After my first daughter was born, and I dove into postpartum depression, one of the easiest ways to torment myself was to think about how far I’d slid from God. When I thought about God, I thought this:
If I’m not cheerful about God right now, then I’m a terrible Christian.
Back then, I thought it meant that no matter what situation I found myself in, I should be able to transcend the darkness I was experiencing. The easy yoke meant pasting a happy face on myself on demand.
This lie is why it took me so long to find peace with Jesus.
An easy yoke is not acheiving bland acceptance of whatever hell comes our way. It’s not a can-do attitude. It does not involve minimizing our pain, ignoring our wounds, or sunny cheerfulness.
Also, and this is important: It does not mean minimizing and explaining away injustice, abuse, or mental illness.
So if an easy yoke isn’t any of those things, what is it?
An easy yoke is intentional.
An easy yoke means intentionally noticing, admitting, and releasing. It means speaking up, being truthful, and authentic.
Going back to me with post-partum depression, the problem with my desire for an easy yoke was not that an easy yoke was not available to me while I was depressed.
It was that I assumed Jesus wanted me to feel a different way than I actually did.
The easy yoke for me back then probably meant going deeper into what I felt and getting a good therapist, some medication, and possibly someone to help me get more sleep.
It was no good saying Jesus, Jesus when my brain had gone haywire.
Sometimes I hear people talking about how Jesus expects them to find an easy yoke in the midst of an incredibly busy and stressful schedule. Or to find the silver lining in a terrible relationship. Or after the shattering death of someone they love.
I flinch a little.
I do not think God wants us to hit the “easy” button to pretend horrible circumstances are less horrible.
No no no no no.
Jesus is not calling us to bear the unbearable, and say it’s fine. He is telling us we can admit to him that we are in hell, and ask for help.
And like that anecdote with the guy stuck in a flood, who ignores a helicopter and a boat in favor of “heavenly” help, let’s be super-practical about what help usually looks like.
Sometimes, help looks like going on food stamps. Sometimes it looks like going in for therapy. Sometimes, it looks like saying HELL, NO. Sometimes, it involves advocating for justice. Sometimes, it involves asking someone else to help us do those things.
Surviving is real discipleship.
Here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying we work our own way out of our holes. No: we ADMIT we are in a hole and then cry out for help early and often, to anyone who will listen—God and actual people.
Jesus does not call us to get comfortable in holes.
I want to be really, really clear that I don’t want this post to condemn anyone that is feeling like they don’t even know how to be intentional or ask for help right now. That’s completely okay. It’s okay to admit that, and then lift it up for God to help you with the lack of ability to ask for help.
That, actually, is an easy yoke that’s always in front of us. I know that Jesus can do miracles with that kind of prayer.
What does piss me off is false cheerfulness, cold hearts, and indifference dressed up in Jesus costumes and sold to hurting people.
Our resurrection is nothing unless we have actually been in a tomb. Our rejoicing is sweetest when we know how to mourn. Jesus did not preach can-do optimism.
We must not call everything wholeness.
We are called to discern, and then ask for help choosing joy, hope, and love. This takes incredible bravery and courage. It’s why we have to pray like mad (help, help help) to get us there.
Admit to God that you have a problem. Don’t spend your energy justifying staying in a hole. Seek healing and peace with fierceness—starting, always, with fierce prayers. If you are brokenhearted, stuck, afraid, that’s okay. Admit that to God and ask him to help you transform. Even better: confess it to someone else, and keep confessing until you have a little circle of other warriors around you.
It is an insult to paradise to declare that hell is at the same address. Let’s be honest with ourselves, and start practicing the power of making choices. Let’s trust that God—no matter how stuck we are—is capable, always, of setting captives free.
Image credit: Ben Ellwood