I want readers to know that the words you are reading come from a place of brokenness. The things that will be discussed here are things that this bearded Christian still struggles with. My prayer is that we will be able to assist each other during this process.
The topic that I wish to discuss today is one that I believe plagues the church. It’s something of a disease that runs rampant in all of our lives. And it’s putting a cap on who we are as the church. It’s the topic of burdens. But first I would like to paint you a story.
There’s a man named Rick. He’s at church every week. He serves every week. He’s fun, he’s the life of the party. He’s the first guy there and the last to leave. But all of a sudden, you start seeing less of Rick. Time goes by and eventually you don’t see him at all. You decide to call him up to find out what’s going on. After talking with him, you find out that he had tons of questions concerning God, his faith, and things of that nature that he just couldn’t answer. Ultimately he became discouraged and decided that he wouldn’t come back to the church until he could work things out for himself. Nobody knew.
There’s a beautiful married couple, Steven and Michelle. They’ve been married for longer than some couples have been alive. Steve’s a great guy with a ton of advice and Michelle is always ready to lend a hand wherever it is needed. All of a sudden you start to only see one of them at a time. They’re never together. This goes on and on. You finally get the gusto to ask one of them about the situation. They reveal that they’ve been separated for months and are on the tail end of a nasty divorce because there were things they thought they just couldn’t get past. Nobody knew.
And then there’s Tommy. He’s grown up in the youth group at your church. He loves Wednesday night youth services, thinks the youth pastor is the next big thing, and loves going to all of the social events that are offered. Tommy graduates and starts the great and scary adventure of college. On his breaks when he returns home, he’s never at church. People worry, but they don’t seem all too concerned. Finally, the youth pastor that Tommy though was the bomb diggity takes the initiative to call. Come to find out, Tommy no longer believes. He no longer believes that there is a God. He says that the church made sure he had fun while in youth group, but they never made a case to prove and live like God exists. Nobody knew.
The worst part of all 3 of these (fictional) stories is this: nobody knew. Nobody knew that these people were having struggles, doubts, insecurities, and the list goes on. Nobody took the time to ask the simple question, “How are you really?” They were left to carry their burdens alone. While the 3 stories above weren’t real, the problem is. Let’s look at a passage of scripture that I think can begin to help us out:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2
Let’s first establish that bearing one another’s burdens is a biblical concept. We cannot work our way around that. So, the writer (Paul) is informing the Galatians of this important practice. He sets the stage. There is a brother who has transgressed or sinned. What do they (we) do? For those who are “spiritual,” for those who are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, are called to restore the brother who has transgressed. How? Gently and cautiously, so that others will not be ensnared by the same sin. Now, this statement goes way against what the legalistic Judaizers of that day would say. They probably would have judged the brother harshly. “Do the crime, pay the time” kind of mentality. But Paul rebukes that idea. He commissions his brothers to, when they see a brother who has transgressed, to restore him! Instead of leaving him where he is at, they should make an intentional effort to bring that brother back to proper fellowship. Heck, he takes it further. He says to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” He says to get up and go in to the desert that your brother is struggling through and help him carry his load. Get your hands dirty. Heck, seek out the opportunity. Now the context of this passage is speaking on carrying the burden for brothers who have sinned and need restoration. But it certainly does not stop there. We can carry each others burdens in all aspects of life.
So why don’t we do this? Why don’t we practice this biblical concept? Because let me be very blunt and very clear about not carrying each other’s burdens: it’s dumb. It’s idiotic. Here are a few reasons why I think we don’t tell people about our burden’s and why we don’t try to carry each other’s.
1.) We’re individualistic and crave security.
We as people are very individualistic and we crave security. We only want to rely on self because we know that we have our own best interests at heart. Having to rely on others means we have to relinquish some form of control over to them. We have to do that trusting that someone else will take care of us, keep us safe, and have our interests at the forefront of their minds. That’s scary to us. And being scared is the exact opposite of feeling secure. We build up walls around ourselves in order to maintain a sense of security because we’re afraid to feel vulnerable.
