“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Whether your Bible translation translates the first word of this verse as “carry” or “bear,” the idea is the same. As believers we are called to move towards those who are hurting and try to help alleviate some of the weight they are carrying. Some people find this easier to do as they tend to empathize quickly with others and their situations. Other people have to work a little harder at it to help them move closer to those suffering. I fall into the former category. I can’t take any credit for it, as I know that this is how God made me. I can’t muster the level of compassion and empathy I have for others on my own; I am much too selfish and self-centered for that! But the Lord saw fit for me to have a deep desire to move towards those who are hurting and minister to them. It is both a beautiful gift and a heavy load that I carry. Let me explain.
My empathy kicks in anytime I see someone walking through pain or suffering, but it kicks into overdrive especially when someone is walking through loss. I’ve walked through more loss in the past two years than I ever thought I would so when someone else is experiencing loss, my heart becomes burdened with their pain. Sometimes, I physically feel their pain in my heart and take it on as my own as I try to feel how they must be feeling. This causes me to reach out to them, pray for them, and comfort them as best I can. This is what makes carrying others’ burdens a beautiful gift; it causes us to move towards them, not away from them.
But here’s the problem. If the burden that I’m carrying for someone else stops with me, I have trouble processing it myself and moving on to handle events happening in my own life. A few years ago, a dear, close friend of mine was walking through the loss of a loved one very soon after the loss of another loved one. My empathy kicked into overdrive, and I carried her burden as best I could. The weight of the pain and sorrow she was feeling weighed heavily on my own soul. It literally felt like a weight was sitting on my heart. As the days and weeks went by, the weight got heavier and heavier. One morning the Lord so gently pointed out that while carrying one another’s burdens is exactly what we are called to do, I had forgotten to give him the burden that I was then carrying. I had been praying heavily for my friend, all the while not giving her grief (and through empathy what had become my grief) to the Lord. I had allowed it to press so deeply into my soul that by the time I finally came to the Lord and asked Him to take it, it felt like 100 pounds had been lifted off my chest.
Now fast forward to the recent months. You would think I would remember this lesson, but I didn’t. I had 3 different friends who were walking through immense grief, and though their different situations were spaced out over several months, each one laid heavier and heavier on my soul. It finally took talking to my counselor (uh, like, yesterday) to reveal that my heart was so heavy and I was so sad because I had not given these burdens to the Lord. I had allowed them to stop with me; all the while I feel like God was probably jumping up and down and waving His hands going, “Hello! Give me your grief! Hey, over here! Give it all to me!” I can’t explain how freeing it was to realize that my heart had been so broken for others (which is a beautiful thing!) that I was having trouble processing events in my own life (not a good thing). Letting go of their burdens and releasing them into the hands of a loving Savior allowed me for the first time in months to walk with a lightness in my step that I had not felt in some time.
So what about you? Has God given you a special, deep desire and ability to connect with others walking through suffering and help carry their burdens? I hope so. Galatians 6:2 says that when we do bear one another’s burdens, we are fulfilling the law of Christ-the law of loving our friends and our enemies fully. If you’re like me, though, and you have a hard time surrendering your friends’ hurts and losses (which through empathy have become yours as well) take some time doing that today. Give them to the Lord. It is the only way that we can live in this broken world without being completely crushed by its pain. Carry one another’s burdens, empathize with them, pray for them, be there for them however is best. But don’t forget to turn it all over to the Lord and ask Him for strength and wisdom on how to continually surrender it all to Him. After all, His hands are always open and can handle anything we lay in them.
Pressing on in faith, Jennifer