How Do We “Carry Each Other’s Burdens”?
Our dear friends recently moved, and Gary and I stopped over to their new place just as they were rearranging some furniture. Great timing, depending on how you look at it. We were happy to help. And besides, we knew the #1 rule when moving heavy things: Use your legs.
So bending our knees, all four of us each picked up a corner of a heavy table and together we placed it in the perfect spot. Then, we discovered it wasn’t quite in the perfect spot, so we tried again, and then once more, until that gorgeous table was right where it was supposed to be.
But here’s the thing. When you move one heavy thing, often it means you MUST move another heavy thing.
I’m fairly certain, this is in the book of Proverbs somewhere.
So we, the fearless foursome, tackled our next project: a very heavy, large rug that was rolled up and in the way of everything. I got on the farthest end from our group, but closest to where we were guiding the rug to. We counted to three, because all heavy lifts are easier when you count to three, and the three of them picked up the rug and pushed in my direction. Their push was way more than what I could handle and the rug slid right past me into a lovely, rather expensive vase on the floor.
And yes…this ended our brief new career aspirations of becoming professional movers.
The vase shattered.
What’s the point of this story? We’ll, we are all going to encounter heavy things that we can’t lift on our own. Burdens of personal pain, grief, trauma, brokenness, the burdens of spiritual failure and temptation…These kinds of burdens are heavier than any antique table, rug, or grand piano, you might try to move. Why would we think for a moment, that we could carry them alone?
It’s these way-too-heavy burdens Paul refers to in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And that law he’s referring to is love. Jesus commands us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
One way we tangibly show that we love one another is to carry each other’s burdens.
But we aren’t checking off a list like this:
- Showed up
- Moved some heavy things
- I feel great about myself
God hasn’t called us to ACT like we love one another by doing impressive things, but rather to BE love. Sometimes we get this mixed up and we think it’s our job to “carry” others burdens by making sure they know just how out of step with God they are, and we shame them with our help. We shame them with our love.
Real love as defined by God, doesn’t do that.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…”
If these are the defining characteristics of Jesus’ love, then I have to ask myself, what does my “love” look like?
Look at Paul’s words in Galatians 6:1
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
That word “restore” is the same word used to set a broken bone. It’s done with gentleness and great care and only the spiritually mature can handle it. Yes there will be pain, but it’s a pain that leads to healing.
This is how we carry each other’s heavy burdens, even if the burden we are helping someone to carry is a consequence of their sin. Like our failed attempt to lift that heavy rug, if you use too much force, you could unintentionally shatter things.
So, what’s the correct way to carry each other’s burdens?
1. Pray for them. Remember, you are dealing with someone God loves greatly. Ask for His insight and to be filled with His love, not yours.
2. Pray for you. Test your own actions, your own motives, and be mindful that none of us are without sin, so humble your heart before God.
3. Cut a hole in the roof. Get them to Jesus! Like the four friends did for the paralyzed man in Mark 2:3-5, “3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
4. Carry your own “load.” The Greek word used in Galatians 6:5, “for each one should carry their own load”, refers to a weight like that of a backpack for a marching soldier. Yes, there are some weights that we are responsible to carry alone, and aren’t meant to be shared. But Jesus said even those loads, He will make light if we come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). If you make this your way of life and practice of carrying your loads to Jesus, you will be free and unhindered to help carry the heavy burdens of others.
When we see someone struggling under the weight of a heavy burden, we are called and empowered by God’s Spirit to help carry it. It’s not a quick fix and it may not even turn out the way WE want. But people are not our projects or trophies for us to glory in.
They are God’s BELOVED.
The ultimate help we can offer in carrying one another’s burdens is to show up like Jesus and let Him do His work. It’s His love that heals, forgives, restores…
So show up, and use your LOVE, not your legs.