Have you ever just had a memory pop up that made you instantly feel shame or pain? We all have regrets, but they are in the past. The Lord doesn’t want us looking back at what once was, but our enemy does. Has the devil ever tried to use your past against you? Maybe he’s told you, “You’re in this mess because of your own actions! Don’t even try to ask God to help you because you got into this mess by yourself, and now you’re going to have to get out of it by yourself! God won’t help you, because you’re reaping exactly what you’ve sown!” “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Peter is telling us that when the devil strikes, he often acts like a lawyer who tries to bring us down by prosecuting us with the facts of our past sins and mistakes. The enemy drags up facts from the past and reminds us of our former failures; then he vigorously tries to convince us that we deserve to be in the mess we are in. If the devil is successful in his prosecution, he will persuade us to believe that we are unrighteous and unworthy and that we deserve as just punishment whatever difficulties he is throwing our way.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to look to the past, but instead to look to Him. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) What does Jesus want from us? Total dedication, not halfhearted commitment. We can’t pick and choose among Jesus’ ideas and follow Him selectively; we have to accept the cross along with the crown. We must count the cost and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security–without looking back. With our focus on Jesus, we should allow nothing to distract us from following Him.

If Jesus intended us to do that on our own power, it would be tough. Instead, He wants to walk with us. 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. (Matthew 11:28-30) A yoke is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of oxen, and is attached to something the oxen are to pull. Jesus doesn’t offer a life of luxurious ease–the yoke is still an oxen’s tool for working hard. But it is a shared yoke, with the weight falling on bigger shoulders than yours. Someone with more pulling power is up front helping — and suddenly, you are participating in life’s responsibilities with a great partner–Jesus.

Jesus tells us to come and take His yoke and we will find rest. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say He will take our burdens and attach His yoke to it as we standby and watch. No, He takes us under His yoke and carries those burdens with us along the way. In turn, He takes the majority of the burden and makes it “light” for us. We also “learn” from Jesus as we carry the burden with Him. This allows us to learn to change from the inside instead of repeating the same wrong things over and over. Is there something pulling you down that you haven’t given to Jesus today?