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Life gets heavy sometimes.
Of course we all know this. Heavy things happen. Loved ones die. Terrorist attacks happen. Illness strikes. Relationships are broken. Life is hard.
But I’ve begun noticing recently a different way life can get heavy, especially when you live in close community with others. Life can get heavy even when things are going fine in your own life, if the people around you are suffering.
As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. Throughout Paul’s epistles he makes clear that we are to live for one another, to serve one another, to pray for one another. This week at Bible study we are studying James 5, in which he tells his readers the following:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16)
This is encouraging, that we can pray for one another and be healed and forgiven for our sins. But I find that it can also feel like a burden, the need to pray for those among us who are suffering, especially as the list gets longer and longer.
Last week, between what my husband was dealing with and the things going on in my friends’ lives, I just had this realization of, “Wow, other people’s burdens get really heavy sometimes.” I felt burdened by what was happening in the lives of people around me, and not in a good way. And then I realized, I’m not the one who is supposed to carry my friends’ burdens. I was never meant to take their burdens, place them on my own back, and attempt to walk with that weight. It’s my call, as their friend and partner in Christ, to bring those burdens to Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
When we are heavy laden, no matter why, Jesus calls us to come to Him. The only reason we can bear one another’s burdens is because we are merely helping our friends bring them to the feet of the cross. And once there, we can place those burdens there, lay them down at His feet, and trust in His sovereignty. We still carry them, but we have a place to set them down, and we have Jesus to help us along the way.
And we have another helper too:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
We are weak, even in our prayers. But God knows that, which is one reason He gives us the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to worry about what we say in our prayers, whether we are praying for the right things, using the right words, being holy enough, using proper theology, and so on and so forth. Where we are weak, He is strong, and the Spirit himself intercedes for us…according to the will of God. Praise Jesus for that.
Does this mean we shouldn’t feel the weight of life’s burdens, be they ours or someone else’s? No, and we can see in Jesus’ own life that God himself feels the weight of our burdens. It is no easy task, walking through life and its hardships, whether we attempt to do it alone or decide to do it in community. But Jesus wants us to bring those burdens to Him, and trust in his ability to carry them for us, because He loves us, and because it brings Him joy to bear our burdens.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)