Burdens are too much to bear alone

Sometimes the burdens in life are just too much, you know what I mean? Life can be exhausting, discouraging, and just plain awful at times. And it seems to love getting your hopes up only to stand back and watch your plans turn to dust. How do you cope when life throws you curve balls like that?

Well, the Bible has a lot of answers for how to survive (and even thrive) in the midst of life’s dirty little tricks, but the one that first comes to mind for me is that Christ-followers are supposed to help carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). God doesn’t expect us to struggle through life on our own. He put us on this planet surrounded by other people so we wouldn’t be alone, especially when our lives turn upside down.

Share the load

Instagram Burdens are too muchEveryone has burdens. Maybe you don’t think you do, but you do. We’re born with them. Some of us are born with more than others, and as we grow older, we accumulate more and more with every passing day. Health problems. Family issues. Job trouble. Impossible deadlines. Crushed dreams. Crazy kids. Insane in-laws. Lazy spouse. Nagging wife. Whiny kids. Name the thing that’s causing all your gray hair today, and I can almost guarantee it’s something that would fit in the burden category of your life.

Not all our burdens look alike, but we all have them. And the simple truth about our burdens is that we were never meant to carry their weight alone. The weight of our worries and troubles and fears is too much for us to bear without help.

So why are you trying? Why do you feel guilty when you ask for help? Why do you feel shame when you realize you can’t do it by yourself? You shouldn’t. God didn’t make you a pack horse for emotional trauma. It’s not your job to haul all that hurt and fear around on your own strength. So knock it off. Ask for help. And don’t be afraid of accepting it either.

But accepting help—and even offering help—is one part of the process.

Hand it over together

But what do you do when your fellow Christ-followers are worn out and beaten down with their own cares? If that’s the case, my wonderful supportive friends, I have to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. And believe me, I’m talking to myself here too.

I’m a fixer. I like to give people answers and help them understand how and why things happen. I want to do something to help, and usually that starts with me trying to solve their problem for them. I take their problems on my own shoulders. I feel their anxiety and despair and fear. And somewhere in my frazzled brain, I tell myself I’m helping, because at least they don’t have to suffer alone.

But I’m only making it worse. By taking their problems on my own shoulders, I blind myself to my own purpose. I’m not there to help them carry their burden; I’m there to help them carry it to God.

Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the LordGod didn’t make us to spend our days worrying and fretting over everything that’s wrong or everything that will go wrong. That’s not the way He wants us to live. And even though we’re supposed to help each other carry our burdens, we’re still not supposed to carry them in our own strength (Psalm 55:22).

God has promised to give us strength, to uphold us and sustain us. His power is right at our fingertips, free for the asking, yet we still convince ourselves that our troubles and worries are our own problems. And that’s not true.

God cares

He knows what you’re going through and how scared, uncertain, insecure you are. He understands that you feel like you’ll never measure up. And He gets that you’re afraid to ask for help because you don’t want to seem weak. But if you care for someone, it doesn’t matter what they need or how many times they need it.

God cares about you (1 Peter 5:7), and He is standing ready to help you carry all those things that are weighing you down.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and you Christians who are helping your brothers and sisters carry their burdens, remember that you’re supposed to be carrying them to God—not shouldering the load yourself.

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Help each other, but do it yourself

I’m great at making lists and plans and schedules. What I’m not so good at is sticking to them. Do I have any brothers and sisters out there? It’s not difficult for you to see everything that needs to be done, and you don’t even have to fight to get them into a somewhat-reasonable schedule. But when the day comes to actually follow the schedule, other priorities have popped up. People ask you to do things you didn’t plan for. Life happens.

And you have to adjust your schedule accordingly. But then you’re faced with a dilemma, because the new things you’ve added into your schedule prevent you from having enough time to do what you planned originally. So you push everything back. And then by the end of the week, it snowballs, and you’re completely buried.

I struggle with this so much because I have a hard time accepting that my plans and my goals are more important than the plans and goals of other people. And that’s where it gets tricky, because you can’t very well put yourself first and still follow Jesus, can you?

0D9BF61E08Today’s verses are Galatians 6:2-5.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 

On first glance, this passage almost contradicts itself, doesn’t it? One one hand, we are to share each other’s burdens, but we’re supposed to be responsible for our own conduct too. Can those two statements exist in the same sentence? Help each other, but do it yourself?

