Sunshine in the Valley

humor and encouragement from my heart to yours

Bearing burdens

on May 23, 2012

When you hear the phrase “bearing one another’s burdens”, what image comes to mind?

I often tease Susanna about being “my little pack mule” because she frequently carries my bags when we go places if I’m too weak to do so myself that day. Unlike a donkey, however, she doesn’t require a bit or a bridle to do this…nor even a carrot dangling on the end of a stick! :) No, she has a very cheerful servant’s heart, and always acts as though it is a pleasure to carry whatever load I might have for her….and if I dare apologize for weighing her down, I get “the look”. :)  I never feel like I am inconveniencing or truly “burdening” her, though, because she makes it clear that it is her love for me which motivates her happy service.

I’ve thought often lately of the verse that says “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2) The law of Christ….yes indeed. He set the ultimate example of bearing burdens, and selfless love. I have been utterly astonished by the compassion and grace He has shown me on even my worst days…and the closeness that has developed as a result. That He would be so kind is not what surprises me (it is His very nature, after all), but the fact that He would do that for me. Knowing me utterly, all my failures and sin, yet He loves me still and is beside me on the darkest of nights, just as He is for all of His children. The knowledge and comfort of His presence has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. It has strengthened my walk with Him in priceless, unmeasurable ways, undoubtedly worth the cost.

And He desires the same in our relationships with others….He wants us to demonstrate His selfless love. So many people around us are hurting. As I travel through chronic illness, one of the most surprising aspects of this journey has been “the fellowship of suffering” discovered along the way. Going through long periods of trials of all different sorts lends a kinship with fellow folks who are hurting that is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. You feel for each other, and understand each other, in a way that I never knew was possible prior to my illness. We are bearing each other’s burdens. I feel as though my existing friendships are even more precious to me, and the new friends I am making along the way are impacting my life in unexpected ways. There is a clarity, an understanding of certain dimensions of life, which I never grasped previously. And I’m finding it to be a very, very good thing…..even in the midst of very, very bad things.

Learning to recognize the pain of another person is the first step towards bearing their burden. Hugs, encouraging words, prayers, cards, even just the squeeze of a hand….these tangible tokens of comfort can lift even the most burdened hearts. Taking note of and meeting specific needs, especially, can make a profound difference in the lives of those “in the valley”. (this has happened to me on numerous occasions….from loved ones as well as anonymous folks who dropped something in the mail for me to remind me that the Lord will always provide. What faith-building experiences these have been!) Just “being there” is sometimes the greatest gift you can give, and again, I have been blessed by so many who have been there for me through thick and thin. We live in such a fast-paced society that these things are easy to overlook, but taking the time to show kindness to someone hurting can have profound eternal significance.

And you know, I am finding that bearing the burdens of others actually relieves my own, to a great degree. Being aware of precious people going through deeper and far more painful circumstances than my own brings such a balance to my habits of thinking. It’s easy to start having a pity party at times, especially on rougher days when I can’t speak or walk, but then I talk to someone who lost the person dearest in the world to them….or hear of someone bedridden for months….or facing terminal illness…..and the Lord gently reminds me of my blessings and how much I should thank Him for on even what seem to be the very worst of days (they can always get worse!). And He also reminds me of the importance of praying for and encouraging those people, instead of thinking sympathetically of their plight and then going my merry way. (how often I’ve done this! But sympathy does little good if there are no hands and feet behind it!)

I am sitting here at my computer unable to speak at present, but how liberating to be able to type out my thoughts! I’m so grateful for computers! My handwriting is often affected by my neurological issues, but I can still type and text, and it makes it easier to know that I am not truly silenced. :) (it takes more than muteness to quench my abundance of words, ha)

Sometimes I feel so worthless to the kingdom of God, limited as I am. I can’t teach a Sunday School class, or play piano for church, or minister in any of the ways I would enjoy doing. But I am finding that there is a unique ministry in suffering. This may only be for a certain window of time in my life, and I long to take every advantage of it while I still can. I hope that I will take these lessons with me through all times in my life, both good and bad, but honestly….it is in the fire that often our words and actions speak loudest. I am not at all diminishing other forms of ministry (not at all!), but I am addressing this matter because I do not often hear it spoken of in churches. Dedication and love for the Lord are often measured by the number of services attended and ministries performed. But this is not how the Lord judges things. He looks at our hearts. He allows events to happen in our lives that often leave us on the sidelines – not because He’s mad at us or punishing us- but rather because He wants to use us in unexpected ways for His glory, not ours. I could never take credit for any of the ways He has chosen to use me during this time of extreme weakness, because there is no doubt whatsoever that my sufficiency has been in Him and His grace alone. It’s not in me. Pride is continually abased in times like these, and it has been good for me, though painful at times, to have “the things I accomplish” stripped away. This is a refining process, ordained by God to conform me to the image of His Son. I would never have chosen it, had He asked me. But I am learning to embrace the plan of One who knows ever so much better than I ever could, rejoicing in the unexpected ways He has given me to minister, even now.

Are you hurting today? Struggling in the face of unimaginable loss or serious illness? Take heart! The Lord has a purpose for you here, though it may be difficult to see at times. Let me encourage you to reach out to those around you….bear their burdens along with yours, and let the Lord use your weakness and sorrow to accomplish something beautiful through His all-sufficient strength. If you are not in the valley right now, reach out to those who are. One of these days that will be you…..and you will know just how deeply it means to have the support and care of others during dark and lonely times. I’m grateful that the Lord can use us no matter what state we find ourselves in at present….sickness or health, poverty or prosperity, sorrowing or rejoicing. He is able.

 

 

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