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.