Helping to Carry the Load: Caring for Others
When I think about caring for others, I am reminded of a the time I joined some fellow cyclists on the Civil War Century bike ride. I signed up for the 64-mile ride which was further than I had ever ridden before. For much of the ride, I was doing fine and pedaling along with the others.
Well I was doing fine until about the last 10 miles. My legs were worn out, and I wasn’t able to keep up with the others. My husband, Ken, saw that I was struggling and dropped back from the rest of the riding crew. He slowed his pace to match my pace and he rode alongside me talking to me and encouraging me along the way.
As we hit one of the last hills, I was certain that I would not be able to climb it. It was then that Ken reached out and placed his hand on my back and gently pushed me along as I peddled. He took just enough weight or burden off my legs so that I could make the climb and finished the ride. Essentially, Ken yoked himself to me so that his strength would bear the burden that my legs could no longer carry.
His help took just enough weight or burden off my legs so that I could make the climb and finished the ride.
Now, I know that bike riding and climbing hills is a pretty simplistic example of a burden. But I’d like you to hold on to that visual as you think about what it means to carry someone’s burden. Ken left his place, and he matched my pace. He didn’t say “Good luck, I’ll see you at the end! or “Speed up, pedal harder.” Instead, he stayed with me and encouraged me. And when it got really hard, he gave me some of this strength so that I could finish the ride.
Romans 15:1 says that “We who are strong ought to bear the weakness of those without strength.”
That is what Ken did for me— his strength bore my weakness. But there a much more serious burdens around us that need us to slow down, encourage, and give our strength to.
There are friends near you who are without strength. There are folks who are experiencing devastating grief, crippling guilt or shame, overwhelming anxiety, worry or depression. In this room we sit with people struggling with addictions to alcohol, drugs or pornography. A married couple near you is on the brink of destruction, adultery, or divorce. These are burdens that are not meant to be carried alone — they are to be carried with others — in loving relationships.
Where do we see “caring for others” in the Bible?
God intends for us to be relational, and His word gives us several examples of how community is to care for one another. Paul gives instructions for women to care for widows so that their burden was not overwhelming. There is also the story of Ruth who travels with Naomi so that she wouldn’t have to bear her grief alone.
And I love what God orchestrates in the desert with Moses. God is aware of the burden that Moses is bearing as he leads the Israelites out of Egypt so He gathers a community of 70 men to help. And He says to Moses “They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.” Moses was not meant to carry his load alone so God surrounded him with people to help him!
These verses show us how God cares about burdens — it tells me that he cares and my burdens and yours too. He cares so much that He sends people — you and me — to help carry the load. He wants us to practice caring for others.
We have a lay counseling ministry at my church, and I recently reached out to some of the people who were cared for by our Lay Counseling Ministry. They spoke beautifully about how they were loved by our team. Karynn wrote that God brought Cheryl to her when her burdens were too much for her to carry on her own. She went on to say that Cheryl’s willingness to sit with and listen to her in the midst of her depression helped her immensely. She was able to see a different perspective and to relate to God differently through her pain all because Cheryl came alongside her.
Her willingness to sit with and listen to her in the midst of her depression helped immensely.
Marsha wrote to me about the loneliness and despair she felt. She was struggling with the fallout of a drug addicted son and was in a new role of caring for her special needs grandson. She was overwhelmed with sadness and began seeing our counselor, Tammi. Marsha told me about Tammi’s tender and compassionate heart and her willingness to make suggestions without judgement. Tammi’s presence and willingness, helped lighten the load for Marsha.
Karynn and Marsha are just 2 of the many people impacted by lay counseling. They felt less of a burden because someone slowed their bike down, rode alongside of them, and lightened the load they were carrying. Their problems were not solved – but the loving presence of another person helped to relieve some of the weight so that they could continue the journey.
Why Should We Help Carry Someone’s Burden?
Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens…”
So…Yes, it is a command in scripture for care for others. And honestly for a long time when I looked at this verse, my focus was on the command. But actually, the 2nd half of the verse is the focus and motivation. Let’s look at it together:
“… and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (ESV)
I wonder if this would better be read as “Fulfill the law of Christ by carrying one another’s burdens.”
I don’t know about you, but I often think of carrying burdens, and caring for others as an extra duty that to do when we have extra time in our schedule. But as I study this, my thinking has been turned around. Helping other people isn’t an add on to the Christian life – this verse is telling me that carrying burdens is essential to the Gospel.
