Mountaineer Brian Dickinson triumphantly stood on the highest peak of Mt. Everest, his ultimate goal. Four hours earlier, after his ailing Sherpa guide turned back, he made the difficult decision to push for the summit alone. Now as he readied for the descent, suddenly his vision became blurry, his eyes started to burn, and within seconds he could see nothing. Alone on the top of the world, low on oxygen and snow blind, Brian inched his way down, relying only on fragile fixed ropes, his Navy survival training and faith in God. This amazing story is chronicled in his book, Blind Descent.
Brian’s faith is plainly evident throughout his book, but one incident stands out. While making his excruciating, sightless descent from the summit of Everest, he experienced the continued sense that somebody was there with him. He knew he was by himself, yet there was a guiding presence by his side, leading him toward safety, speaking into his thoughts about his need for a crucial drink of water, comforting him with the tangible impression that he was not alone.
I remember the presence Brian wrote of while reading Matthew 11, where Jesus issues this infinitely tender invitation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NIV)
A yoke is a wooden beam used on a pair of animals, usually oxen, to enable them to pull a load together. In the times when Jesus spoke these words, a yoke was a symbol of subservience or oppression. He used this symbol to convey that He never intended a believer to carry his burden alone. When we are yoked with Jesus, we are sharing our burdens with Him. The weight of our load is distributed across the shoulders of One who is fully able to handle any burdens we bring Him.
So while Brian Dickinson struggled under the overwhelming burden of making his way down from the summit of Mt. Everest blind and solo, Jesus leaned into the yoke beside him to help him to safety. So many things could have gone wrong on that journey fraught with peril, but “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24)
Because Brian had chosen to take on the yoke of Jesus years before and walk in partnership with Him, now in this time of great need he knew the reality of having such a Friend toiling with him to get him to safety.
I have to admit, sometimes I pull against the yoke of Jesus. When I neglect to rest on His gentle and humble heart, self direction takes over and I try to go my own way, which ultimately leads to failure. I am gradually learning the lessons only learned under His yoke. There will always be trials in this life but with Him by my side, the load is shared and lightened. The world tries to place a yoke of oppression upon me but I am already partnered with One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. His yoke fits me well, as it fits the man who made a blind descent from the summit of Mt. Everest with Jesus by his side, and is alive today to tell about it.