Bearing One Another’s Burdens

bear

Even though I write for my own blog, I do not follow many other blogs. For me, the constraint of time just doesn’t allow me to browse and read other sites regularly. However, I recently read a blog post from A Celebration of Grace, and oh, how it struck me.  I reposted the link on my Facebook wall, something I rarely do, and was quite surprised at the number of private messages I received.   I was left with this conclusion:  there are a whole lot of hurting people out there, many of whom are filling church pews carrying their burdens alone.  Why is that?

How is it that the familiar smiles of our church family can be hiding so much pain?  How can we shake their hand and not know that they are screaming inside for someone to embrace them?  How can we hear of their struggles and not come along side of them?

Is it that we are too busy to notice?  Are we too afraid to ask?  Do we assume that someone else has it covered?  Maybe we don’t know what to say.  Maybe their pain is just too much for us to bear.  Whatever the reasons, God’s Word provides us with rather clear instructions for how we are to respond to those who are hurting.

When I read through Galatians 6, focusing in on verses 2 and 10, I see a clear call:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2 (NASB)

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Galatians 6:10 (NASB)

I was speaking with my boys this evening about this verse.  In my clamoring to come up with a visual representation of what it means to bear someone’s burden, I was reminded of our many road trips to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  We always have encountered men working the fields.  Their oxen or work horses are harnessed up and hard at work.  Imagine the heavy load that a single horse bears in dragging the plow through the fields.  He’s built for work, but going at it alone makes for slow and difficult work.  Now imagine the farmer bringing another horse, of similar size and ability, alongside the first.  The two are harnessed together, both bearing the weight together.  Working side by side, the two are capable of accomplishing much more than a single horse could.   The second horse, in bearing some of the burden, has allowed the first horse to go farther than he could on his own.  He hasn’t alleviated the burden all together, he has simply come alongside to take some of the weight and share in the work.

Our call is similar.  When someone is hurting, when the burden they are carrying is hard and nearly unbearable, we are called, dare I say, commanded to come along side of them.  We are to walk with them, side by side, bearing part of the load, supporting them, being their partner in the journey.

So maybe you know of someone who is struggling or suspect that someone is going through something tough.  Begin by prayerfully considering what the Lord would have you to do.  He knows their needs, and if you are willing to listen, He will direct you.  Maybe it starts with a card, an email, or a phone call just to let them know that you are thinking and praying for them.  Maybe an invitation to dinner or a cup of coffee follows.  Then what? Be willing to listen to them, and listen some more. Pray with them and for them.  Open up God’s Word to remind them of His wonderful promises.  Check in with them regularly.  Offer your help if appropriate.  Make yourself available.  Remind them that they are loved.  Cry with them.   Ask them how they are, reminding them that you really want an honest answer.  Be committed to journey with them.  Some burdens are tougher than others. Some roads are longer than others.  Bear their burden.  Show the love of Christ in a sincere way.

I’m telling you, amazing things would happen if each of us did this, if we followed God’s Word and stepped outside of our comfort zone.  Imagine the glory God would receive?  Remember, bearing someone’s burden has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God.  It is His goodness that will be seen.  It is His love that will be felt.  It is His faithfulness that will be experienced.

So, let me take a moment to speak directly to those of you who may be hurting.

Maybe you are the hurting person who is bearing the burden alone.  Maybe you are longing for someone to come alongside of you but are scared for people to see the ugliness you are dealing with.  Maybe you’ve kept your troubles bottled up, hidden deep inside where no one will see.  Would you bring that before the Lord?  Would you surrender that to the Him? Would you ask Him to be your comforter and, should it be His will, ask Him to bring someone into your life who will help you bear this burden?

Maybe you find yourself in the same place my family was a year ago.  Maybe the Lord, in His divine plan, has permitted some downright awful things to come your way.  Yet, through it all, He has been so faithful and has loved you so much.  He alone gives you strength for the day and strength for the moment.  Maybe you’ve mustered up the courage to share your burden, not with everyone, but with some whom you felt would help to bear that burden.  Maybe no one has stepped up to do that, or if they have, have failed to stay the course.  You are left feeling frustrated, alone, and downcast.   Maybe your journey is a long one, with a tough road.  I’ve been there, but I want to remind you that despite the failures of men, we serve a God, The God, who never fails us.  We should first turn our eyes toward Him.  He promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us.  He tells us in Isaiah 41:10:

Fear not, for I am with you,
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with My Righteous Right Hand.

God alone is enough; He is all that you need.  People should never be a replacement for God.  We should never seek their comfort, help, and guidance above our Lord’s.  He is and will be everything you need to make it through.  Put your trust in Him alone.  Even through the tough times, even through the loneliness, He is at work in your life.  He is in the process of making beauty from ashes.  He is in the midst of writing your testimony, a testimony that will ultimately point others to Him.

May we all remember to step up and bear one another’s burden.

Basil, Beans, and a Buck Too Much: The $20 Challenge

teens

With one round of our family’s $20 Cooking Challenge in the books, we sought out our next recruit.  My eldest son stood up and took the challenge.  My oldest son is very organized and to his testament has proven himself to be quite wise with his finances, albeit his limited finances.

