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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Waves on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Worry

I worry all the time. I hate to admit it, but I do. I just don’t talk about it because I don’t want people to think I’m worrying, even if I am. I’ve heard it said that worry is a mild form of atheism, and that’s probably true. But my worry doesn’t stem from a lack of faith that God will do what He has promised to do. I have no trouble believing that. My worry just comes around because I’m afraid I’m not going to live up to the potential that God has given me.

Waves on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Waves on Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Jesus had us pegged. Honestly. And in some way, I guess it’s comforting to know that people worried in His day too. And actually before because I’m pretty sure that this same verse originated in the Old Testament.

Worry is something everyone faces, and it’s up to us to choose whether or not to give in to it.

What amazes me the most is that my brain doesn’t hesitate to jump directly to the worst case scenario about every situation in my life. I rarely worry about the situations I can control; I really only focus on the events that I can’t control. I really only focus on the uncertainties in my life. And as a result, I put myself in knots.

It’s like standing on a beach watching the tide come in. You can see the waves as they form some distance off, and you know they may beautiful sounds. But to make those beautiful sounds you know they have to crash on the beach first. But there’s nothing you can do to speed them up or slow them down. You just have to watch and wait until they hit and hope that you’ve rolled your pants up high enough.

It’s in that moment where you can choose to worry about it or choose to not worry.

There’s a difference between recognizing something that can go wrong and focusing on the fact that something can go wrong. Identify the negatives, realize what could happen, but move on. Don’t dwell on it. Because if you dwell on it, you’ll start worrying. And most of the time what you’re worrying about is something you can’t change anyway.

This is a lesson I’m relearning every day. Worry doesn’t really accomplish anything. So it’s best not to give in to it, especially if you’re worrying about tomorrow.