“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
This morning I was thinking how fairy tale-like our desire for our life, and the lives of our children, is. We want things to work out well and to be successful in our career, our finances, our parenting, etc. We have dreams of romance in marriage, precious and healthy babies with chubby cheeks, obedient and sweet children and mostly we want things to go according to a plan…our plan. All of this is desirable and good, but it’s not the fairy tale we really want but the “happy ever after” ending we long for.
When one looks closely at the fairy tales we share with our children, a great sadness or evil befalls the princess before her happy ever after begins. Think of the beloved Cinderella, before she is swept off her feet by Prince Charming, she suffers immensely with the death of her beloved father and then the oppression and abuse she suffered under her step mother and sisters. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle was ridiculed by the townspeople and then locked in a castle with a monster before her happy ever after began. Snow White, Rapunzel, Aurora, and Tiana all suffered before they enjoyed their “happy ever after”.
I think it safe to say that as Christians we do get to live a fairy tale life and thanks be to God we get a “happy ever after”. All humans are born into sin, we suffer at some point in our life and then we die. As Christians we have hope of eternal life, which is a very happy ever after with Christ. This doesn’t mean we don’t face difficulty and suffering in the midst of our walk with Christ, but He walks through it with us and gives us the hope of never suffering again when our days here are over. Jesus says in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, a yoke is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (such as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” A burden according to the same dictionary is “something that is carried or something oppressive or worrisome.” When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior we become yoked with Him and He helps us carry the load, the burden of this life. As Christians we make the choice to carry a burden, suffer alongside Him and give up our own way and follow Him (Matt. 8:34). The yoke itself is easy because it’s shared, but the burden is something we must endure and allow Him to help with if it is not to completely overwhelm us.
Sadly our children must also suffer. Suffering is inevitable and we should be aware of the importance of our yoking ourselves with them until they yoke themselves with Christ. When my daughter was little I sought to keep her from experiencing any physical or emotional obstacles. For some reason I was under the impression that I had to protect her from every bump, hurt and discomfort. Thankfully, through the wisdom and instruction of godly mentors, I was able to see the harm I would bring her by not allowing her to feel pain. As she and her brothers grew up I sought to walk with them in their difficulty instead of trying to fix everything. This was and is a huge challenge as I am a “fixer”, and as my children have grown into adolescence and adulthood in this ever-changing and unstable world, their burdens have not lessened but increased. For this I am grateful they have made their faith in Christ their own and are yoked with Him…although their burdens will always be felt by me.
What is your burden today? A sleepless baby, a naughty toddler, a child going through a difficult time with friends at school, one who is acting out or perpetually making bad grades? A spouse who is disrespectful or disinterested? Maybe you are in the midst of a difficult job change or unemployment. Are you or a loved one facing a devastating diagnosis? Maybe it is depression and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for your sadness but it is there regardless, and getting out of bed today was a great accomplishment. I know this sounds sad but suffering is a reality to many people today and is to be expected by all at some point in life as Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”
Life is hard. No doubt you already know that. When we are walking alongside Christ, yoked and carrying a burden with Him, He offers us rests, respite and joy in the journey. As I wrote in my last blog, there are many NOs, NOT NOWs and WAITs in life but there is also YES in the midst of the NO. Look for the joy in the journey, make sure you rejoice in the YES and trust His goodness in the NO, and have HOPE in the WAIT. I write this in the middle of hardship, difficulty and grief in my own life. Many days I don’t want to leave the comfort of my bed, I don’t want to see anyone or be seen, and I certainly don’t want to face another NO in this temporal life. Instead of doing what I want based on how I feel, I allow Christ to fasten His yoke to me and I walk with Him through life in this world. I choose to take heart as Christ has overcome the world, and my greatest hope is in the Happy Ever After when this life ends and eternal life begins.