After speaking to a group, a young lady came up to speak to me. She asked, “How do I know what God’s burden is in my life?” It’s a great question that many of us want to know. I asked her if there was an injustice in the world or problem that she saw that breaks her heart or causes her to lose sleep. If there’s a burning desire to remedy it, that’s usually God laying His burden on our heart. It could be an un reached people group that needs the Gospel or the hungry needing food. When we start losing sleep over it and being consumed with it, that’s God wanting to use you in that area to make a difference.
Nehemiah was a man who was minding his own business and doing his job when God gave him a burden. In Nehemiah 1:3-4 he wrote, “They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (NLT). He didn’t ignore that desire. He went to Jerusalem and rebuilt its walls so that those who lived there would have protection. It wasn’t easy, and he faced opposition, but he kept at it until it was done.
In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light” (AMP ). God’s burdens are different from the ones we put on ourselves. The ones we place on ourselves look inward, but God’s look outward to help others. For some, they come suddenly like Nehemiah. For others, you may have been carrying it for years. God’s desire is to partner with each of us to do His work in this world, to make a difference in the lives of someone. What has God been showing you that needs to be repaired or corrected. It may be large or small, but either way, it needs you. I don’t know that you’ll feel qualified or ready to do it, but don’t let that stop you. Accept His burden and get started making a difference.
When I talk to leaders, I often have a conversation with them about the difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling because you have been there yourself. Sympathy is acknowledging what someone else is feeling even though you haven’t experienced it yourself. They are slightly different, however Empathy can be much stronger because you can have a deeper emotional connection. Just because you haven’t experienced it yourself though, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express sympathy. In both cases, you’re working to share the emotional load of another person.
Galatians 6:2-3 says, “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” (NLT). This commandment is given to all of us to help one another in whatever burden someone else is carrying. I’ve seen many believers back away from a situation because they couldn’t empathize with that person. The load of their situation was crushing them, but no one came to their aid. This where sympathy comes in. It can express itself by simply sitting with that person. Your physical presence tells them they’re not alone thereby taking some of their burden off of them.
Each of us have our own problems, but we are better and stronger when we carry them together. From the beginning God said it was not good for us to be alone. He built us for connection and to help each other. If you look around today, you will see someone in your path who is struggling to carry a heavy burden. Whether you can empathize or sympathize with them, it’s important to let them know they’re seen and they’re not alone. If you think back to a time when you were burdened down, you will remember how desperate you were for some acknowledgment that would give you hope and strength. Today, you have that opportunity to be that for someone else. Don’t miss that opportunity, and in doing so, you will fulfill the law of Christ in loving your neighbor.
On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.
It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.
Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
How heavy is the burden you’re carrying right now? We all carry burdens with us. Freedictionary.com lists these as synonyms of burden: trouble, care, worry, trial, weight, responsibility, stress, strain, anxiety, sorrow, grievance, affliction, onus, albatross, millstone, encumbrance. All these things wear us down, make us tired and cause us not to move forward. We carry them inside and try not to let anyone know that they’re weighing us down. Somehow we’ve come to believe it’s a badge of honor to bear these burdens. It’s a way to show others were stronger than they believe. The truth is that you weren’t meant to carry these heavy burdens that distract us from our purpose by ourselves.
I love Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28. He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis” (TPT). One version refers to this burden as a yoke which would wrap around an animals neck to help them plow. Jesus’ metaphor here is symbolic of a yoke that would hold two animals. He wants to help you carry that burden. We’re even directed as believers in Galatians 6:2 to help each other carry their burdens. In each case, it requires the burden bearer to seek that help. When a burden is shared, the weight is cut in half. Quit believing the lies that it’s yours to carry alone and that no one else cares. God is available to help you and has placed people around you to help you.
Jesus continued in Matthew 11:29, “Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.” It takes us joining our life with His and submitting to His yoke rather than our own. To me, that’s the hard part here, and in my mind it doesn’t always make sense. Yielding to Christ’s burden, rather than our own, and trusting Him with ours, is an act of faith. It’s trusting God to take care of something we’ve taken ownership of whether we were meant to or not. Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise the Lord, who carries our burdens day after day; he is the God who saves us” (GNT). God is ready and waiting for you to trust Him enough to go to Him and let Him help you day by day. Start by praying and saying out loud that you submit to His burden and need His help. Then share it with a trusted friend.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
My son always wants to help with whatever I’m doing. If I’m shopping in the store, he wants to be the one to get the item off the shelf. He says, “Here, let me help.” When I’m bringing in the groceries, he wants to carry a bag. Every once in a while he gets one that’s more than he can handle. He’ll say, “It’s too heavy. Help me, Dada.” I’ll reach down and carry the bulk of the weight, but still let him do his part. I’ve been in his shoes before. I’ve had baggage that was too heavy for me to carry on my own. I’ve just haven’t been as eager to ask for help as he has. I think there are many who are in the same boat.
