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Written by Jen Mabray, author of When God Comes to Women.
No doubt you know that our Lord Jesus Christ was not a stranger to despair. Isaiah’s words echoed in G.F. Handel’s Messiah offer a chilling depiction of the humiliation and suffering of our Lord: “Surely, surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). For this reason alone, I believe He will never dismiss our cries, our feelings, or our needs and count them as insignificant.
Because of His experience and His eternal role, our Savior Jesus Christ beckons for you to come unto Him. He calls to you in the darkness, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are 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 ye will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30, NIV). To this end . . . I hope that hope is not lost.
The irony of the “yoke” passage has always held my attention. A yoke is a wooden shoulder-beam used to link oxen or work animals together as one. Although their power together is stronger than the power of one, each animal still carries a portion of the heavy burden. Christ tells us His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. This seems to suggest, then, that maybe the yoke of Christ is not equally balanced, as it must be when two oxen are yoked.
Why, when we feel we have no more to give, does He ask us to come unto Him? Are those not the times we need Him to come to us? It seems easy to arrive at the understanding that everything good takes effort. Parenting takes effort. Education takes effort. Gaining a testimony and witness of God takes effort. So too, coming to Christ to take His yoke upon us requires effort. My husband shared that when he was a teenager, he asked his mother how to help someone who no longer had any desire to do anything. Her answer remains with him today. She explained the importance of loving someone enough to walk with them, to lift their burden, and at times to literally put on their shoes and carry them until they have the strength to do for themselves what previously seemed impossible. The Savior loves us enough to walk with us, lift, us, and carry us, which is part of the blessing of taking His yoke upon us. But before we take His yoke, we have to come to Him.
With permission, I would like to share a small snippet of Sarah Frei’s story. On July 30, 2020, Sarah was hit by a drunk driver and had to undergo a double amputation of both of her legs at mid-thigh, and is now a T11 paraplegic. I have followed Sarah on social media throughout her hospital stay and parts of her recovery, and watched so many people do exactly what my husband’s mother said. Loving caretakers and family members literally walked for Sarah, lifted her, and carried her. On November 13, 2020, she was able to accomplish a monumental feat and sit up for the first time without help. When I talked with Sarah, she was bubbly and bright and testified, “I have come so close to the Savior throughout this experience.” Indeed she has come close to the Lord! She has worked so hard, and her strength and testimony are reaching thousands across the world through social media.
I mention Sarah’s story to draw a parallel between her ongoing recovery and coming unto Christ. He says to come unto Him, but for some that might feel truly impossible due to a lack in faith, trust, and even clarity of purpose. Sarah is now home with her family, but she needs consistent care from her doctors and physical therapists. Although doctors may call upon us from time to time in our homes, in America we tend to travel to the doctor, no matter our condition.
Despite her growing independence, just to go to the doctor requires many steps, including patience and hard work to sit up, balance, and safely scooch over into her wheelchair. In this parallel, the Savior is her doctor, and Sarah’s efforts to come to the doctor parallel the struggle required to come unto Jesus. Additionally, Sarah has to trust that the struggle to sit up to go to the doctor is worth it. Her trust in her doctor’s care mirrors the trust we must have in our Savior, the trust we must give Him despite our own lack of faith and clarity of purpose. As Sarah continues to practice her new skills, she learns to trust that no effort is wasted. The same is true for anyone. As we practice coming unto Christ, we will gain confidence that our struggles and efforts will not be wasted and will be for our benefit and growth.