Every Christ-follower has something to do that God has designed them for. It’s a unique and individual task assigned to every believer. And you should never ever undervalue that fact. What God has called you to do matters, and you shouldn’t set that calling aside lightly.

But, sometimes life does happen. Sometimes the people in your life need your help, your support, your love, and when that happens, you have to be willing to do what’s needed. Because you’re called to help your brothers and sisters in Christ just as much as you’re called to fulfill God’s destiny for your life.

But there’s a difference between helping a brother or sister who needs you and constantly putting out fires. Helping someone with a burden isn’t the same as doing your own work, and if all you’re doing is carrying other people’s burdens for them, you’re going to wear yourself out, you won’t accomplish what God has called you to do, and you’ll prevent your friend from learning a lesson God needs to teach him.

So what does this paradoxical approach to scheduling your life even look like? Beats me. It’ll be different for each person.

Once you figure out what God wants you to do (and that’s a whole different blog post in itself), you need to do it. You need to get your life to the place where you can do what God tells you to do without delay or excuse. Then, you have to DO it. That’s another step. It’s one step to find it. It’s another step to plan it. It’s a huge step to take action, but you must. Don’t just sit there. Do it.

My problem is that I don’t see my calling as equally important to someone else’s. I know I’m called to do something important, but if someone else comes along and needs help, I put more value on their calling than on mine. And that’s not necessarily wrong. I mean, who knows, maybe your calling is to help others achieve their callings. Anything’s possible, and the Body of Christ has many parts.

But if you know for sure what you’re supposed to be doing for God, don’t let anyone else tell you it doesn’t matter. That means if it’s important enough to put on your schedule, it’s important enough for you to do it, and it’s important enough for you to turn down other projects for it.

Don’t be hard-hearted about it, of course. And if life happens (as it so often does), stop to help. But ask God about it first. Ask God’s permission to step away from your calling in order to do something else.

Maybe you don’t know what your calling is, and that’s fine. Don’t give up until you find it. Ask God to reveal it, because you have one. Everybody does. Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes it’s a goal. Sometimes it doesn’t even look like a calling. But you’ve got one.

What you are doing for God matters. Period. And, yes, it’s important to help other people. Yes, it’s important to encourage your brothers and sisters. But don’t treat your calling as dispensable. God designed you for a purpose. There’s nothing insignificant about that.

Where would you be today without your team?

One of the things I’ve always loved about camping is the teamwork. Everyone has a job to do, and as much as possible (when we were younger) we were given jobs that matched our skills. I mean sometimes you just had to wash the coffee pot out, even if you didn’t drink coffee or didn’t like washing dishes. But it was your turn, and coffee pot needed to be cleaned. By doing your part, you helped the whole team.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers forget that we’re on the same team. We hurt each other by what we say or by what we don’t say. We misunderstand each other. We jump to hurtful conclusions. We take sides. We point fingers and exclaim that if the offender was a good enough Christian, he or she would know better than to behave like that. And we forget about grace and mercy and forgiveness, and that without them, we’re just like those who have no hope. And our little team falls apart.

21503D358DToday’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The whole world doesn’t belong to the same family. We aren’t all children of God by birth. We become children of God when we choose to follow Jesus. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve done or where you’re going. You are immediately adopted into God’s family. And that means the Christian who’s sitting next to you in the church pew is your brother or sister, and you’re going to spend eternity with him or her.

That’s great news if you like the Christian sitting next to you. But what if you don’t like them?

Oh, unscrew that halo. There are plenty of Christians in your life that you don’t like. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not a sin to dislike someone. But as a Christ-follower, you are called to love them. Period. There’s no discussion. And love means something a little different than our culture believes. Real Love takes a lot more focus and energy and sacrifice and endurance than what our culture calls love. Real Love is only possible with God’s help.

People fail. Even Christians fail. They will disappoint you. They will hurt you. They’ll reject you and betray you and falsely accuse you. And in the face of all that, you are to love them in return. You are to respond to their anger and hurt and misinformation with grace and peace and patience.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you shouldn’t respond with name calling or rumor spreading. You shouldn’t call names. You shouldn’t lash out with angry accusations. And you shouldn’t threaten. Please, please don’t threaten. Threats never help anyone, and they certainly never deepen a relationship. People who are on the same team should never threaten each other.

