Nothing comforts me more than knowing that Jesus completely understands how hard it is to walk around in these bodies, fighting our “head noise” with valiant attempts toward a faith we can believe in but can’t see. A brilliant Scripture spills this promise right over our lives:
Because [Jesus] Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. – Hebrews 2:18
To think that the Son of God rallied against the lies and whispers that tried to numb Him to His Father is strangely comforting. He never asks us to do something He wasn’t willing to do.
At Jesus’ baptism, He emerged from the currents of the Jordan River to be greeted by the sound of His Father’s voice proclaiming, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). And Jesus does something completely unpredictable. Instead of basking in this moment of glory, He heads to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After forty long days of prayer and fasting, He is hungry. He is ripe and ready for a showdown with lies. The tempter comes as expected and delicately pounces on Jesus’ physical weakness:
The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:3-4
Satan knew well and good that Jesus was the Son of God, but he was trying to make Jesus question this truth. It is no accident that the first temptation was launched from hunger. We still seem to get our physical appetites and hunger mixed up with our Spirit hunger. Substituting and controlling suffice for the real hunger that wells up within us. But Jesus won’t have any part of it. He confronts Satan with the force of a debate champion, quoting Scripture right back into his hideous face.
I wonder what our lives might look like if instead of numbing or stuffing, we simply were to state, “It is written.” Jesus knew this was the right battle plan, and it is still the most effective tool we have today.
Interestingly, the Scripture He used to shoot down this lie takes us right back to the flake-like thing that was lying on the ground for the Israelites:
He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 8:3
The potent truth is that God lets us be hungry, spiritually and physically, so He can fill us with manna that we did not know. His food changes the whole landscape. The question is this: Can we discard our pacifiers for a deeper Spirit hunger that longs to be fed?
I lived in a food coma for nearly eight years. I based my moods, outlook, and self-worth on the number I saw on a scale. Like a hospital patient hooked up to tubes and machines, I was surviving but not thriving. Breathing but not living. After an initial blast of healing in college the day I asked Jesus if He was real, I devoured the Bible like a kid eats pudding. I savored its taste and texture as I watched it literally restore my broken mind to sanity. But I still struggled with lingering thoughts and behaviors that wrestled me into a state of self-hatred.
As I stood in front of my closet one day, beating myself up over clothes I couldn’t zip or over the fat rolls I pictured bulging from my clothes, I knew I had to transact business with God or I would drown in an insecure pool of hypocrisy. I’ll never forget strapping my fourteen-month-old daughter, Brooke, and newborn, Ally, into the car and heading for the nearest bookstore. I was crying so loudly you could have heard me in the houses lining the wooded highway I was driving down.
The God I love says I can have life and have it abundantly. This is not abundance; it’s prison. If the truth sets us free, I’ve got to get some truth. Here I was, wife of the shortstop for the New York Yankees and Bible study leader to the wives on our team, speeding down the highway to get me some truth. And boy, did I find some. In a quest to finally toss my favorite pacifier into the trash, I found truth.
I studied. I prayed. I read. I confessed. I went after freedom like a prisoner who sees a jail cell key slowly snaking its way under the cell door. A true Spirit filling was what I wanted, not more Band-Aids and ointment.
The problem with counterfeit fillings is that they keep us numb to a greater filling.
What Are We Yoked To?
As an avid observer of people and gender traits, I’ve found that men and women handle their pain differently. Men tend to turn outward with their pain, while women turn inward. This explains why many more men struggle with pornography or infidelity than women. As women, we’d rather hurt ourselves. I would walk on a bed of rusty nails before I’d look at a pornographic image. I’m not ranking sin or deceit, as if some types are worse than others; it’s just that sexual sin does nothing for me. But I’ll beat myself up with damaging thoughts, poor self-image, food comfort, bitterness, or gossip — now we’re talking.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is speaking to the multitudes when He offers an invitation laced with a hope so deep that you can almost experience a spiritual massage just by reading it:
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus cleverly joined together the most unlikely mix of words. Words that don’t fit at all in their scope of purpose: weary, burdened, rest, yoke, gentle, humble, burden, light. Although we don’t often talk about yokes today, when Jesus walked this earth, a yoke was a symbol that people would recognize. Yokes were wooden frames that harnessed together two animals for the purpose of pulling. People also wore yokes as a frame designed to fit across their shoulders with balanced loads at each end.
When Jesus gives the stunning invitation to take His yoke upon us, to strap it across our shoulders so we are pulling with Him, all of a sudden the harsh view of a wooden apparatus with splinters looks inviting. Jesus then says that once we are strapped together, we will learn from Him and get to explore the gentle, humble ways of His heart, which led Him to the cross. As if that’s not enough, He promises rest for our souls and a load that is light.
Why in the world do we yoke ourselves to things that aren’t good? That aren’t gentle or humble or light or restful. That aren’t Jesus?
Paul clearly understood this plight when he wrote,
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
It’s interesting that the ones who subject us to a yoke of slavery are ourselves. Plain and simple, we choose our yokes.
The weight of this verdict sends me right back to my crumpled journal pages. I realize I need to settle into the truth and discover what’s going on in my life. If Jesus wrote a blurb to describe His yoke, these are the words He would use to describe it: gentle, humble, restful, light. Truthfully, my own blurb would sound like this: anxiety, fear, tired, a heaviness that screams, “I’ll never be enough.”
Jesus’ yoke beckons like a warm bath. We step in and find soothing comfort for our aching lives.
Excerpted with permission from Spirit Hunger: Filling Our Deep Longing to Connect with God by Gari Meacham, copyright Zondervan, 2012.
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What are you yoked to? Are you ready for a sacred makeover? As the New Year approaches, many of us are already evaluating ourselves (negatively) and anticipating rebooting our eating and exercise. What if we hit January 1st leaning back into confidence based upon what the Scriptures say instead of what the world says? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you!