“Bear One Another's Burdens”
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Most of us have learned not to rely on others too much. This conditioned thinking is partly due to our individualistic culture which praises self-sufficiency. But perhaps (and I hate to be pessimistic) the main reason we tend not to rely on others is not due to culture but experience. It’s just easier not to trust people. As long as we don’t expect too much out of our relationships, we won’t be disappointed. If I don’t trust you, you can’t burn me.
But insulating oneself from others to avoid the immediate pain of disappointment is just trading one kind of pain for another. It’s the difference between suffering a spiritual punch in the gut once in a while and enduring the continual dull ache of arthritis. So, how can we learn to trust others, let alone rely on them for help or help bear their burdens, knowing that the possibility of a letdown might be just around the corner? If we’re being honest, this will require a power far greater than ourselves to manage. Thankfully, that is exactly what we have in Christ.
In Christ, we adopt a new system of trust, not in others but in the Lord. We must each develop a strong, independent faith in Christ so that, even when we’re not getting support from others, we have all the help we need (Phil. 4:10-13). The Lord always comes through even when people don't (Psalm 146). The Lord never leaves us even when people do (Heb. 13:5). Giving the Lord our ultimate burden and trusting him to the fullest extent renews our trust in others and even strengthens us to help them.
Therefore, bearing another’s burden is a divine activity of love (Gal. 6:2; 5:13; Rom. 13:8-10; Jas. 2:8; Mt. 22:37-40). God, needing nothing himself (Acts 17:25), offers to carry our load (Psa. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:6-7). The ultimate expression of God bearing our burdens is found in the cross when Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). We were “weary and heavy laden” and he carried the crushing weight of our sin to give us rest (Mt. 11:28-30). All other burdens are light by comparison.
In Christ, we adopt a new mode of thinking. Paul calls this the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:3-8), where our thinking is shaped, not by culture or past experience, but by the gospel. Through this new system of trust, we discover that Jesus viewed his own life as a gift to be laid down for the benefit others (1 Thess. 5:14-15; 1 Jn. 3:16-18). Thinking like Jesus can only lead to acting like him.
In Christ, we adopt a new way of life, the eternal life of Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 3:1-4). Our renewed mind should move us to cultivate an environment that makes it easier for others to share burdens, confess sins, and seek help in times of trouble.
“By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24) God lifted our burdens in Christ so that we could become his wounded healers, his agents of comfort, his burden-bearing servants. Are you lightening the load of another? Are you approachable? Kind? Patient? Gentle? These are the marks of Jesus’ life, the evidence of the Spirit’s power at work in you (Gal. 5:22-25).
As Jesus carried the cross for others, so Christians must carry one another’s burdens. God once told his people, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!’” (Isa. 35:3-4). We must make it our aim to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11).
In Christ, it’s all for each and each for all; but no one can slide through on the help of others alone. The command to “bear one another’s burdens” (v.2) is balanced by “each will bear his own load” (v.5). So when it comes to myself, I must recognize my own responsibility; when it comes to my brother, I must be sure to remain humble when I offer help (vv.1-3). And when it’s hard to “bear one another’s burdens,” we must “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (v.9)