Instead of threatening, lashing out, trying to hurt your brother or sister in Christ, think of how to approach them with love. Try to consider how they feel. Think about where they are in their life and what might be causing them to act the way they are.

It’s so easy to misunderstand. Are you willing to destroy another person simply because you assume you know what he or she is feeling? Remember, we’re on the same team. Remember, Christ died for that person too. Remember you aren’t perfect, and you’ve probably made as many or more mistakes than the Christian you’re angry at. Where would you be now if the Christians in your life had just given up on you?

Maybe you’re hurting, but don’t hit back. Believe it or not, the whole situation probably isn’t about you anyway. Hurting people hurt people, and none of us are perfect. It’s up to you whether or not to be gracious.

Just know that God has enough of a sense of humor that if you don’t let it go, He’ll make you be next door neighbors in heaven for all eternity. Wouldn’t you rather sort things out down here before He comes back to get us?

We all need each other. So give teamwork a chance. God’s got us on the same team for a reason.

Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Should a child challenge an adult?

Have you ever seen a child trying to tell an adult that they’re wrong about something? Sometimes it’s obnoxious. Other times it’s funny. But the child rarely gives correct information. Most of the time when children try to correct adults it’s because children don’t understand everything that an adult understands, which is the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s similar in a working environment. Usually the veterans of a company are the ones who garner respect, and it’s the new hires who go to them for help. But not always.

Sometimes a newer employee has a different perspective that older employees could find very useful if they’re willing to listen.

Today’s verses are Galatians 2:11-14.

Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Baby red panda forging his own trail at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow Jewish traditions?”

It can be intimidating if you are a new believer and you’re in a room with a bunch of other believers who’ve known Christ longer than you. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like.

You feel alone and isolated and uneducated. You feel like everyone else in the room is having a conversation above your head, and if you stopped conversation to ask what they were talking about, you’re just sure they’d laugh at you. Or they’d feel obligated to explain it all over again in small words.

But you shouldn’t feel that way. Sure, it’s probably a good idea to listen when someone who’s been a believer for years talks about what they’ve learned from following Jesus for so long. But just because someone else has known Jesus for a long time doesn’t give them authority over you. And it doesn’t give them the right to look down on you either. We’re all equal under Christ’s blood.

God doesn’t love someone more because they’ve been with Him longer. That’s not how His love works. He doesn’t love someone more because they’ve done more for Him. Just like He doesn’t love someone less because they haven’t done as much.

What I’ve discovered more often than not is that new believers often look at faith and their walk with God in a completely different way than I do. And their perspective helps me see God more clearly, usually because I’ve gotten so set in my ways that I’ve forgotten what He looks like.

I truly value having relationships with new believers because they ask the questions I don’t ask. They see the holes I step over, and they challenge the verses I think I already understand.

Take Paul and Peter for example. Peter was one of Christ’s original 12 disciples, hand-picked by Jesus Himself. Pretty brassy of Paul to call him out in front of everyone, wasn’t it?

Well was Peter being stupid? Was Peter doing something he knew he shouldn’t have been doing? Absolutely. And where were the others to call out the bad behavior? No, Paul did it.

And that’s been my experience with new believers. They are hungry for knowledge, and once they absorb it, they want more. And they’re not afraid to live by it. They’ve left their old life behind recently, and they have no intention of going back to it. Those of us who’ve known Christ for so long don’t even remember a time when we weren’t following Him. Or if we do, it’s so far behind us, we don’t even think about it.

So if you’re a new Christian, don’t hesitate to challenge an experienced believer on what he or she thinks or says. I mean, do it kindly, of course. But don’t be afraid. They need you. They need you to see things differently. They need you to keep them on their toes. They need you to ask the questions they’ve forgotten how to ask.

And in return, I bet you’ll learn something. And you might even make a lifelong friend in the process.