In Exodus 17, the Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land. On their way, they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses had Joshua recruit some men to go fight the Amalekites while he stood on top of a hill holding the staff. As the battle raged on, Moses, Aaron and Hur noticed that as long as Moses had his hands raised, they were winning. When his arms were lowered, they were getting beat. They encouraged Moses to hold his hands up, but after a while he couldn’t do it anymore. He needed help.
It doesn’t say if Moses asked for help or not, but it does say that Aaron and Hur acted on his behalf. They saw a need and improvised to help him out. They grabbed a stone for him to sit on so they could hold up his arms. They stood there until the sun went down and the Amalekites were defeated. Moses named the place Yahweh Nissi which is God My Banner. God gave the victory, but it was won because two people saw another who needed help and lifted him up. They sacrificed their comfort for those who were engulfed in a battle.
If you look around at the people God has placed in your life, there are those who are fighting battles and they’re growing tired. They can’t hold their hands up anymore. They’re struggling and losing the war. God is looking for people like Aaron and Hur who will go to those who need help, hold them up in prayer and sacrifice until their battle is won. By helping them, in turn you are helping others that they are holding up. When Aaron and Hur helped Moses, they had a direct affect on the army fighting below. We never know how far our help really goes.
My son thinks he can do anything I can do. I was moving some heavy bags recently, and he wanted to move one. He struggled with it as he pulled and pushed on it. I offered my help, but he refused. “He said, “I got it, Dada. I can do it.” I replied, “I know you can, but I can do it more easily.” He still refused. He wanted to do it. He wore himself out trying to do it. I don’t know if it was my stubbornness or my pride that he got that compelled him to keep doing it alone. Either way, he refused my help.
As I watched him, I couldn’t help but think how often I am that way towards God. I often carry these heavy burdens. They’re not necessarily ones that God gave me. They’re just ones that I’ve picked up and have tried to carry. I’ve tried pulling them and pushing them, all the while wearing myself out. God whispers, “Let me take that,” but I refuse. “I can do it, God,” i say. I can imagine him shaking His head like I do.
It could be my stubbornness or my pride that keeps me from handing my burdens over to the Lord, but either way it’s wrong. When I refuse to give my burdens to the Lord, I’m telling Him that I don’t need Him. I’m telling Him that I can do anything He can do, and that’s a problem. We can’t do what God can do, but we’ve been trying to since Adam and Eve. We’ve got to let go of the things that weigh us down, wear us down and hold us back.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you” (NLT). One version says to release them. We have to be the ones who let go. God isn’t going to take them from us forcefully. He has already made the offer for us to cast them on Him. It’s now up to us to let go and to trust Him. Let God do what He does and quit trying to do His work for Him. Trust me, your life will be a lot better.
When I go grocery shopping, it’s usually for just a few things so I like to use the hand held baskets. My six year old son likes to accompany me on these trips. He always asks, “Can I carry the basket?” The basket is fine for him to carry until I begin to put things in it. Every item we pick up weighs the basket more. When I see him struggling with the weight of it, I ask for it. He often refuses. He struggles to carry it, but still he insists. Sometimes he ends up pushing it along the floor because he doesn’t want to give it up.
Even though life would be easier for both of us if he let me carry it, he keeps going until he’s wore out. I wonder if that’s how it is between us and God when we carry around burdens. God is asking us to release them to Him, but we keep insisting we can do it. We struggle with the weight of it, but still we push on. God asks us to hand it to Him, but we’d rather struggle pushing it than to hand it off. Life would be easier for both of us if we’d just give it up.
In Psalm 55:22, David wrote, “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you” (AMPC). Every burden, that’s not from God, that we pick up weighs us down. We know from Matthew 11:30 that the Lord’s burden is light. The burdens He places on our hearts won’t be too heavy for us. He’s even willing to make an exchange with us. He’ll give us His burdens if we will give ours to Him, but that takes us releasing them.
