After a recent surgery, I wasn’t allowed to lift anything over ten pounds or do anything strenuous for six weeks. This sidelined most housework, especially laundry. Despite Hubby’s valiant efforts, the dirty clothes piled up. I couldn’t let us run around naked. So, I drafted Peck onto the laundry team. I filled the basket, he pushed it to the washer, and, together, we lifted it to where I could easily reach the machine. With his help, the strain of the chore was alleviated.
You might be wondering what this charming story has to do with godly friendship. Well, it perfectly illustrates today’s characteristic.
Godly friends bear one another’s burdens.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NLT
I know struggling single moms, women hit with difficult health issues, and others dealing with dysfunctional families. Our problems vary as much as we do. But God doesn’t intend us to carry these burdens alone. If you’ve ever worked in retail or in manual labor, you’ve been taught the proper way to lift an object. It looks something like this:
Notice the guy; he’s lifting the wrong way. He bends at the waist, focusing all of the strain on one body part. This leads to pain and injury. The woman lifts with her entire body. The strain is distributed throughout her frame, and she doesn’t get hurt.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Romans 12:4,5 NLT
In the same way you need the whole body to safely lift a heavy box, you need the whole body of Christ to safely lift a heavy burden. That help could come in the form of listening ears, hands that clean your house, or feet that walk with you down a hospital corridor. When we work as a team, like Peck and I did with the laundry, the load is lighter.
As simple as this concept sounds, it can go awry. Here are some basic pointers for both the one with the problem and the friend sharing the load:
- Your friends need to know there’s a burden. If a problem weighs you down, reach out. This doesn’t mean you have to broadcast wide all of your personal issues, but share them with a few you trust. It’s amazing how often simply telling someone your problems makes you feel better.
- Bearing burdens should come from a place of love, not judgment. We may have different problems, but we all have problems. When you come alongside a friend, your goal is to make the burden lighter. Condescension and “I told you so,” only heap more weight on an already heavy load. Just one verse before Paul explains that believers are all one body, he says, “…Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Romans 12:3 NLT
- The burden should be shared, not taken over. Suppose Betty had issues with her finances. Wilma steps in, makes Betty a budget, and starts paying all the bills. Sounds good, but it isn’t. The burden transferred to Wilma, who is now shouldering Betty’s issues as well her own. How long before Wilma suffers stress and strain? Besides that, Betty has not learned how to manage her money. When Wilma is gone, Betty will find herself in the same situation. As difficult as our burdens are, God uses them to strengthen us and build up our character. (Romans 5:3-5) As friends, we don’t want to see someone we love go through a tough time, so we try to fix the problem for them. But the intent of Galatians 6:2, is not to carry the burden, but to support the individual with the burden.
I once asked a group of women, “What’s the best way to lift a heavy object?” A couple of them shouted, “Teamwork!” Along with using the whole body, it’s best to lift as a team. And that’s what godly friends are–a team.