To make sense of this, we need to understand what is the law of Christ. So let’s look at a couple of verses:
Gal 5:14 is key. Paul says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”
I have to tell you, this is where God is working on me this year. What does it really look like to love? To be honest, it challenges me. This statement by itself is challenging, but Jesus raised the bar even higher in the Gospel of John where he says:
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
The commandment to love one another was not new to his followers, but to love sacrificially as Christ did was new. It is one thing to love others in the same way that we love ourselves, but to love like Jesus sets an even higher standard.
An Example to Follow in Caring for Others
Think about the ways Jesus loved the people around him. He confronted sin. He invited people to dinner. He listened as people poured out their hearts at his feet. He challenged people’s thinking. He talked with the mentally ill. He stood quietly as he was accused of my sins – taking my ultimate burden by giving his life for mine. He loved at a cost to himself.
Jesus loved us in a way that doesn’t come naturally to us. His love is relational – it isn’t merely doing good things for others, but it is intimately relating to others so that the feel seen, heard, valued and accepted at their worst. That is truly caring for others.
The heart of the Gospel is about relationship – relationship with God and with others. But our natural way of relating is to be committed to our own well being. Jesus demonstrated that loving others is to be committed to the well-being of the other at a cost to ourselves.
The heart of the Gospel is about relationship – relationship with God and with others.
It’s a challenge for me to set aside my own well being in order to love well. There are times when someone in my family or a friend has a struggle or a need I think “I just want to relax by the pool or enjoy a good book.” And, yes, we do need to care for ourselves, but more often than not my desire is about selfishness rather than about self care.
Our generation has more time for relaxation and for entertainment than any generation before us. And our world tells us we are entitled to even more of it. But if I want to love like Jesus, I need to think differently than the world. I need to care for others. And the truth is that loving well and being loved well, will satisfy me far beyond my latest Netflix binge.
The truth is that loving well and being loved well, will satisfy me far beyond my latest Netflix binge.
The teachings and writings of Larry Crabb have had a significant influence on my journey to love well. He teaches a simple prayer that he adapted from the writings of C.S. Lewis
The prayer is this: “Lord, make me like Jesus, a little Christ who puts Him on display by how I relate.”
Nothing about the way Jesus lived and related comes naturally to us. He loved sacrificially. He loved in a way that had a better hope and vision for the other person than what they had for themselves. I believe that if we prayed this prayer with all sincerity and with a desire to love well, we will be radically changed— which means our relationships will be radically changed too.
So, right now, if you are like me you are thinking, how in the world do I love like Christ in order to help carry someone else’s burden? It is daunting. But what I know to be true is that God doesn’t ask something and then leave us on our own to figure it out. He will prepare us for it.
How Does God Prepare Us for Carrying Someone’s Burdens?
The answer to this question isn’t always easy. My road wasn’t easy. My life went from managing people and contracts at NASA… to being a counselor. The road God used for that transition into my second career was suffering. Our own suffering prepares us for caring for others in their suffering.
2 Cor 1:3-4 says, “Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we may comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.”
Many years ago, my marriage to Ken crashed and burned and we were a mess. Thankfully, Ken and I both had dear friends come alongside of us to help carry our burden of sin and pain. We also had gifted professional counselors who guided us. But the destruction that we created, caused pain like none I could imagine. I remember feeling despair and hopelessness when things were at their very worst. There were days that it felt like I was trudging through mud – weighted down on a very difficult journey.
At some point along the way, Ken and I made a decision that our goal in recovery was to have a marriage that thrived – not just one that survived. We were committed to that goal of thriving. To get there, I looked for others who had made the same journey so that I may receive encouragement and hope from them. But what I found was that there was no one that was willing to go back to their pain and walk the road with me. And to be honest, I understand – there is a cost to entering someone’s pain. But I longed for someone to pull away from the pack, slow their bike down, and ride with me.
I tell you that story to highlight two things.
First, if we are willing, God will use our painful circumstance so that we may not only share in the suffering of Christ but to share in the suffering of others also. Recently, there was a woman at my church who lost a baby. Another woman at the church, had also lost a baby and knew the crippling pain it had caused her. It may have been an easier “ride” for her not to reach out. She didn’t have to re-enter that pain. But because she had received comfort from God and His people, she had compassion and was able to offer comfort to this other mom dealing with loss. She helped to carry her burden. That is love. That is the gospel.
