Everyone comes hard-wired with the ability to bear loads. Some have an endless ability to sustain under numerous amounts of people’s burdens. Other’s have a lower capacity in terms of this call. And yet we’re all called by God to bear each others burdens. Galatians 6:2 says,
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
This is a call, a law and the will of God.
But what happens when we try to bear too much? Does God have any categories for this? Or is it our Christian duty to encumber ourselves relentlessly with other people’s distress’? Is this what makes God happy? Or is it possible, that He allows us the grace of having a limit?
My husband and I have been experiencing a season that has tested our understanding on this matter. We live in a world with so many burdens. And for a long time I’ve believed that the only measure of a true Christian is their ability to bear every piece of other people’s heavy and dysfunctional cargo with ease, because that’s God’s revealed will for us to do. We ought not complain, as this is what makes Him proud.
Is this true though?
I’ve always despised the old-adage God will never give you more than you can handle, because often it feels like that’s exactly what he’s doing. It’s not helpful; it’s overly-simplistic “wisdom” that doesn’t allow for the nuance of how suffering works in our lives. And at times, the only way God can actually work in us is to stretch and mold us by symbolically holding us directly over the fire.
With that said, we must never believe that God is a mean-spirited Father who gets His jolly’s piling upon us burdens we genuinely can’t bear.
So, what is it then? Are we intended to be burdened, or not?
My husband (who has handled our circumstances about 100 times better than I have) helped me with an illustration. He said, would you get mad at your kid if you handed him a bag that was too heavy for him to carry, that he had to put it down? To which my reply was, of course not.
And here’s how we know my husbands analogy is true. God’s Word.
Directly after the above verse in Galatians, comes some much-needed clarification. It goes on to say,
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
What does all this mean? What does bearing other’s burdens have to do with thinking too much of yourself?
Paul is giving us categories that we need here. He’s saying take care of others, but don’t do it out of prideful self-reliance. Don’t think so highly of yourself. God has called each and every one of His children to fulfill their work within the body of Christ. And it’s our job to be faithful in those tasks. If your called to be the feet, do so with endurance.
What pride does, is insert’s itself into those roles by either elevating its role above the others or by trying to do the others also. Pride isn’t satisfied with the feet and wants to be the hands, eyes and mouth also.
Romans 12:4-6 explains this…
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.
Here’s the thing. The needs in this world are too many. And I believe these texts are helping us understand that we ought to do our part. Whatever God has called you to do, do it faithfully. It may cause many burdens, but Christ will supply the strength to do the task, if its for you to do. But sometimes, you may be trying to do too much. And it’s likely a God-complex type pride that is adding that unnecessary burden.
Believe me, it’s painful to realize a limitation you may have. Most Christians want to do all the good things they can. But God isn’t always asking us to do them, even though we know they’re good. Sometimes He see’s it’s too heavy for us to carry. Sometimes we’re driven by compassion and other times it’s just plain pride.
But this is why the body has so many parts. All the needs that are close to the heart of God are not meant to be met by just one part. It takes us all.
I wish I could say that this lesson has been fully learned on my part, but it hasn’t. I’m still very much wrestling with this reality. My pride has roots too deep for a quick turn-around. My heart was wrapped up too much in this one. And the guilt of not being able to carry the burdens we carry at this moment long-term feel like a millstone around my neck, pulling me deep into the cold waters of confusion. This suffocation gives satan an ability to whisper lies into my ear about my lacking usefulness, that he otherwise wouldn’t have.
And yet I know those whispers are not God. Or at least, that’s the truth I keep preaching to myself.
I have to believe in God’s good sovereignty although this world produces so much need and heart-ache. Though innocent ones suffer and sin seems to prevail. I sing..
This is my Father’s world, oh let me ne’re forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet…
I sing it in my head to battle the thoughts that cloud truth.
I remind myself Jesus wins in the end. His grace covers a multitude of mine and so many others sin, short-comings and limitations. He’s even generous enough to use those things for good and for His own sovereign purposes.
As absurd as that feels right now, I know its true.