“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” ~ Galatians 6:1-5
It seems like everyone I talk to these days is struggling under a load that isn’t theirs, myself included. It might be some little thing, like worrying about what someone else will do when you have no control over the other person’s actions. Or trying to make everyone happy in an impossible situation. Or trying to convince an unbelieving heart about the realness of God. Or feeling responsible for someone’s death.
That last one is mine.
Sometimes, like last night, I feel so responsible for the illness that claimed my husband’s life. I get caught in the “what ifs” and feel the whirlpool pull my thinking in.
What if I hadn’t encouraged him to play in the game where he got the meningitis virus…
What if I had gotten him to the hospital faster…
What if I had prayed harder…
What if I had been a better Christian…
then maybe none of this would have happened.
Now, I know that isn’t reality. I know that humanly we did everything possible and spiritually we prayed as hard as we could. I know that Job 14:5 says that man’s days are numbered and that God has set limits we cannot exceed. And what I know most of all is that God isn’t the one trying to drag me down with this awful feeling – God is not giving me a weight to carry around that isn’t mine.
Paul seems to be telling us two different things in today’s passage from Galatians. First, in verse 2, he says to carry each other’s burdens. Then in verse 5, he seems to say the opposite, when he states that each should carry his own load. I believe that Paul is speaking of two different types of burdens.
In verse 2, when he says we should carry one another’s, he is still talking about restoring a person who has sinned. But that doesn’t mean taking on the guilt of their actions, it means taking responsibility to help restore them to Christ. Notice I said help – you can’t do it for someone.
Going on to verse 5, Paul says we should each take pride in carrying our own load. Now, that doesn’t mean we are never allowed to ask anyone for help. As a single mom, I am learning the lesson that I need to ask for help all the time. But ultimately, the responsibility for my son’s care falls on my shoulders. And that’s okay, because it is what God has entrusted me with. I am proud to be a mom and, with God’s help, will do the best that I can.
Those are the two kinds of burdens we are supposed to carry, but I think so often Satan tempts us to pile on all kinds of luggage that doesn’t belong to us. We try to do all the things I mentioned at the beginning, thinking that somehow it’s helping us. What it’s actually doing is dragging us down and preventing us from doing a good job with what God has given us to do.
So as you go about your week, offer a helping hand to those who need it, share Christ’s love with others and pray for those God lays on your heart. Work hard at the tasks God has given you, no matter how big or small. But don’t lump on emotional baggage that doesn’t belong to you – let God handle that. He’s the only one who can.