In preparation for our trip to the store, my son had prepared a detailed shopping list.  Very good.  Lists are helpful.  They keep us on track.  He knew exactly what he would prepare: chicken, basil, and mozzarella panini  sandwiches with white bean dip and fresh vegetables.  Although not on his list, he was holding out hope that somehow he would be able to manage to sneak dessert in there.  I was not so optimistic about dessert becoming a reality.  With $20 in hand and my wallet at home…yes, I decided I would leave my wallet home…we set out for the grocery store.

First up, bread.  Normally, I purchase a round loaf of Italian bread from a local bakery.  Unbeknownst to my son, I typically make that purchase directly from the bakery, with a coupon, making it half the price of what he was about to see at the supermarket.   He picked up the familiar loaf, looked at the price tag, glanced at me, and said, “$4.50?  Really?”  Into the basket it went.

Next on the list, chicken.  This was going to be expensive.  Chicken was not on sale, and I knew that he would need at least three chicken breasts for his meal.  We scoured through the packages priced between $9.00 and $12.00 and quickly determined that chicken breasts were going to break the bank.  I pointed out other options.  In addition, I told my son that he could change his menu around, taking into consideration some meat options that were on sale.  Nope.  Chicken panini sandwiches were going to happen…somehow.  We finally decided on a hefty package of chicken tenders that was within his price range.

We scooped up a smaller than anticipated block of mozzarella along with two cans of white beans.

“Are you sure you need two cans of beans?  They’re inexpensive, but will you really need that much dip?”

My son responded, “Yes, we really like the dip and the beans are cheap.  One extra can of beans won’t be a big deal.”

Maybe. Maybe not….

Our last stop was the produce section.  I don’t normally purchase much produce from the grocery store.  The majority of our fruits and vegetables come courtesy of a local co-op group, so I knew that my son would really be taken back by the price tags in this aisle.   To boot, it’s February in the Northeast.  Produce prices are at their highest and selection is at its lowest.   He rounded up a bag of mini carrots, a red pepper, a cucumber, and a package of grape tomatoes.  I stopped him and encouraged him to add up the items in his basket.  After weighing the pepper and determining its cost to be roughly $2.00, my son’s total calculation came in over $25, and he had not even picked up basil yet.

“Mom, do you have any extra money on you?”

“Why, as a matter of fact I don’t;  I seemed to have left my wallet at home,” I replied.

With head lowered and eyebrow raised, he asked, “Now what?”

“You can change the menu, trim it down, or make substitutions,” I said.

Well, substitutions would become the word of the day because, again, we were going to have those panini sandwiches tonight one way or another.   So back to the bread aisle we went to discover that two thin baguettes would be $1.50 cheaper than his original loaf.  Score.  We exchanged the original package of chicken for a slightly smaller one.   Back in the produce section, we put back the pepper, exchanged the bagged mini carrots for full sized carrots that were cheaper, and then turned out attention to the basil.  It was $3.29.  Ouch!  I told him that he could probably get away with using dried basil instead, and that would be under a buck. “No way” was the response I received.  I knew that my son would only need about half of the package of basil for his meal.

“If I had my wallet with me, I would offer to purchase half of your basil.  I could use it at another meal.”

Quick thinking as my son is, he responded, “You have money in the van.”

“Where?”

“In the cup holder.  I saw a few quarters.  I’ll be right back.”

I stood there waiting and watching the produce manager pass me yet again, likely wondering what in the world was going on…I had been there a long time.  My son returned with five quarters.  We picked up the basil and did a little happy dance knowing that now we were slightly under budget (courtesy of my basil offer).  We made our way to the cashier but decided to take one more look at the chicken to see if we could save a bit more.  I kid you not, as we were looking at the chicken, I heard the familiar sound of coins hitting, what I thought, was the floor.  I turned to my son who informed me that two of the quarters fell into the front grate of the meat freezer…into the abyss…gone for good.

No way!  What to do?  Laugh, that’s what you do.  With that I told my son that he needed to have a plan in the event that we didn’t have enough money to pay.  He decided that he would put back the second can of beans if we were over budget.

As we waited in line, I leaned over to my son and asked, “Can you buy me a package of candy?”

“Mom!”

When all was said and done, the bill came to $20.13.  With my purchase of half of the basil, my son would come in under budget.

I was exhausted.  In the time it takes me to do an entire food shop, we shopped for one meal.  But what fun the two of us had.  My son learned the art of finding suitable substitutions.  He actually did a fantastic job making his plan work.  On our drive home he asked me if I always spend twenty dollars on our dinners.  I told him that I typically spend less.  I also told him that I tend to shop the sales.  Normally, I never would have purchased chicken that week because of the price.

Making good choices is important, not just at the food store but clear across the board in life.  Even though my son was determined to make his panini sandwiches, he may have needed to change his plan.  There are too many people walking around who have the mentality that “I am going to get what I want, no matter what”.   I told him that we can’t just walk through life determined to get what we want, when we want it, regardless of the price.  Sometimes the price is big…and I am not referring to the price tag at the store.

Who knew there would be so many practical lessons and discussions that would ensue from this little experiment.

As for dinner, the “panini” sandwiches were delicious (but were no longer paninis due to the bread exchange).  The dip was spot on and the veggies just right.  Again, I enjoyed a wonderful time shopping, preparing, and cooking alongside my son.