Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Everyone has a suitcase where they keep the burdens of life, and they carry it wherever they go. In some seasons, it’s no big deal to bring it along; things are flowing along nicely, and the suitcase is not too heavy. Other times the suitcase can be quite a burden. It is full of grief, worry, financial stress, health issues, difficult relationships, situations at work, and other heavy weight.
Along the way, we’ve developed coping strategies for how to deal with the burden. Some strategies are better than others, but we try them all: vacations, alcohol, exercise, overeating, misdirected anger and the like are employed as short term escapes, but the suitcase is always waiting for us when we get back.
I’d like to suggest a 3-part framework for handling those burdens. Regular attention to these areas is a healthy way to handle your suitcase.
Community: When God created us, he did not design us to live in isolation. In community, we share our joys and our burdens, and we’re reminded of God’s grace through the loving embrace of a brother or sister in Christ. In times when our suitcase is too full to handle alone, there are others nearby who can share the load. We’re not always “fine,” and it’s okay to show weaknesses.
Professional Help: Regular consultation with a medical or mental health professional is important, because people in those professions are trained to help us see our blind spots. Several years ago, I decided to start seeing a pastoral counselor on a regular basis. The counselor I see now, about once a month, is a retired Christian minister with extensive training as a mental health professional. It’s a benefit to me to bring my suitcase with me – sometimes it’s light and sometimes it’s heavy – and we unpack the things we find in it. I don’t mind telling you that it is a practice I intend to keep up as long as I’m in ministry.
Jesus: The stained glass window at the front of our sanctuary reminds me of his promise. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus did not just come to help us cope with the burdens of life; he came to deliver us from them. A regular connection to Jesus in worship is the reminder we need of the one who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:4)
Friends, please pay attention to your suitcase, ask each other about the weight you’re carrying, and bear one another’s burdens.
In the name of Christ,