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Spiritual Yoke

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When prayer is your spiritual gift, your burden from God is a holy burden of prayer. Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matt. 11:30) Light doesn’t mean non-existent, just light. In my experience that still feels pretty heavy. Though it is heavy, I am able to carry it. The burden doesn’t crush me. That is, as long as I only carry the burden God gave me and I don’t add to it or let others add to it.

God’s burden is also doable because of the easy yoke. In ancient agriculture, a yoke was meant for two oxen. God’s yoke is meant for two as well. What few people realize is the other person in their yoke is God. When we accept God’s burden of prayer, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit bears it with us. Usually oxen would be paired stronger-more experienced with younger-learning. The dominant bearer taught the other bearer how to bear, how to follow the farmer’s directions and plow the field.

The Holy Spirit is stronger and knows more than you will ever know. He is bearing with you, teaching you how to bear, how to listen to God. God is plowing a great field. Our work isn’t done with one row, there are many rows. Our work isn’t even done with one sowing-harvest season, there are many seasons. If we learn to bear with our yoke partner, the Holy Spirit, the work is easier, it gets done and done well. If we fight our partner we spend all our strength fighting, and often injure ourselves. I’d rather work with my partner and come out of the sowing-harvest season intact.

What does fighting the Holy Spirit look like? There’s ignoring Him. We dismiss that little voice, that nudge we feel. We argue with it until we do what looks right to us. There’s assuming instead of listening. The nudge comes and we assign our own meaning to it, and act according to our own definitions.

The last one is especially precarious. What if we feel the nudge, assume, and things don’t turn out the way we thought? What if it didn’t mean what we thought it meant? If this scenario plays out in prayer, there is the risk of doing more damage than good. Damage to us as the one praying, “Oh no! God stopped listening to me, it didn’t work.” Or damage to the one receiving the prayer, “Oh no! God didn’t answer, He must not be who He says He is. He must not love me after all.”

I’ve done this, repeatedly. I took time to listen to the Holy Spirit, only to take what was said and assign my own meaning and time frame to it. In the end it blows up, leaving me confused and in a struggle with doubt. I question myself, I question God. Almost every time, I took my yoke off and sat down in the mud to have a good cry and sulk there for a while. God is gracious though. When I’ve finished my cry he picks me up and invites me back into His yoke.

We can also fight the Holy Spirit by following but doing so with hesitation. The good work we are trying to do becomes halting and rough. The timing between us and the Holy Spirit is all wrong. We get a word, we get going, we stop, we have to work twice as hard to get going again, we stop, now it’s too hard to work three times as hard to get it going, we give up. It becomes strife in relationships and conflict in our hearts as we question the faith within us. The work might get done, but it isn’t pretty.

Working with the Holy Spirit is less painful, more rewarding, and downright exciting at times. I wait on the Lord. When He speaks I ask for His understanding and His definitions. I pray continually to make sure I am going at His pace instead of my own. Sometimes it all feels rather mundane, but when I look back I see how far I’ve come in the plowing, or the harvest. I realize how much stronger I’ve become. I see how my gift has developed and produced fruit in the kingdom of God. I feel like the “good guy” from all the parables. The one who has a clue. The one on God’s side. It feels pretty good.

The best part is, I’m still yoked with the Holy Spirit. We look back but when we’re done looking back we smile at each other and turn to plod through the next row and the next. I am not alone in my work for the Father. I am not alone at all. I am yoked with the Holy Spirit, He is my companion day in and day out. We plod and our work is fulfilling.

– Etta Woods

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