48: Bearing One Another’s Burdens
This is not a New Year’s Resolution, you may relax. But it is an exhortation. I have recently spoken to people who have been through a difficult season in their life. I noticed they didn’t reach out for help when they were most needy. Instead they waited until they were through it, then were able to verbalize for they were now “Fine”.
As I listened to one sad story, I wished I had known my friend was struggling so I could have been a help and a support. Friends, we need each other. And we need each other the most, when we are in the thick of our difficulties, not after the fact. We ALL need help from time to time, ask for it when you need it. Please don’t put on the stiff upper lip and try to make it through your trials or tribulations by yourself.
I know we live in a culture that looks down upon the weak and the needy. I also know that even within the church we are often guilty of shooting our wounded, instead of embracing them and binding up their wounds. Sunday morning should be the one time when grace is extended, unfortunately it can be the scariest time for those who are struggling.
Perhaps that is why AA and other recovery groups meet on Tuesday or Thursday night and not on a Sunday. For the record, I love the honesty and openness of these brave people who have the courage to face their pain together.
In 2012, I went through one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I tried to tough it out and fight by myself, until the battle proved overwhelming. I then reached out to a group of believers and bared my soul. I asked for help, I asked for prayer, I was desperate.
Those brothers and sisters gathered around me and embraced me (only one sent a book to try and fix me). They offered to fly to be with me from long distances. I received prayer, phone calls, and emails of encouragement for days, weeks, and months. They bore my burden and fulfilled the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2.
These men and women, these members of Body of Christ, made all the difference. They beautifully embodied Jesus Himself on this earth. For when He walked this earth he did not turn away from the needy, He reached out His loving arms and drew them to Himself.
Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”
I took a risk baring my soul before these men and women. Would they reject me? Would they think ill of me in the future? Would I be invited to speak at their conferences? Would they tell others about my sad state? But the opposite happened, they loved me, at my neediest.
I saw this anonymous quote on facebook recently. Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said, I’m here for you” and proved it. These people proved to be true friends.
Two days, later, in answer to their prayers, the Man of Sorrows Himself, who is acquainted with grief, met me in my kitchen. Jesus drew near to me as I drew near to Him. Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
That week marked the beginning of my healing. I still had months of work to go, but that was the turning point.
I found two benefits of being real and truthful. The first is that I didn’t have to pretend or tell half truths to look good. It was, and is, wonderfully freeing. The second perk was that when I was real, people I spoke with were freed up to be real and share the truth about themselves as well.
When I was politely asked, “How are you?” I would respond, “Do you really want to know?” If they said yes, I told them where I was in my journey. What usually followed was a deep conversation, as they dropped their pretense, opened up, and shared how they were doing, and where they were struggling.
Recently I shared a meal with Peter Greer, who just wrote a book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good. In it, Peter bares his heart and shares his journey, the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we sat down to eat I asked, “How does it feel to be naked?” After he recovered from my direct query, he remarked that he felt free.
Do you know what we each have in common? Struggles. Weakness. Sin. Discouragement. Suffering. We are all carrying burdens, if not our own, then someone who is close to us. For when one member suffers, we all suffer. As Philo of Alexandria wisely observed, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
I hope that we all have friends who are there for us, when we are going through dark valleys of the soul. I hope that we can each be a true companion to others when they are enduring difficult seasons of life. I hope that we will always be assured of the presence of the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with our grief.
For when we weep, He weeps. When we hurt, He hurts. When no one else is listening, He hears. When we can’t even form the words to pray, He knows.
Grateful that Immanuel is with us each in 2014,
PS There will be Rewards for those who read the Bible individually, and as families, in 2014. We are hoping to unveil our new website very soon and there will be more information posted there. But start keeping track on January 1 and more details will follow.