Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Burden Bearing

"Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ"
(Galatians 6.2)
"Notice the assumption which lies behind this command, namely that we all have burdens and that God does not mean us to carry them alone. Some people try to. They think it a sign of fortitude not to bother other people with their burdens. Such fortitude is certainly brave. But it is more stoical than Christian. Others remind us that we are told in Psalm 55.22 to 'cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you,' and that the Lord Jesus invited the heavy-laden to come to him and promised to give them rest (Matthew 11.28). They therefore argue that we have a divine burden-bearer who is quite adequate, and that it is a sign of weakness to require any human help. This too is a grievous mistake. True, Jesus Christ alone can bear the burden of our sin and guilt; he bore it all in his own body when he died on the cross. But this is not so with our other burdens -- our worries, temptations, doubts and sorrows. Certainly, we can cast these burdens on the Lord as well. We can cast all our care on him since he cares for us (1 Peter 5.7). But remember that one of the ways in which he bears these burdens of ours is through human friendship.
A striking example of this principle is given us in the career of the apostle Paul. At one stage in his life he was terribly burdened. He was worried to death over the Corinthian church and in particular about their reaction to a rather severe letter which he had written to them. His mind could not rest, so great was his suspense. 'We were afflicted at every turn,' he wrote, 'fighting without and fear within.' Then he continued: "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus' (2 Corinthians 7.5-6). God's comfort was not given to Paul through his private prayer and waiting upon the Lord, but through the companionship of a friend and through the good news which he brought.
Human friendship, in which we bear one another's burdens, is part of the purpose of God for his people. So we should not keep our burdens to ourselves, but rather seek a Christian friend who will help to bear them with us" (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 157-8).