"... to refuse to bend our shoulders to carry a load is to miss a new opportunity for growth."
J.R. Miller from Streams in the Desert
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One of the first seeming contradictions that I recall encountering as a very young Bible student was found in Galations in the first few verses of chapter six. In the KJV, verse 2 clearly states:
"Bear ye one anothers' burdens ... "
but then verse 5 states:
"For every man shall bear his own burden."
Wait a minute. Was I being instructed to carry my own load or to carry someone else's burden?
Then a truly dismaying thought crossed my mind. Good grief! Was I being asked to haul my own load and carry someone else's too?
Oh, come on now, Lord. Let's get real here. I am stumbling along barely able to stand up under my own burden. Now I am supposed to carry other folks' as well? Puh-leeeze.
I would ask that you keep in mind that I was only about seventeen, and too immature to know not to take this tone with God. And fortunately, God was a lot more gracious than my cheeky attitude and sent someone along to help me understand this admonition a little better.
This teacher explained that the command to carry another's burden was in cases where their present load was overwhelming: like a boulder compared to a pebble, or a steamer trunk compared to a backpack. If, for example, a friend is having dinner guests, she can handle that by herself. But if she is hosting a banquet for fifty people, she could certainly use some help and I need to get on over there and "apron-up."
If my neighbor has a cold, he can deal with it by himself. But if he has cancer, he likely could use someone to come alongside and offer some support. We should each carry our own backpack, but we should help those who are bent double under a steamer trunk at the moment.
God expects me to carry my own daily burdens, those incessant demands that must be met by each of us, however mundane.
I once knew a lady who asked the women's church group to come over and do her ironing because she was behind. She wasn't sick, she wasn't unable to iron. But she had allowed it to back up to the point of no return, such that it turned out she had about five or six large plastic bags of items she wished to have ironed!
Granted this is an outdated example, given that no one actually irons anymore, but you see the point. She should have plugged in her own iron as this was not a burden that needed to be carried by someone else.
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Still as Miller points out, there are indeed, opportunities for growth when we willingly bend our shoulders to a burden that truly needs to be borne. Sometimes our enemy tries to tell us that such burdens are beneath us, too menial; when, in fact, we need to be beneath them, learning whatever lesson God wants to teach us.
We all carry loads in life such as the burden of responsibility for children, aging parents, sick family or friends. We carry the load in our church duties and/or school requirements. And that says nothing of the tremendous load some carry in the form of their paid jobs.
And even many of the blessings in life come with attendant burdens: the burden of love, loyalty, creativity - the load of learning, or teaching, or tougher still, being a consistent role-model. No question about it, there are enough loads to go around for everyone.
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Even a baby is sometimes said to be "carrying a load." This statement is not usually meant, however, as a comment upon the baby's skills or willingness. Oh, no, it usually indicates that:
a) something smells
b) someone needs to do something about it
c) the baby is blissfully unaware of the consternation around him
d) everyone is hoping that someone else offers to handle the load.
Humm, come to think of it, this reminds me of some Christians I have known. I'm just saying.
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So, then, let us bear our own burdens with as much grace as God grants to us. And let us offer to help carry someone else's back-breaking load, bending our shoulders in humility and gratitude for the opportunity for growth. Why? Well, I think because He who is our Maker and Redeemer had this to say about it:
Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
Tami at The Next Step is hosting this week's In Other Words. Please stop by.