It may the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. ~Bob Dylan
A few years ago there was an article about what is destroying family life in America. The article was not about violence or infidelity or drugs or education problems. It’s just that people are too busy, that we live this frantic, soul-depleting pace of life, and it’s driving us all crazy.
The obvious question that it raises is, “Why do we all do that?” Nobody plans on being burnt out, nobody graduates from school and says, “I want to sign up for a life of chronic fatigue and exhaustion and depression,” but it happens all the time.
John Ortberg writes,
The American devotional writer Lettie Cowman wrote about a traveler visiting Africa and engaging a group of carriers and guides. Hoping to make her journey a swift one, she was pleased with the progress of the many miles they covered that first day. On the second day, though, all the carriers she had hired remained seated and refused to move. She was greatly frustrated and asked the leader of her hired hands why they would not continue the journey. He told her that on the first day they had traveled too far too fast, and now they were waiting for their souls to catch up to their bodies.
Cowman reflects, “This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what the first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: they knew what they needed to restore life’s balance; too often we do not.”
Have you ever felt that you needed the time and space to let your soul catch up with your body? That’s a good indication your soul needs rest.
Ortberg, John (2014-04-22). Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You (p. 130). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Jesus has an invitation for you.
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… (Matthew 11:28-29a)
Doesn’t that strike you as kind of an odd thing to offer tired people? A yoke? An instrument of burden? He doesn’t say, “Take my orthopedic mattress, or take my Bob’s Barcolounger. He says, “Take my yoke.” Why does He do that?
The word “yoke” is used over 50 times in the Bible. Almost always it involves a picture of being in submission to someone or something.
“Bow your neck under the yoke of the King of Babylon. Serve him and his people.” Jeremiah 7:12
“…Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…” Gal 5:1
Here’s the deal about yokes. Everybody wears a yoke and Jesus knew this. A yoke is whatever cause or dream or goal you hook your life up to; whatever you submit your life to. Dylan was right—everybody’s gonna serve somebody.
We all submit our lives to something. It might be your job. It might be your marriage. It might be what some other people are thinking about you. And every yoke besides Jesus has a way of turning into slavery, and it will ultimately crush you. And so Jesus says, “Take my yoke on you. Take my way of life on you. And if you dare to do that—if you trust me with your time—you will find rest for your souls.”
In 2000 years, Jesus has never led anyone into exhaustion or discouragement.
He really does have an answer to the insanity that is around us.
One day Jesus was preaching to a large crowd and, perhaps, a flock of birds flew overhead and he said,
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt 6:26
Jesus is saying, “Give up the illusion that you are in control of anything. Stop living as if you have to look out for yourself, because there’s nobody else looking out for you. Someone is watching out for you.”
The birds don’t sow or reap. They have very limited time-management skills. Birds are not very employable, not very ambitious, but almost never do you see a bird with real high blood pressure, or colitis, or that’s obsessing over how NASDAQ is doing. They just kind of trust that when they need a worm, it’ll be there . . . that when they need a berry, it’ll be there.
But Jesus says that when that happens, it’s no accident. He says: “Your heavenly father feeds them.”
Jesus would look at birds and it would make him think about how good God was being. God never gets tired of taking care of all those little creatures. They don’t sow or reap. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to sow or reap – not a bad thing to work hard at your career. But it is a mistake to think that your security is safe in what you might be able to sow or reap.
I live in a part of the world that’s full of people who are really good at sowing and reaping and toiling and spinning. Then one day, the market collapses, or their heart fails, or their marriage disintegrates, or a child grows up and they realize that they had one shot at being a mom and dad, and they blew it and couldn’t get it back. Or a soul gets cold and small and self-centered and doesn’t even know it. And all they are left with is a lifetime of toiling and spinning that is real impressive and applauded and successful—only empty.
“Toil and spin,” Jesus says “but don’t let it be your yoke.” Don’t invest the totality of your life on it. And if it’s getting in the way of what really matters, if it’s keeping you from praying, if it puts hurt in your family, if it’s an excuse to keep you from serving, if it’s making your soul get small, if it’s keeping you up at night worrying, then it’s time to learn something the birds already know:
Trust the One who made you to care for you.
A man couldn’t sleep and he kept tossing and turning because the cares of this world were swirling in his brain when a distant voice from the darkness said, “Jim, why don’t you toss those cares up here to me and get some sleep? No use both of us staying up all night”
You think about that.