Last Sunday the speakers during Sacrament Meeting used Matthew 11:28-30 as the basis for a talk. Then in Gospel Doctrine the teacher referenced the same scripture. Yesterday I was reading the Ensign and the same scripture jumped out at me. Today during General Conference at least two talks quoted the scripture. I think maybe I’m supposed to pay attention to this scripture.
“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.”
My first thought about this scripture is a familiar one. I’ve pondered many times on the two possible definitions for the word “light.” Both fit the scripture because the burden of Christ is not weighty and it fills our lives with brightness. Brightness is not always easy and so could be considered a burden I suppose.
The second thought I have, is to ponder upon what it means to be yoked. When two oxen are yoked together, they can pull a much heavier burden than one ox can pull alone. This is probably why marriage is such a prominent part of the plan of salvation. We yoke ourselves together so that we can pull much more than we would have believed. A good marriage, like a good oxen team, moves in step. Each one knows instinctively what the other is likely to do and so anticipates, to make the pulling easier. There are disadvantages to being yoked. Oxen who are yoked together have much less freedom of moment than a solo ox. All decisions have to be made with reference to how it will affect the other person and the marriage team. If one ox stumbles, the other is pulled off balance and can even be injured by the sudden yank on the yoke. This does not mean that the yoke is bad.
The third thought was actually given by one of the speakers who used this scripture. This scripture particularly talks about being yoked with Christ. Our lives are filled with responsibilities that are heavy. Some of them are too heavy for us to carry alone. Anguish comes when a burden is too heavy to carry, and yet the consequences of abandoning the burden cannot be borne. Raising a child is like that. No matter how hard or painful parenting can be, we cannot abandon the post. But this scripture gives us another option. We do not have to pull alone. Instead we can relinquish a little of what seems like freedom, to take upon us the yoke of Christ. When we do, we find our burdens redistributed in a way that makes them bearable and somehow the lion’s share of the carrying is done by Christ. He gives us peace and rest where we thought none was possible.
Handing a burden to Christ requires faith and trust. Because for him to really bear the burden we must be wearing that yoke and letting him lead us where he wants us to go. Where Christ wants us to go may be very different from the plans we had for ourselves. Being open to the possibility of a different future than the one you had envisioned is very difficult. I know that more than once I have clutched my burdens and groaned under their weight because I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to choose my own path. I was afraid I would have to give up something I enjoyed or loved. I was afraid that I would have to change. Yet every time I have put on the yoke and followed, I have ended up in a place that was even better than the one I had envisioned. Trust is hard. Faith is hard. It is frightening to walk blindly into a future you cannot see the end of. But every time I have done it my life has grown wider and more beautiful.
Then why is it still so hard to take on that yoke and follow? You’d think I would have learned this by now.
In several iterations this past week Matthew 11:28-30 was paired with Ether 12:27 “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Weak things become strong. But before that promise can be fulfilled we must put for the very best effort we have. I’m reminded of the story of the man whose master told him to push against a huge rock. The man pushed every day for a year and then went lamenting to his master that he had failed, the rock had not moved. The master answered that he never wanted the rock moved, he just wanted the man strengthened by the pushing. The man was now strong enough to manage other tasks which would previously have been beyond his capabilities. Muscles become strong when we strain them as hard as we can. We do not realize that they are becoming strong because as our strength increases, so do the challenges. Christ does not instantly provide strength where there was none. Instead we struggle and fight until one day we look back and realize that somehow, somewhere what was once weak became strong.
Ah, but where this connects to the previous scripture is that if we are yoked with Christ we will be working on the right weakness. Sometimes we are focused on the wrong weakness. Many men want to have impressive chest muscles, so they do chest exercises. But as the muscles on the chest grow strong they begin to pull the shoulders forward into a hunched shape. Trying to fix the problem, men do even more chest exercises. But no amount of chest exercise will pull those shoulders back. In order to straighten those shoulders, the back muscles have to be strong. When we wear the yoke of Christ he will lead us to where the problem really lies and teach us what to do. In our ignorance we pull against the yoke and struggle to get to the problem we can see. But if we trust Christ, He will help us to solve the problem that we can not see, the problem we didn’t even know was there.