We are commanded to love and help one another, but knowing when and how to help takes wisdom and prayer. Today, Sherri Wilson Johnson, author of To Dance Once More, shares her thoughts on burdens versus loads, and how it applies to the body of Christ. (Sherri is also a “Reach Out to Live Out” donor for the month of June so make sure to come back then for a chance to win an e-copy of To Dance Once More.)
The Christian life is not always easy. In fact, it’s rarely easy. We have the same burdens as non-Christians and even more because we must be an example to the world, and we must often defend our faith. When we’re walking with the Lord, these burdens seem a bit lighter. They often do not seem like burdens at all. When we’re not walking closely with the Lord, we have the added weight of our “load” to carry.
Galatians 6:2-5 says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”
What is the difference between a burden and a load?
It seems a burden is something that has been placed upon us without any wrongdoing on our part.
• A birth defect or an inherited predisposition for a health problem.
• Growing up in a difficult situation which may include abuse, divorce or betrayal.
• The responsibility of caring for an elderly or sickly parent.
• A job loss because of the failing economy.
• Possessing a meek or too-timid personality that makes it difficult for you to stand up for yourself.
These are some examples of burdens. Burdens are something the Bible says Christians should help each other with.
A load is something you pick up along this road of life and carry on your back.
• Turning a birth defect into a reason for playing the martyr.
• Abusing your body and causing your health issues to worsen.
• Spouting foul language out at your boss for laying you off and causing your co-workers to stumble.
• Exploding because you are sick and tired of everyone taking advantage of you when you have stood back in your timidity and allowed it to happen.
These things are heavy loads (rocks) that we have picked up along the way and placed in our backpacks and they make the Christian life harder to bear. The Bible says each one should carry their own load.
A burden may be something we have to endure because we were deceived by someone we’re in a relationship with. A load we carry is when we’re the ones causing our loved ones to suffer or when we act inappropriately in response to how someone treats us. Doing wrong to a person who has hurt us does not make things better. In fact, it makes our load heavier.
As a writer of fiction, I could handle wrongful situations anyway I please. But as a Christian, I must follow what the Bible commands as far as conflict resolution and accountability if I am going to lead others to a closer walk with the Lord. Just because it is fiction doesn’t mean it can be false. As much as I may want to take out my frustrations on a character, I have to remember that the Lord says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19). A Christian writer has an obligation to her readers to point them to the Lord.
How do we bear someone’s burdens?
Bearing someone’s burdens can be taking a meal to her when she is sick or driving her to the doctor for radiation treatments or something as simple as praying for that person. Prayer is so powerful and it is often the best thing we can do for someone who has a burden too heavy to bear alone. I have found that laughter often helps ease the burden of a friend. It does not make it go away but it sure helps pass the time and distract the mind.
When we bear the burdens of our friends, we must keep in mind that we have to use discernment because even though we bear their burdens, we don’t take them from them. For example, if a friend has lost a job (due to no fault of her own), if you are able to provide some financial support, that’s a great thing to do. However, you do not want to create a crutch that prevents this friend from “getting back on the horse” and finding a new job. You can even help find a job but you certainly do not want to act as an employment agency, sending out the resumes and making appointments for this friend. Bearing a burden does not need to turn into a co-dependent type of situation. So make sure to prayerfully consider what role God would have you play in bearing your friend’s burdens.
Why can’t we carry their load for them?
A load is something we have brought on ourselves. Each one of us has caused someone to suffer the consequences of a poor or wrong decision of ours. We’ve all made mistakes and can sympathize with people who are trapped in a sinful place. It is tempting to swoop in and try to pluck this person out of the muck and mire. However, it is not always an easy thing to do nor is it the right thing to do. If this person is stuck or if he is like a stubborn mule, fighting your every effort, then sometimes you must leave him to his own devices. Turn him over to a reprobate mind. Take off your sandals and shake off the dust.
No matter how hard we try to keep our Christian friends from sinning, from having a heavy load to carry, as humans it is not possible. Only the Lord can lift the load that weighs us down when we have caused life’s burdens to turn into loads. Our loads turn into guilt and shame and depression and so many other things.
Be on guard!
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” It is extremely easy to get trapped into the loads another friend is carrying. The world is corrupt and full of things that Satan longs to distract Christians with. Every day people fall prey to pornography, adultery, crime, greed, pride and more. When you try to help someone through a sinful time, proceed with caution. Stay strong in your prayer life. Ask God to surround you with his guards and to keep your path straight.
Praying for your Christian brothers and sisters is the best thing you can do. It eases the burdens and lightens the loads. And even if it takes a lifetime for the load to fall away, you cannot get trapped by what your friend has to carry. After all, we have our own loads to carry.
So by all means, bear the burdens of your friends but do them a favor—don’t carry their loads.
Sherri Wilson Johnson is the author of To Dance Once More and Song of the Meadowlark. She is from Georgia, has been married since 1988, and is a former homeschooling mom. She loves to write, read, eat ice cream, ride roller coasters and make people laugh. She loves Jesus and hopes to spread His love to the whole world through her writing. Visit her online:
And check out her novel, To Dance Once More:
To Dance Once More is the story of Lydia Jane Barrington, a Victorian debutante. Lydia lives on a plantation in Florida under the watchful eye of her father. She’s quite an independent young lady who does not want to fall into the trap (as she sees it) that her mother and sisters have fallen into—marriage and motherhood. She wants to travel the world and experience life before giving her heart to a man. One day, her eyes are opened to love and no matter what, she cannot forget the blissful feeling it causes. She begins to believe that love isn’t such a bad thing after all. Then she discovers a secret that prohibits any of her dreams from ever coming true. She begins a quest to free herself and her family from a future of bondage. Hearts are broken and lives are torn apart because of Lydia’s own selfishness. Will she surrender to a call that God placed on her life and be able to experience love after all? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
(You may also find this article, which I wrote for Internet Cafe’ Devotions, helpful: But is That Love?)