Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
These verses were my key verses MOTTO for my Epicopacy in Antsiranana Diocese when I was Bishop in Madagascar from 2003 to 2010 . I then had a severe stroke which paralysed my right side of my body and I obligingly resigned as Bishop as I became handicapped . Yet my frail faith in God was challenged as major physical accidents always put our faith to test . Some people lose their faith in God !
But my faith in God’s healing of my body , soul and Spirit became even more profound and fulfilling . This is my 8th year of my stroke and I thank God as the Holy Spirit continues to inspire , guide and empower me as I move forward in my discipleship journey .
So the MOTTO verse became more real and faith – energising for me … The yoke ( french- joug ) of my handicap coupled with the yoke of the blessings as Jesus Christ partners with carrying of my my burdens , God makes my life journey bearable and even more exciting and enlightening. I should have been depressed , stressed and discouraged ..but God’s Holy Words are True and Eternal as Jesus declares : I am the Way , the Truth and the Life .
A yoke is a fitting for a so-called beast of burden that would be placed around the neck of one or more animals like an ox for example. This fitting was placed around the neck in order to allow the animal or animals for the purpose of pulling loads and typically consisted of a curved piece of wood with leather straps as a binding which would allow them to draw a plough or a cart or any other type of weight. Sometimes a yoke would be symbolic of being in captivity or under slavery or bondage like in Leviticus 26:13 when God said “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.”
Jesus once used the word yoke in a very special way saying “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29) but what did He mean by this? In the context of this Jesus had preceded this statement by saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28) so He was talking about the fact that only He can give us rest from the heavy burdens and sorrows that this world can sometimes bring. We can rest in the fact that as a yoke does with animals, our load is shared and becomes less burdensome with Him. That’s why He concluded by saying “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). Maybe you’ve heard the phrase that a joy shared is doubled but a burden shared is halved. This is the idea of taking upon us the yoke that Jesus provides and we can learn from Him and that should give us “rest for our souls.”
So we should not fear coming to Jesus especially when our life is in desperation or utter failure . He partners with us and we can find rest …ultimately ..a fresh start and transformation .
Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with love for you and for your ways and help me to exchange the yoke of rebellion for the yoke of submission to your holy and loving word. Set me free from the folly of my own sinful ignorance and rebellious pride that I may wholly desire what is good and in accord with your will.
Bp. Roger Chung Jaomalaza
Former Bishop of Madagascar