Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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
Whenever I hear these words, I have an almost physical reaction to it; I can feel the weight falling off my shoulders as my chest opens up, I breath more deeply, I feel calm and at peace. This verse is possibly one of my favorite verses because it promises so much. I love it because it frees me from obligations and worries and tells me that I don’t have to carry anything on my own. I love that it upends my notion of what a burden is—it removes the crushing burden full of all the things the world has thrown at me and replaces it with a lightness, a freedom, a lifting up of my body and soul. It turns my burdens into joys.
In this verse, all that is asked of me, of all of us is to come: “come to me, all you who feel overwhelmed by expectations and responsibilities, come to me all you who are lost and don’t know what to do or where to go next, come to me all you who are drowning in homesickness, come to me all you who can’t find a minute to yourselves, come to me all you who are paralyzed by debt, come to me all you who see the world through shades of guilt and regret. Come to me and I will give you rest—I will give you a space free of worry and doubt and fear; a space that you can fall into, a space that will not only give you rest for your body, but rest for your soul.”
I love this verse because the freedom it offers has nothing to do with what I do—it’s all God. I can’t get rid of my burdens by being the best or working hard or anything else of my own merit; I get rid of my burdens because God frees me from the weight.
And I am fascinated by how this verse retains the language of the world to describe something of God: it still describes God as putting a yoke upon me, of laying a burden on my shoulders. But the yoke does not bite into my shoulders, the burden does not bow my head and press me down into the earth. It is a yoke of refreshment, a burden of rest. It is so much more than anything I deserve, but God offers it to me freely, gently, humbly.
This verse rises up and reminds me that I don’t have to carry this weight on my own. In fact, I can’t carry this weight on my own. This verse reminds me to lay down my worries, my fears, my vulnerabilities, to stop clinging to the things dragging me down. This verse reminds me to fall into Sabbath, into rest, into the easy yoke and the light burdens of our God, who is gentle and humble of heart. This verse gives me rest.