[This is a guest post by Ricky Alcantar.]
Every year around this time I build myself a yoke.
Yes, I mean the kind of “yoke” you put on a cow and use to plow a field wearing a homemade straw hat. Some years I spend a lot of time on it but other years I just sort of throw it together in a few minutes. Then, when it’s done, I put it on and start plowing.
I build my yoke out of past failures in the last year and future hopes for the next. It’s a yoke of my own making where success equals happiness, comfort, peace, and security. It’s a yoke where failure equals despair and paralyzing regret and it weighs me down with each successive failure.
In Matthew Jesus offers us a yoke, but a completely different kind of yoke: “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.” (Matt 11:28-29)
What makes this yoke different? And how can it possibly be so light? It’s a gospel yoke.
We take this yoke up not to atone for our past sins and failures but because Jesus has atoned for our all or past sins and failures.
We take this yoke up not in order to earn God’s favor or to finally achieve happiness, comfort, peace or security, but because Jesus is our happiness, comfort, peace, and security.
This means that putting on Jesus’ yoke should feel impossibly light. And Jesus himself provides the power for us to take up the yoke (Phil 4:13). He never grows weary, he never gets short of breath, he’ll never leave us, he never fails.
Reviewing the past year is a good thing. Making plans for the future is a good thing. But let’s not allow these things to become a system of atonement or a search for fulfillment. Instead, let’s run to Jesus and find freedom in him. And then let’s allow that freedom to free us to run hard after good things in this next year.