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good deeds aren’t just for Boy Scouts

When’s the last time you did a good deed? When you think of good deeds, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe this is stereotypical and wrong, but I always think of Boy Scouts. I’ve only known a few Boy Scouts, although the ones I known have made it to Eagle Scout, and they’ve all been very kind people who would go out of their way to do good things for others.

This month I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, which says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” In the last few days, I’ve really been focusing in on goodness because it seems to be, from what I can tell, the kind side of goodness, rather than the moral excellence part. Moral excellence certainly is involved, but the actual word used is more like benevolence instead of righteousness. And I didn’t know that.

It’s good to be benevolent. It’s good to do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, but with that kind of thinking, how long will you keep doing good deeds? What makes a good deed the right thing to do? What do good deeds look like? Are we talking about helping little old ladies with their groceries? Are we talking about tackling a purse snatcher? Are we talking about supporting a charity financially? Because if I’m just doing good deeds for the sake of doing them, I’m going to get tired of it. I know people who do good things for others because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s admirable. But in a broken world where good deeds are rarely rewarded, often unrecognized, and usually more trouble than they’re worth, I believe you need something better as a motivator than just: “It’s the right thing to do.”

If you don’t, you’re a better person than I am, because I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. And I don’t always do the right thing. I’m just going to be honest.

Aside from the fact that this kind of benevolence–this type of goodness–is a gift from the Holy Spirit, what motivates good deeds? Where should the desire to do good deeds come from?

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 2:14-26.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

This is a really long bit of scripture for today, but I think it’s relevant. I love the Book of James. It’s short, to the point, and doesn’t pull any punches. This passage is often used out of context to prove that our salvation is dependant on our actions. If you think that, read the whole thing again please, especially verse 23. Here, I’ll put it up again in case there’s any doubt:

James 2:23 – And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

It’s ironic too because this is basically a restatement of Genesis 15:6, which says, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Get the picture? It’s not our works that save us. Our works demonstrate that we have been saved. We’re not doing good things so that we can be righteous. We do good things because we have been made righteous. It’s outward expression of an inward change, like baptism. It doesn’t save you; it’s just evidence that you are saved.

And conversely, if you don’t show evidence that you have been saved, have you been? I’m not judging. I don’t know your heart. But it’s a good question to ask yourself, especially in a study of the Holy Spirit. If your life doesn’t display the Fruit of the Spirit, which is the evidence of God working in your life, maybe you ought to start asking some really personal questions about what you believe.

If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. So where is the evidence of your faith? I have to say, I’ve been blown away by what I’m hearing about people stepping up to help the victims of the tornado that tore Moore, Oklahoma apart on Monday. Maybe not all of them are Christ-followers, but I know many who are. And I am so honored to be able to call those people making such huge sacrifices my brothers and sisters.

What about you? How do you see good works? How do you view good deeds? Are they just something Boy Scouts do to earn a badge? Or are they just the right thing to do? Or are they an expression of what you believe? Think about it. Good works alone aren’t enough, just like quoting scripture isn’t enough. You’ve got to back it up. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to get it in your life.

And the true irony about doing good for other people is that even though you’re sacrificing to help someone else, you get a bigger blessing out of it than they ever will.

Hippos working on their tans - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Walking on porcupines

Have you ever tried to get a picture of a porcupine? Well, if you do, good for you. I’ve never seen a real one. So I have no photographs of porcupines, but I do have hippos. And that will work for today, because I’m not talking about real porcupines anyway. I’m actually talking about friendship.

I don’t think I post enough about friendships. I don’t even know where to start most of the time because I am so overwhelmed and so thankful to be friends with such amazing people.

Our friends determine so much in our lives. And if you have awesome friends — and I mean truly awesome friends and not just popular ones — you should count yourself fortunate.

Hippos working on their tans - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Hippos working on their tans – Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 18:24.

There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Who are your friends? Do your friends ask more from you than they expect of themselves? Do your friends treat you the way you treat them? Do your friends love God? Do your friends speak truth? Do your friends give you sound advice based in Scripture and tempered with the love of God?

If you have friends like that, you are richer than the richest man in the universe. Because there are “friends” out there who will hang out with you just because they want something from you. There are “friends” out there who need a prop. And even though they may be your “friends” when they feel like it, the day will eventually come when they won’t have time for you. And they’ll drop you like a rock.

