Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Galatians 6:2-5
The first word burdens in the Greek is baros and is used figuratively for weight, load, abundance, or authority.
The second word load or burden in the Greek is phortion (for-tee-on) which means an invoice (as part of a freight), a task or service. It looks like "portion", but believe it or not, it is more similar in word form to the word "fortunate".
The King James version repeats the same word in these verses: "Bear one another's burdens.......each one shall bear his own burden"..... Sounds contradictory, doesn't it?
Several years ago I had read my first issue of Voice of the Martyrs magazine. After reading article after article about persecuted Christians around the world, I was grieved and ashamed about the simplicity of my own life. I could not imagine my children being ripped from my arms, witnessing the murder of someone as close as a spouse or child, being denied by family, or experiencing the pain of physical torture as an attempt to force me to deny my faith. I sat on my couch with the magazine clung to my chest, tears running down my face, and cried out to the Lord with a visual.
I imagined a long line of Christians. They were wearing torn and filthy clothing and were bruised and bloodied. As I stood in this line, I imagined that both the persons in front and behind me and all those before and after them were greatly burdened with huge, wooden crosses. They were hunched over and groaning and could barely shuffle along as we traveled. I showed the Lord this line and then gestured to myself as I stood in it. There I was, clean, upright, and strong. I was wearing a beautiful, long, pink, princess gown and the only cross to be found was a shiny little necklace around my neck.
"Oh, Lord! Why do all these wonderful people have such horrible crosses and all I have is this little one?"
"Jennifer, if everyone had such crosses, who could help the others carry theirs?"
He then showed a visual of me in the line running to the person ahead of me and assisting with his cross. I eased his burden and began to see relief on his face. He was strengthened and able to go on. I then ran to the person behind me and did the same. There were so many people to help! I knew that my dress would get soiled and sweat was sure to break out on my delicate princess forehead from such labor, but I couldn't bear to watch their suffering while my hands were free. But even though the task of helping so many seemed so great, I was still overwhelmed at my easy lot compared to theirs.
"Lord, how can I live like this? How can I bear to be so adorned and blessed while others around me are so weary, burdened, and persecuted for Christ?"
He answered simply,
"That is your cross to bear."
Our Lord is a just God and as I grew in Christ, I realized that although I may have had a season of free hands, there would be times when I, too, would feel an overwhelming cross upon my back.
To my relief, brothers and sisters in Christ ran to my rescue and eased the burden. I have been lifted with encouraging words, common experiences, timely verses, much needed hugs, much needed checks, groceries and food delivered to my door, and a mighty caravan of Christians moving us from one home to another. How comforting to have kind and gentle eyes look into yours and a voice that simply says, "I've been there too." Most of the time, the lifting came with the realization that I was doing so well in spite of my circumstances because my brethren were praying for me. Yes, I knew they were praying because there was simply no way I could have made it in my own strength.
These experiences have also taught me that when I do occasionally find myself as the "princess", I must pay attention to those around me so I can even recognize when someone has an overwhelming cross. This means I must look into the lives of others, ask sincere questions, study faces, build trust, and know my brethren well. The enemy will often try hard to preoccupy me with the busyness of my own life so that I am so insensitive to the Holy Spirit, the Lord has to fling a big cross on my back just to get my attention. No bit and bridle for me, thank you. I'd rather abide, listen to that Still, Small Voice and walk accordingly. I must also be willing to roll up my sleeves and take action.
Does the Lord actually want me to inconvenience myself, soil my pretty dress, and do something physical like clean this person's home, babysit her four or more children, hold her hand at a funeral, go with her to chemotherapy, cook a meal, or give away my last ten bucks? Yep. Remember, faith without works is dead. A pretty, perfect looking princess is no princess at all in His kingdom. His princesses are more like Cinderella. Serve your brethren without complaining and you get to live happily ever after with The Prince. I don't ask if I should pray anymore. That, I have learned, is a very silly question.
Does the Lord want my children to eat bowls of cereal for dinner each night while I deliver gourmet style casseroles to all the widows? Does He want me to leave my husband alone with five children three nights a week while I engage in various "ministries"? Does he expect me to forsake marriage, laundry, homeschooling, and personal hygiene so that I might leave for a six week mission trip with my more spiritually minded girlfriends? Uh, no. Do not get carried away, my sister. There may very well be times when you go without eating to help someone else, but don't allow Satan to pervert your enthusiasm and hurt your family.
As for those seasons when I unexpectedly and suddenly discover that a large, overwhelming cross has been placed upon my own back, I have learned to humble myself and ask for help when I need it. Even the Lord Jesus had help with His cross and I am certainly not better than He. My cross shall always pale in comparison to His, but so, unfortunately, will my humility. It is ridiculous to imagine walking around trying to act normal and pretend that everything is just hunky dory when there is a three hundred pound, splintering cross upon your back; but, my friends, our brethren do it all the time. Those in leadership positions are especially vulnerable to this temptation.
It is unfortunate, but true, that others may judge us for having such crosses. After all, we might have deserved them. This is the thinking that has kept me and others from confessing a need for help in the past. I can't let these people know I'm depressed. I can't let these people know I'm broke, my marriage is shakey, my kids are rebellious, I am wrestling with a carnal sin, I don't have my act together....... it goes on and on. That is the risk we must take for the sake of truth and recovery. How we underestimate our brethren the way we underestimate our God! I have witnessed pillars - men and women at whose feet I would be honored to sit - have their reputations besmirched and their hearts ripped out by lying tongues. Some brethren may very well judge you, but keep in mind, honest friend, God is a just and faithful Father. Some of your harshest critics have humbling crosses waiting for them right around the corner. When that time comes, roll up your forgiving sleeves for them as well and bring glory to your God!
Inevitably, the one trying to make the perfect impression crumbles under the weight and the feared humiliation finally washes over him. Either he receives help and recovers from the stumble, or he runs away. This is persecution? How does this even compare with the sufferings of those abroad who are dying for their faith? Born again Christians die for their faith everyday. There are two kinds of dying for Jesus. You can literally die as a martyr. You can also die daily for Him while you live. Pick up your cross and follow Me...... We all must die in order that we may truly live. It is a waste of time to compare your destiny with those of others. You must simply live your destiny well.
There are obvious attacks against Christians through flesh and blood as Satan attempts to grieve and wound our precious Father who loves us to death. I am also convinced, however, that many of our satanically orchestrated circumstances are a form of persecution as well. This is a wearing down of God's people who think they are immune to oppression, because, after all, we live in a free country.......
Jesus said that those who try to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus would be persecuted. Period. If He said it, it will happen. Sometimes my circumstances are a true persecution event, other times they are simply a diversion to keep me too inwardly focused to care about anyone else. While you are in the pit, it is always prudent to pray for others while you are praying for yourself. It is truly a selfless and noble act and God honors it. Don't forget that.
Eventually, each one of us shall stand alone before the King of Kings and our "load" bearing will be examined. Did we help others with their loads? Did we overcome ours - not because we were supermen and women, but because we were humble men and women who asked and received help? In so doing, by the way, others may receive their rewards from the Lord for helping us.......
We must bear each others burdens. We must not be too proud to give help and we must not be too proud to receive it. We are each personally responsible for our choices and priorities and will ultimately have to bear the load of our consequences or rewards alone when we have them evaluated before our Ultimate Example. Yes, He gives much grace, but alas, He also gives much warning.