God Exchanges our Burdens for His Peace
This week we’ll spend time simply stirring up our affections for God. God has designed us to see him, to know his character and to let the truth of his goodness lead us into deeper relationship with him. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” In seeing God for who he is, our hearts are naturally stirred to find rest in his goodness. May your heart be stirred at the revelation of God’s wonderful character.
Scripture:“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Scripture describes a great exchange of our burdens for the peace of God. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You have a God who loves you so much that he offers to take your burdens off your own shoulders, place them on his, and give you peace in return. Where does your life feel heavy? Where do you feel buried under the burdens of the world? God offers you his peace today if you will take some time to align yourself with him and “yoke” yourself to the teaching of Jesus.
In Matthew 11, Jesus presents us with an image of two animals sharing the burden of work together. The point Jesus is making here is in reference to coming under his teaching. He asks us, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He isn’t asking us simply to cast our burdens on him, but also to humble ourselves and submit to his teaching. If we are willing to come underneath him as our Teacher, then we no longer carry the burden of figuring out life on our own. And in freedom we are able to live life under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.
Do you ever feel alone in what you’re doing? Do you ever feel like peace is an unobtainable goal, blocked by layer upon layer of work you need to get through first? God’s plan is different than the world’s plan. The world says you can only have peace when you’ve completed the job, become the best, or gained the approval of man. God tells you to stop working in your own strength, yoke yourself to his teaching, and rid yourself of all the stress and pressure of the world. 1 Peter 5:7 says “[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” You have a God who cares about you. Your God is for you. He knows society tells you to work for and care about certain things, but he offers you the refuge of his peace instead.
You serve a God who doesn’t want you to live even one day burdened. Every day, you can wake up and choose to yoke yourself to your heavenly Father and his word. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Align your mind with what he says about you—casting off every opinion other than his. Align your day with the leading of God’s Spirit, and receive the anointing and power he longs to bring into every situation.
God says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If you will choose God today over the way you’ve done things in the past, if you will choose to obey his word, then “you will find rest for your souls.” What area of your life needs rest today? In what parts of your heart do you need God’s peace and ease? He’s waiting right now to meet with you, to offer you his yoke. Let him take your burdens, fears, and stress. Our fragile frame wasn’t meant to bear such pressure. Come underneath God’s teaching today, align your thinking with his, and let the cares of the world fall off as you live in light of the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus’ compassion is displayed repeatedly throughout the Gospel accounts, and in today’s passage, He shows loving concern by inviting us to come to Him for relief. Is there anything more needed in this world than the feeling of being set free from whatever is weighing us down?
Jesus invites us to come, take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him. At first glance, a yoke may sound like an additional burden, but to understand what Jesus means, we must look at these verses from their historical context. A yoke was a bar that fit over the neck and shoulders of two animals. When a heavy load had to be transported, two oxen were yoked together, thereby distributing the weight evenly between them.
What our Lord is describing is a lifelong process that encompasses coming to Him for salvation and learning to know Him—His perfect character, His priorities for life, and His plans for us and the world. Jesus is asking us to place ourselves under the yoke of His lordship. He promises that a life of submission will fit us well and provide relief.
Our Savior offers to be with us in every trial we face. Sometimes He removes the difficulties that weigh us down, while at other times, He lifts the burdensome feelings that accompany our trials. But there will be occasions when He walks with us through the hardships and suffering, giving us the grace and strength to endure. Even then we will discover that His yoke is easy and His burden is light because His compassion and mighty power carry us through.
Deep soul weariness: We all experience it, though in different ways and for different reasons.
Sometimes we can point to a significant factor, but often we can’t. Our weariness results from the cumulative, multilayered intersections of life’s complexities, bodily frailties, emotional heartbreaks, and the consequences of sin. It surpasses understanding.
Because our burdens are not simple, they are not relieved by simplistic platitudes (“Cheer up! Things are bound to turn around!”). But a simple promise can relieve a complex burden, provided we believe that the power behind the promise is complex and strong enough to relieve our heaviness.
And into our weariness steps the most complex power in existence speaking a promise as simple, hopeful, and refreshing as we could possibly want:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
Come to Me
The simplicity of Jesus’s promise is both striking and refreshing. Jesus doesn’t offer us a four-fold path to peace-giving enlightenment, like the Buddha did. He doesn’t give us five pillars of peace through submission as Islam does. Nor does he give us “10 Ways to Relieve Your Weariness,” which we pragmatic, self-help-oriented 21st century Americans are so drawn to. Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.
“Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.”
And his simple promise is audacious: “Come to me.” The only way that this isn’t megalomaniacal lunacy is if Jesus is who he claims to be: the eternal Word made flesh, our Creator (John 1:1–3, 14; John 8:58; Hebrews 1:1–3). His simple promise implies a power behind it more than sufficient to lift what weighs us down.
What does coming to Jesus mean? When we read the context of this promise (Matthew 11–12), his meaning becomes clear. In his rebuke of the cities (Matthew 11:20–24) and religious leaders (Matthew 12:1–8) that saw firsthand his miraculous works, so clearly demonstrating who he was (John 5:36), and still refused to believe in him, we know that when Jesus said, “come to me,” he meant, “believe in who I claim to be and therefore what I am able to do for you.”
And here is where our burdened souls are tested. Will we believe in him; will we trust him? We want to rest our souls on the knowledge of how and when our burdensome problems will be addressed. But Jesus does not provide those details. He simply promises us that they will be addressed.
Jesus does not want our souls resting on the how and when, as if we are wise enough to understand and determine them. Rather he wants our souls resting on the surety that he will keep his promise to us in the best way at the best time. “Come to me,” he says, “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (see 1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (see Proverbs 3:5), he says, “and you will find rest for your souls.”
Rest for Your Souls
Our souls only find rest in hope. That’s what we’re frantically looking for whenever our souls are burdened and restless: hope. And that’s what most of the marketing of most of the products in the world tries to offer us: hope. But they are false hopes for soul-rest, providing only temporary distraction from or briefly masking the effects of our burdened souls. They don’t truly lighten our loads.
“Jesus is the one answer to every question, concern, fear, and need we will ever have.
No, our burdened souls only truly find rest in one place:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5-7)
Jesus knows that he only is our salvation, our fortress, our mighty rock, our refuge. He is the one answer to every question, concern, fear, and need we will ever have. And so he simply and comprehensively offers us himself. For our hope is from him. Only in him will we find rest for our souls.
Take My Yoke and Learn from Me
But if what he promises us is rest, why does he tell us to put on his yoke? A yoke is placed on a beast of burden in order to do some work. Is Jesus offering us rest or work?
That is precisely the question Jesus wants us to ask: What work must we do for him that supposedly will give us rest?
Jesus answered this question in John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” And he answered it in John 15:4: “Abide in me” (like a branch in a vine). Believe and abide: that really is all the work God requires of us. Faith (believing and abiding) is resting on the hopeful promises of God. That is the yoke Jesus calls us to put on.
And what is happening here is a yoke-exchange. In the cross, Jesus takes our inconceivably and unbearably heavy yoke of sin’s condemnation and penalty, and offers us in exchange the easy yoke and light burden of simply trusting him. He does all the work and gives us all the rest. And his work not only fully addresses our sin problem, but also provides the supply of every other need we will ever have (Philippians 4:19). All we are required to do is trust him!
And if that wasn’t enough, in becoming human and dwelling among us, Jesus makes it possible for us to learn from him how to live by faith. That’s why the author of Hebrews tell us to,
[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Believe, abide, and follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). That’s the light yoke Jesus calls us to put on. It is the only yoke in existence that gives us rest for our souls.
Let’s Come to Jesus Together
Jesus’s great invitation for us to come to him, exchange yokes, and find rest is not intended for us to do in isolation. He intends for us to come to him in community, to come together. That’s one massive reason the church exists.
“Believe, abide, and follow Jesus’s example. And you will find rest for your soul.”
We all bear burdens and become weary, but in different ways, for different reasons, and often at different times. When we are weary, we are easily discouraged and can be given to cynical unbelief. In those moments we are often not the best preachers for our souls. We need others to speak truth to us and help us believe in Jesus.
That’s why we are not to neglect “to meet together, as is the habit of some, but [to keep on] encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25). We are to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
So if you are weary, for whatever reason, however complex, Jesus invites you to come. Come, take his light yoke of believing in him. And if it’s hard, don’t come alone. Come to Jesus with and through a believing friend. Believe, abide, and follow Jesus’s example. And you will find rest for your soul.