It was seven years ago, but I remember as if it happened yesterday. I attended a large gathering with friends to hear a well-known speaker. Before he began to teach, he invited us to close our eyes so he could pray for us. I thought it would be a short prayer, but instead, he began to name difficulties, and asked us to raise our arm if that was our challenge, Specifically, he prayed from prodigals to marriages, then health issues and unemployment, from grief to aging parents, from conflicts to decisions. He continued and though I didn’t open my eyes to check the time, my arm ached. As he prayed, he acknowledged he was sure our arm ached, but that was his point–we were never intended to bear our burdens alone. Unknown to him, my dear friend Susan, sitting next to me, about midway through the prayer, gently held my arm up to alleviate the ache that had advanced to throbbing. Like Aaron and Hur who held up Moses’s arms because he was weary, (Exodus 17:12-14) she let me rest my arm on her open palm. No, she couldn’t take my burden, but she supported me.

So we come to another in our series of “one another”:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)

I can carry grocery bags into the house with ease but carrying bins down my attic steps-not so much. The weight and awkward size of my bins causes me to walk down steps slowly, measuring each step so I don’t fall. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. The bins contain seasonal decorations, and I’ve questioned if I should bother changing décor. It’s tempting to forego the changes. If the bins are too heavy, I need help.

But there are other weights: significant burdens that weigh on us emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. What comes to mind as you see another with burdens of worry, sorrow, anxiety? Health issues or practical needs? Job loss?  Yes, we are personally responsible to carry our own loads, and not make excuses, but some burdens are overwhelming. They may be our opportunities to lighten another’s load and shift the weight to move from awkward to safety, from the status quo to positive change.

         We lighten loads when we help.

In Acts 11:27–30 the church at Antioch learned of a coming famine in Judea. Although they didn’t personally know these people, they took up collections to help. Their contribution lightened the load and gives an example of believers bearing one another’s burdens. Today, when we hear of natural disasters and know loads of rebuilding are heavy and costly, we respond to help carry the load.

When I relocated, friends helped carry my load unpacking and moving in. They lightened my emotional, physical, and mental burdens.

We lighten loads by encouraging.

My friend Donna often says how thankful she is our group of widows have “one another”. Companionship and mutual identification with struggles lighten our loads and we are “2 am friends” for each other.

A dear friend going through a life-interruption appreciates prayer even long -distance on the phone and through texts. We lighten loads by our presence, even when not face to face.

In our current crisis, we can’t fix, but we can encourage. Do you know someone alone or in one of the “at risk” categories? We can reassure and check in on them. We can be thoughtful and responsible when we shop for our needs, not anticipate filling our storage room. We respectfully follow health care guidelines and practices not out of fear, but as we do, we encourage each other in our responsibility and care for one another.

We lighten loads by refreshing.

A group of friends often cook dinner for families of chronically ill children who have moved here temporarily for treatment. Last night, grandparents told me, “It’s so good to have vegetables and a home-cooked meal, a change from fast food and restaurants.”  Their gratitude was unmistakable. We couldn’t fix the status of their grandchild’s health, but a simple meal lightened their load for a few hours. “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed,” (Proverbs 11:25) and we were.

Our words matter. Words may not provide a solution, but they can encourage and give hope. In our current health crisis, much is unknown and daily life has dramatically changed. We can help bear each other’s burden of uncertainty by refraining from speaking fear and negativity, but choosing positive hopeful words,

Though we’d like to fix another’s problem or take it away, we often can’t. In life, we can’t always avoid troubles and go around them, but we can support and help one another go through. Offering practical help, prayer, and encouragement is often the difference between not seeing one’s way and missing steps, deciding to give up, or moving forward.

When we’re willing to enter another’s life and help carry their load, we meet a need and find treasures in unexpected places: the joy of seeing another’s sigh of relief, gratitude, or encouragement. Our life is lightened, as is theirs, when we focus on others. The second part of Galatians 6:2 reads, “and so fulfill the law of Christ”.  What is that? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31 NIV)

Has someone lightened your load? How have you seen bearing another’s burdens?

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