Second, we must be on guard against the pride of arrogance and self-protection. Take a look the first & third verse in our text today.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:3)
Let’s be clear about what God means in verse 1 which says “you who are spiritual”. Paul is not saying “You who are perfect and without sin” or “You, who have it all together.” He is saying “You, who is walking and is led by the Spirit”. “You, who is also broken but sees his need for God.”
Paul is saying we must look at ourselves or we will be tempted to be smug or self-protective. In other words, don’t keep pedaling towards the finish line while others fall behind. Arrogantly racing ahead keeps us from gently entering someone else’s story in order to help carry their burden.
Don’t keep pedaling towards the finish line while others fall behind.
We can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are above someone else. I hate to admit it, but I can easily fall into that trap. I can be arrogant and think you should have it more together than you do. Or I can go the other way and be self-protective and think that entering someone else’s mess will hurt me or slow me down. Neither of those options makes me a good burden-carrier. But when I can see my own brokenness and my own inadequacy I am more inclined to move into someone else’s brokenness and help them carry their burden.
We are to allow our inadequacy and brokenness to move us towards a greater need and dependence on God. Jesus tells us “Apart from Him we can do nothing.” See your own shortcoming and then allow it to make you dependent on God. Then use that dependency to make you like Jesus so that you will move toward someone in their distress. Jesus is our example. As a burden carrier for others, we will find our strength in him who says:
Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all 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.”
When we are yoked to Him. learning from Him, being guided by Him, we will have strength to offer others. And when we have the honor of carrying someone’s burden — and believe me it is an honor, — we will reap a harvest of loving community and the satisfaction of loving well.
The Unexpected Result of Helping Carrying Someone’s Load
- Cheryl said that as she hears other’s stories, she is in awe of how God works and as a result, her dependence on Him grows. She goes on to say that it is an honor and delight to see God at work in someone’s life. Cheryl receives pleasure from her efforts.
- Anne told me that as she compassionately comes along someone in their pain, she chooses to neither abandon them or to falsely wave a magic wand for them She has learned that as people share their personal stories, healing begins. Anne is growing because she is allowing space for God’s movement and healing.
- Lisa talked about the privilege she feels to step away from her own struggles in order to walk alongside another. She goes on to say that God uses broken people and that when you take your eyes off of yourself to share the burdens of a friend or stranger, you will be blown away by how God blesses and grows you.
As Cheryl, Anne and Lisa all shared, when they helped to carry the burden of another, they reaped a harvest of blessing that they did not expect. One of those blessings is joy — it is the joy that Jesus describes to His disciples. He tells them that if they keep the command to love one another as He had loved them, than they would experience the same love and joy that Jesus experiences. There is no greater joy for me than to see someone being loved well. And the fact that God invites us join him in His work so that we may experience that same love and joy is just awesome.
I want you to know that while there is a cost, there is also great joy in carrying the burdens of someone you love. It is what God calls us to do not just for the one who is struggling but for ourselves as well. He is transforming us to be more like Christ so that we may love well and be loved well. And when we love well, we will experience the joy that Jesus tells about.
I encourage you today to consider how you may fulfill the law of Christ by carrying someone’s burden.
What you can do today: Look for someone who may be falling behind.
Consider how you may slow your bike down, ride alongside and encourage them.
- Ask a friend how they are — and then listen.
- Invite someone to share a meal.
- Lovingly confront a friend’s sin.
- Attend the Family Grace Group with a friend.
- Enjoy a good belly laugh to lighten the load.
- Give a generous gift to someone who is struggling financially.
- Babysit for a couple who needs to reconnect.
- Ask God to help you see how you can care for others.
The examples are endless — you just need to slow your bike down to see who is struggling.
by: Sharon Collignon
Looking for some practical training for caring for others?
Join us for one of our training opportunities to help you effectively care for others. The Lay Counselor Institute offers biblical & practical training to help you understand your story, and come alongside others in their “bike ride.” While LCI trainings are for Lay Counselors, the skills and concepts covered in this workshop are applicable and transferrable to anyone in relational roles including pastors, small group leaders, Bible study teachers, and more.
About the Author
Sharon Collignon has a small counseling ministry where she cares for the hearts of hurting women. As a Christian Counselor, her empathetic approach encourages growth and healing through exploration of personal stories in the context of God’s grander story. Sharon has been married to Ken for 29 years and together they raised two delightful young women, Taylor and Sydney.