When Following Jesus is Hard
Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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.’
Friends, today I started to write about things I struggle with in following Jesus. And then these words from the book of Matthew came to me as a gentle rebuke.
According to Jesus, following Him is for the weary and those that are oppressed by heavy burdens. It’s for those who feel exhausted or like they’ve been walking around with a 200 pound backpack on for days. The benefit in following Jesus? He’ll give you rest.
Here’s what Jesus asks: Take my yoke upon you. For those of you who aren’t as agriculturally inclined as I am (ahem), a yoke is instrument you put on two animals to cause them to pull something together. Regularly an older ox would be “yoked” to a younger ox to teach them how to pull. And so the picture here is that we are to take a yoke on ourselves that ties us to Jesus. He teaches us how to handle the issues of life.
And His promise is this: “You will find rest for your souls.” Every single day in the market place I see people with no rest for their souls. It’s a reality that is available to everyone but so few find it. Friends, we can live with our souls at rest. It’s a promise of Jesus.
The catch (and where I suspect most Christians get this verse wrong) is the rest that Jesus gives is the rest as we learn from Him. Jesus says this, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart.” This phrase is sandwiched between “take my yoke” and “you will find rest.” And it’s here that I think we lose so much of the rest for our souls. At least I do.
Many times following Jesus would be easy, but it’s hard because I’m not humble and gentle at heart. And it’s this place where I get stuck. If I don’t care how I’m perceived, whether people deserve how I’m treating them, and just follow the Father, then following Jesus is easy. But when I care about the lesser things, when I care about me, when my attention is wrapped up in something else besides Jesus, following Him is hard.
Why is following Jesus hard for us, when Jesus’ word says that it shouldn’t be? It’s because somewhere along the way we need to learn from Jesus’ example of humility and gentleness. So the next time you find yourself thinking following Jesus is hard, ask yourself, “Where have I picked up extra things in my life, especially as it relates to pride?”
While it’s not an easy question to answer, the rest for your soul will be worth it.