God Wants You to Be a Burden

In a recent text exchange, I (Christine) asked a friend how things were going with some work conversations that I knew had been stressful. Her response? “You’ve got so much going on. I’m sure it will work out. I don’t want to be a burden.” We’ve heard this refrain over and over for 20 years, both in the counseling room and in the church.

In our culture of individualism, we’re surrounded by messages like “You do you” and “Look out for number one.” But when we keep our struggles to ourselves, we short-circuit the powerful connection of vulnerability with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We prevent others from meeting a God-designed need. 

Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Part of God’s design includes a responsibility for one another. And the form of the Greek word for “bear” tells us it’s not a one-time thing. We could read it as “keep carrying.” Keep carrying one another’s burdens—this should be part of our lifestyle as Christians.

Why We Don’t Share Burdens

If these things are true, why do we avoid sharing our hardships with other believers? Two fears seem to dissuade us.

1. We’re afraid we’ll overwhelm people.

We look at our friends’ lives and make assessments. In our estimation, they already have enough hard things to deal with. If we know someone well, we’ve probably heard about the difficulty she’s having with her children, the work stress he’s under, the medical problems she’s navigating, the anxiety in his life—or all of this at once. We do some quick mental math and decide our friend has reached capacity. Surely adding to her pile would be cruel, unfair, or unhelpful.

2. We’re embarrassed to be vulnerable.

Sometimes we think we’ve brought a hard circumstance on ourselves and we therefore don’t have the right to get help with it. Maybe we feel shame about our situation and don’t want to be exposed. Perhaps we’re afraid of being judged or feeling stupid. We might be nervous that others will think less of us or decide we’re crazy. Or we may want to avoid feeling like we owe someone something when she serves us.

Why We Must Share Burdens

So why should we take the risk of sharing our burdens? Two more reasons come to mind.

1. We were created to be interdependent.

The infinitely wise Creator designed us to be dependent creatures, and not just dependent on him—dependent on each other. We were never intended to be self-sufficient, providing everything we need on our own. Though Adam was “very good” (Gen. 1:31) in his created form, it was “not good” (Gen. 2:18) that he was alone. From the beginning, even before sin entered the world, we were made for interdependence. Trying to hold all of our burdens alone is counter to God’s design.

2. We’re commanded to love one another.

Paul tells us that as we bear one another’s burdens, we “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). What is the law of Christ? Jesus told his disciples in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Sometimes we struggle to know exactly what obedience means in complicated, nuanced situations. We don’t always know what love looks like in practice. But this command is clear. When we bear one another’s burdens, we’re obeying Jesus’s command to love one another.

Most of us gladly listen when a friend calls needing to talk. We sign up to bring a meal when a baby comes or when someone has surgery. We listen to our buddy vent about his boss. But do we offer others the opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ in the same way? Burden bearing is a two-way street. The friend you hesitate to text with your bad news has the same call on her life that you do. Will you allow her the opportunity to obey or deny her the chance because you’ve decided she’s too busy?

Lighten the Load

It’s not unusual to feel hesitant or embarrassed as you contemplate being vulnerable like this. So how can you begin to share your burdens? Next time someone you trust asks how you’re doing, tell him. Don’t edit your story so it’s not “too much.” Share your burden honestly.

Unlike the overwhelmed response we anticipate, a friend will likely not feel the burden the same way you do. His listening ear will make your load lighter, but it won’t double his burdens. As you share your struggle to care for your special needs child, a friend can listen and pray, or even come and help from time to time, but then walk away. She doesn’t live in the day-to-day pressure like you do. As you lament the loss of your best employee, a friend can listen and mourn with you without having to experience that loss for himself.

Burden bearing can be described like this: Pretend you’re wearing a backpack that holds difficult situations in your life. These struggles feel like heavy boulders weighing you down. But as you hand a boulder to your friend, its size diminishes. Your large boulder is a small stone in her hand and a pebble in his pocket. Your troubles won’t weigh another person down in the same way, but sharing your burdens will lighten your load.

Burden bearing draws us together and grows our love. It’s one of the many ways Jesus grows his church. Find ways to share your burdens and to carry the burdens of others—and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Source: God Wants You to Be a Burden (thegospelcoalition.org)