“Share one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Some friends you don’t hear from very often, but it doesn’t make them any less your friend. John is one of those friends to me. We were in seminary together, I was a few years ahead of him. Both of us received our doctorates in Greek. His wife was the secretary to one of the professors for whom I worked as a teaching assistant. After graduation, I became a pastor. He went into teaching. Occasionally he would fill in for me at churches, and occasionally I would speak at the college where he taught.
He called me one day with a problem. His college had to make severe cutbacks due to a financial crunch. Though he was a highly respected teacher and won awards from faculty and students, he did not get a contract for the coming year. Two opportunities to teach had fallen through. Autumn loomed. He was calling everyone he knew asking for help in finding a church to pastor or another place to continue his teaching ministry.
What my friend had right then was a burden, a weight that he must carry for a while until new employment came his way. It did. He was too talented, and the needs too many. He found a place. But for a while he felt the heaviness of a burden of worry and fear.
Many times when I look out over a congregation I wonder what kinds of burdens people carry. Some are unemployed. Some are in a job they cannot stand, working for someone who has made life very difficult. Others struggle with a disease. Some have children who are in trouble. Some people labor in a difficult marriage. On and on.
When life throws a burden at you, you seldom have the option of refusing to carry it. But we have hope. Life takes nothing away from you that God will not restore in manifold ways. A Christian will lose some battles, but never the war. God has a solution for the burdens you bear.
One solution we find in Paul’s counsel is to share our burdens with one another. I cannot express how valuable this principle has been to me. Just talking to someone helps. Somehow expressing fears and doubts lessens their strength. Our confidant may have no solution to offer, but God has so composed us that sharing a burden with another person lightens the load.
Of course, other times the person listening to us will have an insight. God almost always speaks to me through other people. I hear His voice through the voices of others. That doesn't diminish the vitality of my direct relationship with God. It merely underscores the importance of relationships and why God wants us to be one. Thus, we fulfill the law of Christ.
As I recall I offered no solutions or insightful words of wisdom to guide John. I was just a brother in Christ listening to and praying for another brother in Christ. I learned again what has been confirmed so often since: a burden shared is halved; a joy shared is doubled.
Dr. Terry Ellis
February 8, 2015