By Sherye S. Green
Harnessed to the power of His love
The meanderings of the human heart have long intrigued me. The anatomical functions of this organ, while fascinating, are not the movements to which I refer. Rather, what have captured my attention throughout the years are the emotional pathways of the heart. Those that connect me to my God and to others. Those footsteps my heart takes that cause me to lose connection, especially with others, but particularly with my God.
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is one of my favorite hymns. Penned by British pastor Robert Robinson in 1758, the hymn is greatly beloved throughout Christendom. The lyrics of the third stanza always hit me squarely between the eyes each time I sing this hymn, reminding me that, but for the grace of God, I could so easily stray from my Father’s loving embrace:
“Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.”
Different versions of Scripture use various phrases to describe the action of wandering — straying from the truth, going astray, turning to one’s own way, turning aside, forsaking the correct path. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that to wander means “to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal.” Robinson’s lyric reminds me all too often, I’m “prone to wander … prone to leave the God I love.” How to break my heart of this bad habit?
I’m asking the Lord to help me practice the spiritual discipline of coming back to Him from wherever I’ve strayed and of allowing Him to guide my path. I need the direction provided by His harness to listen to, hear, and obey His quiet voice spoken through words of truth and life that can only be found in His Word. One of my favorite verses brings to mind an agricultural metaphor, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11: 29 NASB).
A yoke is a harness device, usually made of wood that is custom-made to fit the neck and shoulders of a particular animal, usually an ox or cow. This apparatus allows the creature to pull a wagon packed with a heavy load. The yoke keeps the animal headed in the right direction, serves as a means of guidance or control, enables the weight of a heavy load to be more evenly distributed and thus more easily borne, and provides a way for the task to be performed more comfortably and efficiently. A yoke also keeps a beast of burden in close proximity to its owner, so that it may see him and also hear commands given. Isn’t this what Jesus’ yoke does for my life?
Jesus’ custom-made plan for my life is fueled by His miraculous life power working within me, unlike an ox, which himself is the source of the power enabling the yoke to work effectively. There’s absolutely no will power, strength, or energy I possess that would equip me to live out God’s plan for my life. Only when I place upon my heart the yoke of my Savior can I access that life-changing potential. Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes so eloquently of Jesus’ harness, “It is a yoke that is lined with love.”
Over 45 years ago, I surrendered my life to Christ. How many times has Jesus’ harness of love kept me on the right path. Throughout those years, God’s love has held me secure, preventing me from wandering off into foreign pastures. Despite the many seasons when I pulled away from Him or simply dragged my feet like a reluctant beast, God has never let go of my hand.
My prayer for you is that you, too, will feel the gentle tug of the Lord’s yoke. Perhaps you’re close to His side, but your attention has been captured briefly by the tinny gleam of this world and you’re trying to slip out of His harness to go your own way. Perhaps you’ve been wandering unharnessed so far and for so long you feel you’re beyond His reach. Perhaps you’ve never opened the door of your heart to the One who loves you more than any other, thus never allowing Him to share with you His specific plan for your life. Never doubt God’s power to “restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25 RSV).
May your Heavenly Father tug gently on your yoke, and may you be reminded that life is always sweeter and more meaningful when it’s harnessed to the power of His love.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian and a wife, mother, and grandmother. She has enjoyed two careers — one in business, the other in education. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul and Tending the Garden of My Heart: Reflections on Cultivating a Life of Faith.