“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
For years my greatest angsts have come from my Christian service. On my mission, I distinctly remember being stressed of soul, more troubled than I had ever been previous to that time in my life, as I struggled to find the balance between my need to work and the need to have a harmonious relationship with my companion. As I saw it, I had taken upon myself Christ’s yoke and it was NOT easy. My soul was NOT at rest. In fact, it was the hardest thing I had ever done.
Similar angsts haunt me now. I feel the urgency of Christ’s plea to “Feed my sheep”, to invite all to come unto Him. I sincerely want to bring people unto Christ, to share the light and life that He offers. And my sincere desire torments me. How do I help my Young Women stop judging each other and just be nice? How do I help my neighbor look beyond her insecurities and trust the Lord? How do I share the good news of the gospel with my atheist colleague? How do I help my son gain a testimony of fasting and my husband act upon his testimony of home teaching? I don’t worry about me. I am all “in”; fully committed to doing His work. But the angst of trying to do His work is a burden that I do not find light and “at rest” is not the way I would describe my soul.
Clearly I have something to learn from the scripture in Matthew. At the suggestion of my good friend Rob, I decided to study yokes. What is a yoke and what does Christ’s invitation to take His yoke upon us mean? My studies brought several insights.
In the Bible yokes are a symbol of servitude. When Christ issued the invitation to take up His yoke, He was contrasting His teachings to those of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The servitude demanded by their doctrine was that of rigid, self-righteous law keeping, of unneeded ecclesiastical observances. In contrast Christ’s gospel was one of love, repentance, and faith. Christ’s invitation was to drop the burden of obedience to thousands of petty laws and to learn of Him, to rest from the unnecessary burden imposed by excessive rabbinical law and to live in love. Compared to the burden imposed by the Jewish leaders of the day, the burden on His path would be light and easy.
The yoke as a symbol of servitude is also applicable to sins and shortcomings. Unyoked with Christ, we must carry the weight of our imperfections and ineptitudes alone, a burden that is indeed heavy. When we yoke ourselves to Christ, He shoulders those burdens. For all who repent and follow Him, He will “blot out transgressions”, “take upon him the pain and sicknesses”, and “succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-13). Compared to suffering in solitude from sin and sickness, Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light.
In the physical work, yoke are tools. A tool does not eliminate work but it certainly makes work easier. As a tool, yokes make work easier; two oxen yoked together can do work that a single ox could not. When we are yoked with Christ, we work with Him and accomplish things impossible on our own. Our part in the harness is to be faithful and obey. His share is to effect the atonement and show us the way home. Following the analogy of oxen laboring together in a harness, Christ is like the older, wiser ox, carrying most of the burden while teaching and molding the younger ox (us). And, still following the analogy, as the younger ox works with the wiser ox, he becomes more like him just we become more like Christ by doing His work. Make no mistake. It is still work. The life of a Christian requires work and endurance; pain and suffering are not eliminated. The yoke, as a tool, does not eliminate the work but it does make the load light. The load is lighter both because Christ shoulders the greater burden and because, as we work with Him, we become more like Him and more capable of doing His work.
Yokes are tools that link. Yokes link oxen together. In the scriptures marriage is compared to a yoke. In marriage, a man and woman are yoked together, united, committed to each other. Married life is different from single life. Married people give up a measure of independence and they do so willing, even eagerly, for the chance to be yoked with someone they esteem to be wonderful. Being yoked to Christ is to create a union with Him. When I yoke myself with Christ I am His and He is mine. As a yoke mate with Christ, I have access to the peace and power of standing side-by-side with God. Wow.
So what? How does my study of yokes change my life? Bring rest to my soul? Make my burden light?
As far as servitude goes, I am “all in”. I am a student of Christ’s gospel of love and am fully committed to following Him. I give Him my sins, seek His solace in my suffering, and strive to stay on His path. I put myself in His service and prayerfully plead to be an instrument in His hands. I willingly, even eagerly, yoke myself to Christ.
It is my use of the yoke as a tool that needs refining. I am trying to do His work. Me. I. I am anxious because I am trying to do His work and doing the work is stressing me out. I have confused the work with the yoke. The work is discipleship, it is serving others and feeding His sheep and bringing people to Him. The yoke is working with Christ. I am stressed because I am trying to do His work without utilizing His yoke. The key to the yoke making the burden light is to use the yoke. Work with Him, not for Him. Christ and I are in the yoke together with God the Father as the teamster. Trust the Father. Work with the Son. Be the instrument in the Hand. Let the Lord be the Hand. Rest from the angst associated with trying to direct His work. Instead be nimble and precise in following His lead. As I follow His lead, yoked as a novice to a wise Master, learning from and of Him, I will find my soul rested and my burden light. Trusting Him makes His yoke easy.