The Slavery of Striving
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
"Why are you doing all these things?" she asked me over iced tea.
Her boldness startled me. Sure, I had just filled my friend's ears with my true feelings about the craziness of my life. But I figured I was only doing what everyone else was doing. All the things I had to do.
She could see I was drowning in all sorts of good activities that were taking the joy out of motherhood. I woke up daily with knots in my stomach and struggled through days as a homeschooling mom, shadowed by four little people. I was a hurried, overwhelmed mom who wished life could somehow be different.
To my friend, it was simple. What if you just did less?
I objected immediately. I was already convinced I should have been doing so much more — and performing so much better. But as I considered her question, my yoke became obvious. I realized that in my striving, I was living under a yoke of slavery. I was missing the freedom Jesus came to earth to give me.
In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the believers that Christ came to set us free from the yoke of the Law. Or in other words, freedom from having to follow all the rules perfectly.
Obeying the Law without error was impossible. But before Jesus came, this was how followers of God had to live. Then Jesus removed this heavy burden and provided freedom through His sacrifice on the cross.
Yet, just as freed slaves sometimes ran back to their old masters, the first followers of Jesus were easily deceived into living under the Law again. Slavery was all they knew.
The Apostle Paul knew it would take effort to walk the new way of freedom, to walk in the truth. In our key verse, Paul challenged the church: Stand firm, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by this yoke.
In many ways, my striving resembled theirs. Sure, I wasn't technically a slave and I didn't have to worry about keeping the Law. And in my head, I knew I didn't need to prove my worth to God. But I found myself trying to prove my significance in some way. I lived under imaginary laws and unwritten expectations.
I didn't even know what those laws were, just that I was bent on keeping or exceeding them. Because I needed to. Or so I thought.
My friend's direct question that day helped reveal to me I was indeed living under a yoke. I desperately felt the need to prove myself as a mom. I reflected long on that realization and continued to ask why.
Because of Jesus, I don't need to prove myself anymore. Jesus is enough. His grace alone is sufficient. When God looks at me, He sees His Son. He sees that I am His and He is mine. The more I grasp this truth, the more I'm changed.
Do you know that weight of expectation too? Today the Word of God has good news. Instead of striving, we can rest confidently, standing firm in our freedom, our gift from Jesus.
Stand firm, friends.
Lord, help me live my days centered in this freedom You've given me. You did not die for me to remain a slave to perceived expectations or anything else. Thank You for breaking the bars of this yoke. Help me walk as a free woman. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Leviticus 26:13, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high." (NIV)
Romans 6:19, "Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy." (NLT)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think about the whys behind all you do in a typical week. Are you striving to meet unrealistic expectations and then stressed because of them? How are you burdened by a heavy yoke of slavery?
Ask God to help you discern where you need to do less and to enable you to walk in freedom.