“What then are we afraid of? Can we have too much of God? Is it a misfortune to be freed from the heavy yoke of the world, and to bear the light burden of Jesus Christ?" – François Fénelon
Can we have too much of God? What a question from this French theologian to ponder in our hearts today. Would it be so bad to be so close – even attached – to Jesus that our every movement was in step with the direction and heart of God? Is there a way that each day with Jesus could replenish our energy for another day?
The dictionary definition for the word yoke is “a bar or frame of wood by which two oxen are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” So, what does it mean for Jesus to say, “Take my yoke”?
“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.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
I think it’s a picture, an image of hope, for what it means to be joined to Jesus so closely that we are not working alone, but together with him in ministry and in life.
Discover Your Yoke
For many years, even as a young girl, I was searching for truth. I was always looking for a place and people that were safe. I was afraid that if I were myself and spoke up for what I believed was right, I’d only suffer violence and abuse. This caused me to be more of a follower in fear than a leader in truth.
Before I was a Christian, I was yoked to many things, and I allowed those things to control my thoughts, choices and future. I was yoked to my past pain and mistakes. I was yoked to the opinions of others. I was yoked to drugs and relationships. In those things, I found my identity, safety, security and direction for life.
For many years, being yoked to the wrong people led me down destructive paths. I made choices that were not healthy for my physical, emotional and spiritual life. It was my work, health, business, reputation and relationships that were the idols I lived for every day.
One morning, as a new follower of Jesus and a ministry leader, I was up very early getting ready to go have breakfast with one of the men I was still emotionally and physically yoked to. As I was leaving to meet him before work, God spoke to my heart. “Are you willing to meet me for a spiritual breakfast this early before work?” he asked me. Wow! What was my priority for the day? How did I think this breakfast was going to nourish me for all the work and ministry that was ahead of me?
Lots of things in our lives can become obstacles to leading and thriving in a ministry calling. In the many years since that breakfast, I have worked with leaders to discover those “energy drainers” in our lives. According to Gary Collins’ book Christian Coaching, “These energy drainers can be difficult people, work pressures, emotions such as anxiety or depression, unmet needs, or even what have been called the gnats of life – the small hassles we endure and brush off like the flies at a picnic.”
If you find that your leadership calling needs to be recharged, let me suggest the following questions to carefully contemplate: What’s driving how you respond to people, projects and personal decisions? What belief is behind your responses? How well is that belief serving you?
When I feel depleted, I reflect on what is driving my responses to people, projects and personal decisions. I seek God’s wisdom and direction to reveal where I am finding my identity and energy for each day. I ask myself, “In what ways am I allowing the opinions of others to affect my decisions today? Where are the places in my life and leadership that I am yoked to pressures that do not align with my values in leadership?”
Develop a Life Under His Yoke
Once we take a hard look at our lives and discover the places or people that are pulling us away from what we believe to be true about ourselves or God, we can develop ways and skills to remove anything that is keeping us from thriving in ministry leadership.
Discovery is a process of asking powerful questions that reveal who we are and what we really believe to be true about God. It can be the place where we surrender all the preconceived ideas about leadership and sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to what he is teaching us about how we can live and lead in a way that reflects his glory alone.
When we attach our lives to Jesus and rest in the guidance and wisdom of his Word and plan, we live in freedom and truth (John 8:31-32). Just like any relationship, we can grow and develop daily habits to find energy and meaning in every day of leadership. The relationship yoke that Jesus offers us isn’t heavy, because he does all the leading and guiding.
Moreover, he promises to accompany us to the place he has prepared for us (Job 42:2). Ever since that early breakfast when I heard God speak to my heart, I try to make my first appointment of the day one that is yoked to Jesus, learning from his Word, resting in his power and committed to following his lead.
Recharge and Thrive!
What is it that you are yoked to today? Is it something that is driving your life in a direction far from Jesus? What is missing from your life and leadership right now? When you look over your to-do lists, what stands out?
Decide whom you will serve and take the yoke of Christ upon you. Open your heart and allow it to be yoked to Christ alone. Imagine you and your Lord working, resting and getting recharged together. How would you describe that picture? What is happening in your life and leadership in that picture?
At times, leading a global ministry like TWR Women of Hope has left me depleted when I consider all the demands and different time zones I deal with every day. It is not unusual for me to start answering questions from my global team as early as 4 a.m. and wind up as late as 10 p.m. After a few years of working at that pace, I found myself drained physically and emotionally and seeking God for any rest he could give me.
God sent a team of friends, advisers and health professionals to help me discover what was happening. They enabled me to develop new patterns of setting healthy boundaries and identifying priorities not only to survive but also to thrive in global ministry and leadership.
Today, after over 29 years of walking with the Lord, I have received from God alone a new understanding of life and leadership that thrives for another day to serve him and his people. At the 2021 Outcomes Conference, I would love to partner with you in my workshop “Discover, Develop and Thrive” as we envision new ways of living and leading that remain firmly aligned with your values and God-given calling.
“The art of rest is about learning how to rest with Jesus, not from Jesus,” said author Adam Mabry in The Art of Rest (The Good Book Company, 2018)
God is there for you. Let’s take a step of faith together and get free from the yoke that binds us to this world and keeps us from him. Then, let us take his yoke, learn from him, find his rest and be recharged for another day. (Matt. 11:28-30; Rom. 10:9).