Laying Down My Heavy Yoke

Matthew 11:28-30,“Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden, 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 soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Early in my life, I was impacted by physical and verbal abuse that left me with deep feelings of shame and insecurity. I believed and lived with a mindset that “I wasn’t enough.” This belief became an oppressive yoke that steered me away from God’s presence. This stronghold of thought blurred my vision of God’s affection for me. And, yoked to this powerful lie I could not hear the life-giving words of God to free me from this bondage.

The yoke that I carried for years was formed by my stepfather’s terrifying abuse and the trauma I suffered from that abuse. This mindset that “I wasn’t enough” came upon me by absorbing every criticism, disappointment, humiliating and distorted word, every negative judgment and physical blow directed towards me by my stepfather. His voice shaped within me a belief that I was worthless. Through his disrespect, abuse, and abandonment I took on the yoke of my family dysfunction.

Yoked to my stepfathers’ rejection and my misguided thinking of “I wasn’t enough” I could not enter into the rest that Jesus invites us to enter. Yoked to cognitive distortions my mind convinced me of something that wasn’t really true. “God doesn’t love me, He is angry and disappointed with me because I haven’t been a very good Christian.” These inaccurate thoughts were used by me to reinforce my negative thinking and emotions — telling myself things that sounded rational and accurate, but really only served to keep me feeling bad about myself and distant from God.

Now for those of us that grew up and were formed by the unhealthy dynamics of our parents and maybe even our siblings, we’ve lived for years without any conscious knowledge that the yoke exists. Yet, these yokes have placed upon us tremendous pressure without our knowing how or why.

These yokes exert powerful control over how we move, act, see and interpret our lives. The yoke of “I wasn’t enough” paralyzed me from ever taking any risks. I easily gave up when challenged to grow as a person to become all that I could be. I was easily overwhelmed because of this yoke and felt like a helpless little boy even though I was an adult. So you see, heavy yokes can determine our sense of identity and our understanding of life.

I had accepted this heavy yoke and believed this is “just the way I am.” For others, you believe that this is “just the way your life turned out” and you’ve accepted it.

Jim Koch a local therapist says: “Dysfunctional yokes have one thing in common; they distort the truth and therefore distort our thinking and actions.” He goes onto say, “Dysfunctional yokes are crazy-making, robbing us from the joy of experiencing what God intended for us.”

Jesus’ invitation in the gospel of Matthew is a call to all who are weary, burdened and heavy-laden to come to Him. Jesus is calling out to these people and saying, “Come here to me.” Such a call involves admitting that we are under a heavy yoke that it is wearing us out.

Jesus says that His yoke is easy and it is a remedy to our weariness and burdens. It is a solution to our negative mindsets that lead us away from His presence. As we take on his yoke we will learn from Him our true identities, discover our gifts, and our purpose in life from His perspective. Jesus wants us to see our lives as He sees it. Yoked to Jesus hope is awakened, renewed and we begin to get free of the weight of our heavy yoke.

To take the yoke of Christ is to enter his school where we learn how to become his disciple and to see him not only as our Savior but also as our Lord and Teacher. It is the way of freedom because the burden we lose when we come to Christ is heavy and in exchange, we receive His promised yoke that is easy and light. This easy yoke allows us to pull more comfortably and effectively and gives rest to our soul.

If we are honest, we all probably could agree we are all yoked to something or to someone. Anxiety, abandonment, shame, perfectionism, self-condemnation, uncertainty, a love of money, work, the need to control, anger, bitterness, an addiction, a religious spirit, unforgiveness, or rejection. These yokes are wearing us out and this is why some of us are exhausted, lack motivation and always feel weary.

The yoke that is common to our valley is often referred to as high-functioning anxiety. This is that voice in the back of your head that says, “Something bad is going to happen.” It is what keeps you awake at 3 A.M thinking about something you didn’t do on a work project or could’ve done better. This yoke does not allow us to see anything clearly so we find it difficult to focus on reality because we are wrestling with “imagined” problems. Excessive fear, worry and nervousness prevent you from getting any rest that is restorative.

Outwardly you appear to have it together. You might even be quite successful in your job. Your co-workers view you as the reliable one but your anxiety is what drives your constant “over prepared for anything” mentality.  In the midst of this anxiety, you may have learned how to compartmentalize your emotions.

This anxiety disrupts your Vine-branch union with Jesus and your broken attachment to a yoke of anxiety has left you feeling forsaken by God. Apart from that union you can do nothing but introspect in unhealthy ways how God does not care about you.

Eventually, this heavy yoke destroys one’s emotional health, intimate relationships with others, and closeness with God.

My healing began as I acknowledged that I had a heavy yoke that distanced me from God’s presence. Over the next three to four years God brought transformation through  “renewing my mind.” His truth that entered into me in a variety of ways broke the yoke and the bondage it brought into my life. That truth helped me to challenge the cognitive distortions within and empowered me to stand in new ways as a whole enough person.

Jesus yoke connects us with all that brings life from Him. His yoke is intended to help us, not to hurt us or overburden us. Jesus yoke is not oppressive or overpowering.

If you understand what I have been talking about, then Jesus, hopefully, has revealed Himself to you as a yoke that is easy and gives rest.

Jesus invitation to you is “Come.” It will require you to step out in a different direction. Will you exchange your exhausting yoke and burden of doing things your own way or according to some religious system for the yoke of learning of Him, of doing things His way? His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The reward is His rest.

Thank you to Jim Koch for his great teachings on “Breaking to Yoke of Family Dysfunction.”

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