I always told myself that I didn’t really need friends, that I could get along just fine without them. And, if we’re being honest here, that’s probably true. But how lonely would life be? How empty would life be? And, truthfully, how much more difficult would life be? If I didn’t have my friends to rely on and blow up on and cry on, life would be much harder than it is now.

Today’s verse just made me think about friendship and what it really is. Because true friendship goes beyond blood. It stretches deeper than DNA and further than a family name. Because we don’t get to choose our families; we choose our friends. And, what’s more important, our friends choose us. And what’s more, true friends keep choosing us even when we have a bad day, even when we’re struggling at work or at home, even when we snap, even when we don’t feel good.

Can you imagine what it would be like to walk through a field of porcupines? Just think about that. It wouldn’t be pleasant at all. They’re volatile and unpredictable, and they’re covered in needles. All it would take is one wrong move, and they’ll let loose a volley of needles that will leave you wincing.

But no one walks on porcupines. I’m sure there’s some kind of fee or fine you have to pay for that. But even though we don’t actually walk on porcupines, we do have to walk through life. And life can have its needles and touchy spots. And so many times through Scripture, God talks about friends and walking. It’s not unusual to see the concept of friendship lined right up with the concept of walking through life.

Why? Well, think about it. What else do friends do but walk with you, even through the most difficult times in your life? That’s what friends are for.

I got to thinking about this verse because of a birthday present one of my friends gave me. Silly socks covered in porcupines! They’re adorable! And they’re bright, and they’re fun! I love them! (So far, I have encountered two things that turn me girly: Bath & Body Works hand soaps and funny, silly socks.)

But beyond the fun of the socks, they just made me think about friendship. Because friendships aren’t forged in the good times. Maybe they start in good times. Maybe they start over a fun conversation or a good cup of coffee. But they don’t get very deep there. To grow a deep friendship, you have to walk through some porcupines, and you have to do it together. And somewhere between needles, you’ll make a choice to either keep walking or turn back.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to determine if the friendship is one that’s worth pursuing. Sometimes turning back is the best decision you can make. But if you turn back on every friendship the moment the going gets tough, you’ll never understand what it really means to have a real friend.

I guess, what I’m saying this morning, is that the closest friendships in my life have come through some amount of difficulty — whether it was through a difficult situation we tackled together or through a difficult conversation we had to have to straighten things out between us. The best friendships you have aren’t just going to happen. Like any relationship, you have to work at them.

So if you have a friend (or friends) in your life who you have walked on porcupines with, be thankful for them. And tell them that you’re thankful for them. You never know when you might not have the opportunity to thank them anymore.

And if you’ve never walked through porcupines, you will. So it might not be a bad idea to find someone who won’t mind walking with you. Just remember that true friendship is a two-way street. And if you’re walking through a field of porcupines with a friend, you’ll both take hits, but you’ll both be there to keep each other going.

Empty bench at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Home again, home again!

Hey, everyone! We got back safe and sound, but it’s a little later than I planned. So I decided to post this early … or late?

This isn’t really a deep thought. It’s 1AM. I won’t be capable of much depth. But I wanted to share something I was thinking about and thanking God for as I was driving the 500 miles home tonight.

Empty bench at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Empty bench at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

I’ve blogged on this before, but it really hit home with me tonight.

Driving all the way to Colorado Springs and back isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s enough of a hassle that it could be troublesome for one person alone.

On the way up, I really started feeling awful. So it was nice to be able to hand over the wheel to somebody else while I rested. And tonight, everyone took turns keeping me awake as I drove.

But not only that, I had a car full of some of my closest friends. These are the folks who laugh at my silly jokes and my facial expressions. They know what I’m thinking before I think it. Some of them know what I’m feeling before I feel it, and that’s really saying something.

I am so thankful for the time I had with these awesome ladies the past three days, and I’m really excited because we got to make a whole bunch of new friends too!

I know not everyone has friends who they’ve known for 20 years, but if you do? Be thankful for them. You don’t know how rare it is. And if you don’t? Whether it’s 20 years or 2 months, if you’ve got a friend who will stick with you no matter what, be thankful for them. And stick together because 20 years will get here a lot sooner than you bargain for.

Good night (morning), everyone!