Bearing each other’s burdens doesn’t mean we carry them

When someone shares a problem with you, how do you react? Do you nod and smile sympathetically? Do you jump in and try to tell them how to fix their problem? Do you care at all?

I wear other people’s problems like a pack across my shoulders. At least, I used to. I’m getting better about it. But it felt to me like the only way I could help others. Bearing burdens with them. That’s what it means to bear one another’s burdens, doesn’t it? If I can’t sleep because a friend is having a hard time or because a coworker lost a job or because a relative is sick, that means I’m a truly dedicated friend, right? I’m bearing their burden with them.

Not quite.

We are called to bear burdens for each other, but what if it’s a burden too big for you to carry in the first place? What do you do then? And what good will you possibly do anyone if you wear yourself out worrying about something you can’t change anyway?

carrying_burdenToday’s verse is 1 Peter 5:7.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

It doesn’t matter if your worries and cares are your own or if they belong to someone else. If it’s something you care about, if it’s something you’re worrying about, give it over to God.

But, no! If I’m not worrying about it, that means I don’t care. Isn’t that how we think? That’s how I’m wired. I have some issue in my mixed up head that tells me the more sleep I lose over someone else’s problems, the better a friend I am. The more anguished I am over a friend’s misfortune, the better a Christian I am. After all, if I’m suffering along with them, that must mean I’m a step above other people who don’t feel anything.

Isn’t that how we think? Or is it just me?

Now, of course, we’re called to care about each other. Of course, God intends for us to relate to each other with kindness and compassion (and compassion truly is something I struggle with, in the generic sense). We’re not supposed to be cruel or selfish, but by the same token, we’re not supposed to run ourselves into the ground worrying about something we can’t do anything about.

What’s the point? To make yourself feel better? That’s not a sufficient reason to wear yourself out. Just think, if you spent less time worrying, you’d have more time to actually encourage the people you’re worrying about.

Acknowledge your friends’ struggles. They’ll have many. Acknowledge your own struggles. You’ll have more than your fair share, and denying them won’t help you either. But once you acknowledge them, also recognize that God is bigger. He can help you sort through all the difficult situations you’re facing today. Maybe the answer you get won’t be the one you wanted, but God will give you the answer you need regardless.

But don’t just shoulder someone else’s worries. Don’t try to carry someone else’s problems. You aren’t strong enough, and your shoulders aren’t big enough. Friend, you aren’t strong enough to carry your own problems.

But God is.

So if you try to shoulder someone else’s worries, just let them roll off of you and onto Jesus. He’s got it. God’s got a plan, and it’s good. And your worrying about it won’t change the outcome one bit.

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The monsters are only scary because you’re small

When I was little, there was a movie playing in the theaters. I remember it clearly. I don’t think we went to see it in the theater because I was too young–or I just had too much of a crazy imagination that it wasn’t wise.

My parents had quite a job with me and my brother. We had loud, visceral reactions in movie theaters. So I’m pretty sure we didn’t go see a lot of movies. Instead, we waited until they were available on VHS (yes, I’m dating myself).

shrunkthekids.jpg2But I clearly remember the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. What a traumatic movie! If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s one of those classic 80s family movies that every kid needs to see, just in case your eccentric headcase dad builds a shrink ray in his attic and you need to know how to survive.

I remember a lot of things from that movie, but one of the cool things that stood out to me was how the miniaturized kids tamed an ant to help carry them across the backyard. The blades of grass around them were massive–like ginormous water slides. Seeing the world from a miniaturized perspective turned even the simplest, least scary things into a nightmare.

So what does that tell us about perspective? As normal, non-shrunk people, we think we’re pretty big. The things that scared the kids in that movie (ants, cigarette butts, Cheerios, etc.) wouldn’t have been a problem for them if they’d been regular sized. But what happens when we, as regular-sized people, encounter problems and difficulties that seem way too big for us?

shrunkthekidsToday’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-9.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God sees things differently than we do because He’s bigger than we are. Those problems and challenges we encounter that seem insurmountable are nothing to Him.

Sort of like in that crazy movie. To us, a blade of grass is nothing. It’s small enough to us that we can get around it, lift it, move it, step on it, whatever. To a miniaturized person, a blade of grass is a massive obstacle. Normal life is exactly the same.

You’re going to run into obstacles and challenges in life that are too big for you, and there won’t be anything you can do about it. You’ll encounter heartache and frustration and confusion and anger, and you’ll reach the point where you understand that some things are just out of your control. And at that point, you have two options. You either give up, or you let it go.

Don’t give up. Giving up never helped anybody.

