A song by Plumb caught my attention for this week’s edition of the iPod Devotionals. Singer Tiffany Arbuckle adopted the name of her 90’s alternative rock band Plumb for her solo career. The lyrics to “Need You Now” touched my heart.
Well, everybody's got a story to tell
And everybody's got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there's beauty here
'Cause oh I get so tired of holding on
I can't let go, I can't move on
I want to believe there's meaning here
I am learning how important community is to make this journey with Jesus work. In my community I hear people’s stories. I learn about their wounds. I believe there is beauty there but I grieve with them through the process. The chorus reflects my response to life battles that are way beyond my pay grade.
How many times have you heard me cry out
"God please take this"?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh, I need you
God, I need you now.
Jesus talked about how we limit our freedom by not trusting what He said to be true. He talked about a yoke and that His yoke was “easy”. 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.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NLT)
You don’t have to ride the life roller coaster more than a couple of times to know that this journey is not “easy”. As I thought about loss I have suffered in my life and the suffering I see around me I was puzzled. What did Jesus mean by that statement? Clearly the burdens of life are heavy. There is nothing easy about heartache. A little research into the cultural context was helpful.
The yoke was a wooden beam that harnessed two oxen together to pull a plow or load. The idea was that they worked together in shared effort. That idea fit well into my performance driven faith. Jesus was with me but I had to pull my weight equally. The only problem with my view is that it was untrue, dangerous and from the pit of hell.
The truth is that Jesus was talking about the yoke of Torah, the yoke of the Law, which would have been familiar to his Jewish listeners. The Old Testament yoke represented submission to authority. The Jews knew that the law was impossible to keep. The key came in the often overlooked offer.
“Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart.”
For years I strained to pull my weight by determined self-effort while Jesus quietly offered a better way.
“Let me teach you.”
I wore myself out trying to do more to please Him even as He whispered.
“I am humble and gentle at heart. Your trust and faith pleases me”.
Members of this agrarian culture likely would have known that a young ox would be paired with an experienced ox for training. The mature ox would carry the bulk of the burden as the younger one walked by his side and learned. That is a beautiful image of Jesus walking side by side with me but carrying the bulk of the burden (if not all) as I learn from Him. That is the picture that Christ is painting. Not a straining effort to please but a submission to His provision and protection. Jesus is offering those who are exhausted and buckling under life’s burdens a way to not go it alone. That was a comforting thought as I considered that pain and loss is a given. I don’t have to go it alone. I can find rest for my soul even as I grieve.
Pastor and author John Stott writes beautifully about how seemingly contradictory truths fit together.
“The way to find rest is to lose our burden at the cross and allow Christ to put his burden and yoke upon us instead. Freedom is not found in discarding the yoke of Christ; it's found in losing our own burden. It's not found in discarding his authority; it's an amazing truth that freedom is found under the yoke of Christ. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life: under his yoke we find rest; through service we find freedom; when we lose ourselves in loving, we find ourselves; when we die to our self-centeredness, we begin to live.”
And that is my heart’s cry today.
Lord I need you.