My Yoke Is Easy and My Burden Is Light
December 22, 2021
by Fr. Richard Rohr
Life is hard, and yet Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).
It is hard to bear God—but it is even harder not to bear God. The pain one brings upon oneself by living outside of evident reality is a greater and longer-lasting pain than the brief pain of facing it head on. Enlightened people invariably describe the spiritual experience of God as resting, peace, delight, and even ecstasy.
If our religion has no deep joy and no inherent contentment about it, then it is not the real thing. If our religion is primarily fear of self, the world, and God; if it is primarily focused on meeting religious duties and obligations, then it is indeed a hard yoke and heavy burden. I’d go so far as to say that it’s hardly worthwhile. I think the promise from Jesus that his burden is easy and light seeks to reassure us that rigid and humorless religion is not his way and certainly not the only way.
It is God within us that loves God, so seek joy in God and peace within; seek to rest in the good, the true, and the beautiful. It is the only resting place that also allows us to bear the darkness. Hard and soft, difficult and easy, pain and ecstasy do not eliminate one another, but actually allow each other. They bow back and forth like dancers, although it is harder to bow to pain and to failure. If you look deeply inside every success, there are already seeds and signs of limits; if you look inside every failure, there are also seeds and signs of opportunity.
Who among us has not been able to eventually recognize the silver lining in the darkest of life’s clouds? You would think the universal pattern of death and life, the lesson of the Gospel and Jesus’ life would be utterly clear to me by now, yet I still fight and repress my would-be resurrections, even if just in my own mind. For some reason, we give and get our energy from dark clouds much more than silver linings. True joy is harder to access and even harder to hold onto than anger or fear. When I walk my dog Opie and look at the beautiful cottonwood trees in my yard, God helps me experience rest and peace.
If our soul is at rest in the comforting sweetness and softness of God, we can bear the hardness of life and see through failure. That’s why people in love—and often people at the end of life—have such an excess of energy for others. If our truth does not set us free, it is not truth at all. If God cannot be rested in, God must not be much of a God. If God is not joy, then what has created the sunrise and sunset?
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