intends for us.
Jesus wants us to see our lives as he sees them. Yoked to Jesus, I find that hope is awakened, renewed.
When we take the yoke of Christ, we enter his school to learn how to become his disciple and see him not only as our Savior, but also as our Lord and teacher. This leads to freedom because we release the heavy burdens when we come to Christ. The easy yoke gives rest to our souls.
If we are honest, we could agree we are all yoked to something or someone. Anxiety, abandonment, shame, perfectionism, self-condemnation, uncertainty, love of money, work, control, anger, bitterness, an addiction, a religious spirit, unforgiveness, or rejection. These yokes are wearing us out. This is why some of us are exhausted and lack motivation.
The yoke that is common in Silicon Valley is often referred to as high-functioning anxiety. It’s that voice in the back of ours head that says, “Something bad is going to happen.” It keeps us awake at 3 a.m., thinking about something we didn’t do or could’ve done better. We find it difficult to focus on reality because we are wrestling with imagined problems. Excessive fear and worry prevent us from getting any rest that is restorative.
We may appear to have it together and even be quite successful. But this anxiety disrupts our vine-branch union with Jesus and left us feeling forsaken by God.
My healing began when I acknowledged the heavy yoke I was carrying. I asked God to forgive me for bearing my burdens on my own, and he began to ease my burden. Over the next few years, God brought transformation through the renewing of my mind. His truth of “You are enough” gave me a new view of myself. This empowered me to stand in new ways as a whole enough person.
Jesus’ yoke connects us with all that brings life from him. His yoke is intended to help us, not to hurt or overburden us. Hopefully you have experienced his yoke as easy and restful.
Jesus’ invitation to us is “Come.” It requires us to exchange our exhausting yoke and doing things our own way for the yoke of learning from him and doing things his way.
His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. The reward is his rest.
David Alvarez was the pastor of healing and prayer at The River Church Community for fifteen years. During his tenure, he created an 11-week program called The Healing Path, which focused on healing past relational and emotional wounds that impact the way we relate in the present. Recently he launched the regional The Healing Path Ministries, training and equipping churches to run The Healing Path program.
David has spoken nationally and internationally on healing the father wound, overcoming shame, and accepting ourselves. Check out David’s blog for further insights into his life story and thoughts.