2.)We’re afraid to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable means that we have to let our guards down and tear down the walls that we have constructed. It’s saying, “I am weak and I cannot do this alone.” We hate that! We absolutely loathe having to admit that we cannot handle something on our own! It’s especially hard for us men who struggle with pride. To say that I’m vulnerable as a man is hard. Which is why I am adamant about letting you all know that this is something that I struggle with daily. We hate being vulnerable and allowing other people in our lives because, more often that not, it’s going to be a messy process.
3.) We’re afraid of the mess that bearing burdens brings along.
This is something that I believe is a problem in both aspects and ties it all in. On the one hand, we’re afraid to be vulnerable and allow people in to our lives because it’s going to mean that people are going to see the mess in our lives. When I was younger and still living at home, my mom would go berserk trying to get the house clean and tidy before we had company over. Now as an adult when people come over, my wife goes in to a frenzy trying to make sure our home looks hospitable. We don’t like for people to see our mess. And on the other hand, it means that we who are going to bear a brother’s burden will have to willingly put our hands in the mess. We don’t like being dirty. If we can avoid a mess, we typically do. But this is not the life of the church. This is not who God called us to be. There are tons of people in our churches, in our families, in our lives that our struggling with things that we will never know about until we start allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and start intentionally going to people and asking them how they are and more importantly how are their souls. Because after a while, we become desensitized to the problem. We get this idea in our heads that when we’re going through a desert, that it’s okay to not talk about it. People ask, “Need prayer?,” “Are you struggling?,” “Do you need any help?” And the answer remains the same: “Nah, I’m good.” And we allow ourselves to start going through the motions. “This is the part where I raise my hands, and this is the part where I bow my had to ‘pray’, and this is the part where I go to small group and not be honest about the struggles that plaguing my soul.” Allow to be very clear once more – That’s dumb! That is not what God has called us to. We are not called to pretend that everything is alright and that the pain, struggles, and trials are something that we shouldn’t talk about. Because after a while, we become so desensitized, we pretend so much that the pretend becomes our reality. And we stay there. We rob ourselves by doing this. We rob ourselves of broken, yet beautiful conversations with fellow believers that are marked by confession, repentance, and encouragement. And even worse, we rob the church. When we refuse to engage with the rest of the body and deal with things ourselves, we’re not allowing the church to live out its purpose and therefore cause it to not function at maximum capacity. And if that doesn’t bother you then I don’t know what will. So, how do we start doing this? We know there’s a problem and we know there’s a solution, but how do we apply this into our lives?
1.) Get over ourselves.
This sounds harsh, but stay with me. We have to get over the fact that we’re not going to be okay all the time. Not every part of our lives is going to be great. Life is going to suck. But guess what! Other people’s lives will suck too! We’re not the only people who have garbage in our lives. The church has been redeemed and is being sanctified, but it’s far from perfect. So, why not be with people who are going through struggles just like us, be vulnerable together, and encourage each other? It’s okay to not be okay.
2.) Find people who are willing to listen and pray.
I have a great group of friends on campus. We just recently came to the realization that we were not praying for each other how we should. So, we decided to renew our fervor for carrying each other’s burdens. It was absolutely beautiful. We spent at least an hour or two telling each other the things that we were struggling with. And some of the things were pretty heavy. And each of us took time to pray for each other. Many of us have set reminders on our phones or downloaded prayer apps (Echo for example) to make sure that we have no excuse to not pray for each other. It is so vitally important that we find that group, a couple of friends, or that one person that we can go to and just lay ourselves bare before them in love and trust and have them help carry our load.
3.) Intentionally find people that you can help to carry their burdens.
Getting poured into is great as long as you’re pouring into someone else. We have to be willing to go to people and ask the simple question, “How are you?” And sometimes we’ll have to ask the harder questions. We need to be there for each other. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty and help each other grow. We never know when God can use our experiences and our strengths to speak life in to a brother that is hurting and going through a desert.
The Bearded Christian