But letting go? That’s a different story. When you let go of what you’re trying to do or understand, that’s when God can come along and help. Because as long as you stubbornly hold on to it (whatever it is), He’ll let you keep trying to do it by yourself. And you’ll fail.

But when you let go and give it to Him? That’s when He can turn it into something better than you can imagine. Why? Because He’s bigger than you can imagine. The worst obstacles in your path are nothing to Him. The greatest fears and frustrations in your life aren’t even a blip on His radar.

He sees your life differently than you do. He sees the challenges you’re facing differently than you do. Because He’s bigger and greater and stronger than anyone else you have ever known.

Don’t be afraid to let go of your dreams, your goals, and even your fears. Don’t give up, but stop holding on so tight. It’s tempting to do that because the bigger the challenges in your life, the harder you tend to cling to your own strength.

Stop it. Your own strength will fail. Instead, cling to the One whose strength will never fail. God knows what’s happening in your life. He knows the end of your story, and He knows His plans for you. And guess what? They’re awesome.

So maybe life is overwhelming. Maybe you have obstacles in your path that just seem impossible to overcome. Maybe there are monsters in your way. But maybe they only look like monsters because you’re too small to know better. Maybe those impossible, overwhelming things really aren’t that big either.

With God on your side, you can do anything. So don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. And let Him have the chance to prove it to you.

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Superabundant

Are you facing a task that’s too big for you? Maybe work is too stressful. Maybe you have a baby on the way. Maybe the finances just aren’t coming. Maybe you’re in a position where you are the person who will lead someone to Christ or push them away from Him. Whatever it is, the responsibility just feels overwhelming, like you can’t ever get ahead, like every day is just another opportunity to get run over.

It’s moments like those, the stressful, overwhelming, agonizing moments, where we need to remember that we’re not on our own down here. And though we have responsibilities, God never has expected us to face them by ourselves or in our own power.

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 3:20.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

I know I have more responsibility now than I ever did when I was younger. I have more on my shoulders now than I ever dreamed I could have. And at first, it was exciting. I mean, wow! To be my age (for all my grouching, I know I’m not old) and to have the responsibilities I do? That’s awesome! A real honor.

But once the newness wears off, once the wonder and the excitement fades away, responsibilities can become a weight around your neck. And there are days when it’s just too heavy. The weight of it pulls me down and makes my feet drag, and before I know it, I want nothing more than for these responsibilities to go away. What I once rejoiced about, now I loathe.

Is that the way it’s supposed to be? Talk to other Christians, and that seems to be the case. But is it right?

I believe that if you’re called to do something, you should do it. But it’s rare that God is going to ask you to do something that is outside your gift. So if you know 100% that you aren’t gifted with facts and figures, it’s unlikely that God is going to call you to be an accountant. Not unheard of, and if He does, He’ll have a reason for it and He’ll give you what you need to succeed. But generally speaking, He won’t ask you to serve Him outside what He has gifted you for.

But whether you are serving within your gift our outside of it, we all need to remember that doing things on our own will wear us out. Carrying the load by ourselves will exhaust us and discourage us. Because it is too much to carry on our own.

That’s why we have God. If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit inside you. God is with you, in you, working in your heart, working in your life, helping you grow closer to God every day that you seek Him.

Do you feel like giving up? And it’s a responsibility that God has given you? Don’t give up. Just ask God to help you carry it. If you feel like giving up the task that God has given you, maybe you’re trying to carry it by yourself too much. Because even if the task He’s given you is exactly what you were created to do, you still can’t do it all by yourself. You need to ask Him for help.

This is where I get caught. I’m not good at asking for help. I trudge along under my heavy burden of responsibility and refuse to ask anyone for help. I don’t want to seem weak. I don’t want to seem as though I don’t have enough faith. And that is nothing but pride.

We all need help, and God can do anything. He still does miracles, even today.

Today’s verse says that He is able to do anything, to accomplish “infinitely more” than anyone alive can imagine. This is the NLT version, but I love how the Amplified Version puts this. The Amplified Version says that He is able to do “superabundantly far over and above” what we can dream. Superabundantly.

Abundant isn’t good enough. It has to be superabundant.

Do we realize that? Do we comprehend the power we have at our fingertips? The strength? The endurance? The miracles that God can do through us? It’s so easy to forget because we get trapped in our day-to-day grind, but God is above all of that.

God has given each of us a goal to accomplish. And while we might be able to do some of it on our own, we won’t be able to do it “superabundantly” until we ask Him to help us. So if you’re discouraged this morning with a load that’s weighed you down, let it go. Ask God to help carry it, and He will. And not only will you find that it weighs less, you’ll find the joy you had when you first picked it up.