Yoked Up with the Wrong Thing, and How to Get Out

Captivating AI generated portrait of a young, anxious looking black, black male teen.

Kevin sat in my office, with his face in his hands. I didn’t know what was wrong. I only know that his mother called me, beside herself, and two hours later, here we were. The only thing she told me was: “I don’t know what’s wrong. He said that he would only talk to you.”

Kevin, an 11th grader, was a straight-A student, had a part-time job, used to be involved in varsity basketball, and was a member of several school clubs. He was active in his church youth group, but close to the beginning of his Junior year, a switch flipped, and he just gave up. He dropped out of everything and began using drugs and alcohol. Every week his mom, school counselor, teachers, and I peppered him with questions, about why he was doing what he was doing.

Kevin always responded the same way: a long pause, a deep breath, a blank-eyed stare, and a shrug of the shoulders.
I didn’t buy it–that he didn’t know what was wrong, so I just waited. We all did, and watched helplessly, as Kevin basically flushed his life down the toilet.

It took eight long months of implosion, but, apparently, we were finally here.

Personal Tsunami

As I sat still I waited. I sighed deeply and matter-of-factly reminded him that his time was ticking away. Kevin sighed deeply, and opened his mouth to speak, but a flood of tears hit him like a tsunami. My mind raced What could have possibly happened to this kid that would make him fall to pieces like this? I resisted the urge to say or do anything and just let him feel the depth and intensity of the moment. Kevin slammed his fists hard on the coffee table in front of his chair, knocking several knick-knacks to the ground. After five more minutes he had finally composed himself enough to speak.

Kevin ended up disclosing to me that at the beginning of his Junior year, one of his basketball coaches inappropriately touched him. He said that it happened so fast, it took him off guard. Immediately after it happened, he had been dealing with a definite trauma response. He was reliving the experience and having nightmares and flashbacks.

Kevin initially dropped out of basketball and turned to online video gaming, but this didn’t take his mind off of it. He then dropped out of everything else in his life, immersing himself in drugs and alcohol. He considered stealing from his mother and selling her stuff. He was embarrassed and ashamed about what happened to him and he admitted that the video games, and drugs and alcohol couldn’t do anything to stop the emotional pain.

Reconciling with an All-Seeing God

Kevin admitted that initially he kicked God to the curb because he figured that any God that would allow him to be sexually molested didn’t really love him. Now, however, as Kevin was staring down 30 days in drug detox, he realized just how wrong he had been.

Smiling now, Kevin felt better after unloading. He then blew my mind with these words:

“You know, I used to think that God was for weaklings and punks, but now I realize that when I kicked God to the curb, I actually punked myself! I mean, if you’re a human, you got to let someone be in charge of you, and I tried it my way, and let me tell you, that **it don’t work! What you always say is true: “God’s way is the best way and God tells you ‘don’t’ what He’s really trying to tell you is ‘don’t hurt yourself!’ I’m really sorry that I put ya’ll through all this.”

I just sat there—speechless and, with tears in my eyes, smiled at him. Wow! Such wisdom from someone so young!

Unfortunately, he had to feel the depth of addiction and emotional pain until he came to that conclusion—but you don’t have to. You can learn from Kevin’s story,  and countless stories just like his where people were presented with the same basic choice: God or something else.

Whose Slave Will You Be?

As a human being, we will all be a slave to a ruler—whether it’s God, sin, or Satan. Living like a Christian will make your life better and make you better at life. If you want to be happy and effective in life, choose Jesus.

The Apostle Paul, in the Biblical New Testament letter the Christians in Rome, reminded the Romans of this:

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:16-23, NLT).

Soul Rest

Christians in this culture were aware of slavery, as it was a very real and normal part of their lives. Jesus uses a similar metaphor for slavery, when He speaks about a yoke.

We each try to carry the heavy burdens of trying to be righteous on our own. We just end up tired, frustrated, discouraged and burned-out in the end. Thus, that’s why Jesus says that we should come to him when we are tired. Actually, God wants us to come to him first! Before we try all the silliness of trying to meet our own needs in our own power. The only way that we will ever be able to find rest—real rest—Soul Rest—is to come under the leadership and guidance of Jesus and let Him lead us around.

Take a look at this scripture and then we’ll talk:

  • “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me (emphasis mine) and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you (emphasis mine). Put it on your shoulders and learn from me (emphasis mine). I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, CEV).
  • Another translation is: “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it (emphasis mine). Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me (emphasis mine) and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:29-30, MSG).
  • “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a] ease and relieve and [b] refresh [c] your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d ]relief and ease and refreshment and [e] recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f] good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne” (Matthew 11:28-30, AMP).

The  Yoke’s on You!

A yoke was part of the harness used to pull a cart, plow, or mill beam. That’s how a person either controlled a work animal, or guided the work animal in useful work. Yoke came to be used as a metaphor for submission, usually to a teacher. But here, Jesus’ use of the metaphor carried a deeper meaning.

Jesus wasn’t trying to give people another load, or yoke, to carry. He simply was inviting them to exchange the one they carried for His yoke. He promised those who responded would be the rested and refreshed learners.

Neither was Jesus suggesting that a relationship with Him was absent of work. To be sure, He never would have chosen the yoke as His illustration had that assertion been His intent. The yoke was an instrument of work! The word “easy” in verse thirty is better translated “kindly.” “Burden” is contrasted with “heavy laden” in verse 28. Together they give the idea of work that is lightened by Jesus’ help.

Yes, the yoke of Christ involves work, but it is the work of love and joy. While Jesus asks much, He provides the strength necessary for people to respond. In essence, this easy, light load, which results in rest–is the difference between doing things for Jesus and doing things with Jesus!

The cosmic killjoy called the devil continues to play the ultimate practical joke on people. He tells them they must deal with life’s difficulties on their own, or using his solutions. Yet frustration is all they reap because no amount of effort that they put forth ever seems to be enough. The load of life and living in this sin-sick world is so heavy!

The Secret Sauce for Success

The only way that you or I will ever have peace, power, purpose, and joy in this life is to do four things:

1. Come to Jesus
2. Take the Yoke
3. Learn from Jesus
4. Receive the Rest

You may be asking yourself this question right now: “Self, what is a yoke? Why should I be wearing one and what does a yoke represent?

Fits Like a Glove

If the yoke was a good quality yoke, it would be custom-made to snugly fit the animal and maximize it’s performance and quality of life. A good-fitting yoke was comfortable and would prevent and/or significantly cut down on the animal’s skin breakdown and therefore would also cut down on the animal’s pain, infection, illness and/or death.

The animal could do his/her work more easily. In effect, the yoke was light or easy; but if the yoke was poorly constructed, then the animal would waste a lot of energy pushing and pulling against the yoke, the yoke would quickly become heavy and hard. This is a passage of scripture about our relationship with God. Our relationship should never be a burden or a strain to us. It should be light and easy. Walking with Jesus should be the most simple and natural thing you and I have ever done.

Jesus connection isn’t ill-fitting and won’t wear you down. In fact, the longer you walk with Him, the more you’ll find just how perfect that connection is. But, in order to walk with Jesus you have to make a decision to walk away from other things—things that will never…never give you what Jesus can offer you. Don’t wait. Don’t be like Kevin and waste any part of your life doing your own thing. Today, make the decision to begin walking with Jesus.

This is a process that takes consistency, patience, and time, but if you invest the time and energy and focus on consistently walking with Jesus, you will be blessed.


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