I like the second part of that verse. The word “sustain” means to hold up much like a gable holds up a roof. When we give up our burdens to Him, He holds us up so we don’t cave in. The things we think are keeping us going are the things that are weighing us down. It’s time we heard the Father’s voice and obeyed. Were not strong enough to carry the basket of burdens. Release it to Him and walk in the freedom He offers. He has His hand out waiting for you to hand it to Him.
Recently, as I returned from a trip, my son wanted to help take my suitcase to my room. He went to grab my suitcase and computer bag, which were stacked on each other. He struggled for a minute trying to move it. Then, with a loud crashing sound, he fell with it. I walked over, helped him up, and removed the computer bag. My wife told him, “Baby, that’s too heavy for you. Don’t try to do that again. You’ll get hurt.” He was sad, but he walked away from them. He realized that as much as he wanted to move them, they weren’t made for him.
That’s the perfect example of what happens when we try to carry burdens that aren’t ours or that aren’t given to us by God. We struggle with them. We try to walk with them. Then ultimately, we come crashing down. We then try to pick them back up to try again. For many of us, this is the rut we get stuck in. Pick up, struggle, fall, repeat. But God is telling you, “That’s too heavy for you. Don’t try to carry that load. You’ll get hurt.”
I’m not sure why we try over and over to help God with burdens that aren’t ours. It doesn’t impress Him that we are trying to carry a burden He didn’t give us. Yet we think that if no one else carries it, someone has to, and that someone might as well be you. Let me set you free today. You weren’t meant to carry burdens that God didn’t give you. Set those down, and walk away. It doesn’t matter that no one else is carrying it. If God didn’t give it to you, it’s not yours to carry.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus told us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (NLT). If you find yourself tired and weary all the time, give that burden to God, and pick up the burden He has for you. It’s the only way you’ll find rest, contentment, and purpose.
Have you ever tried to carry something that was too heavy for you? I’m not talking about something you couldn’t lift. I’m talking about something that you could hold, but not for very long. You struggle to lift it, with each step you exhale trying to manage the weight and size of the object. You can only go a few feet before you have to set it down, take a breather, look at how much further you have to go and then try again. You repeat the process over and over until you finally reach your destination. It’s exhausting and can give you medical problems if it’s too heavy or too far.
Imagine carrying that same object and a friend comes over. They see you struggle and instead of offering help, they offer suggestions on how to carry it better. “Lift with your legs, not your back,” they say. How does that make you feel? Clearly they see you struggling, but they are doing nothing to help you. It gets frustrating. How about if instead of helping you they cheered you on? How would that make you feel? “Come on! I know you can do it! You’ve got this.” While it might help morally, it still doesn’t help with the problem.
What you really want when you’re struggling like that is for them to say, “Hey, let me give you a hand.” When they grab the other side, the weight is halved. Suddenly it’s more bearable than it was. You may be able to go a little bit further before you have to set it down. Their physically helping you with the object is a lot more useful than telling you how to do it or encouraging you to do it. Would you agree? Then why do we do the first two when we see someone struggling with heavy burdens?
I once heard a person say, “With a friend, joy is doubled and pain is halved.” I could also add burdens are halved. Galatians 6:2 says, “Help to carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.” It didn’t tell us just to encourage someone who is carrying a burden or to tell them how to carry it. We are told to help them carry it. When someone is carrying a burden, it’s a lot like that large object. They may only be able to take a few steps before they’re exhausted. They may not feel like they’re making progress. While words of encouragement are nice, helping them with the heavy lifting is what’s needed.
Think of a time when you’ve had a heavy burden. What is it that you wished people had done for you? Go and do that for someone else. When I see others who are going through something I’ve been through, my first thoughts are, “What did people do that made me mad? What did I wish people had done.” I then go and try to do the second instead of the first. It’s important that we look around us today to see which friends are struggling. While a word of encouragement is nice and a few tips on how to bear the burden is great, I’m sure they’d love some help with the heavy lifting.
One of my first jobs was being a sacker at a grocery store. Back then, the sacker didn’t just put your groceries in bags, they also took your bags to your car and put them in it. Society has gotten away from that in recent years. We have determined we can do it on our own and don’t need the help of someone else. We have self check out lines so we can avoid being helped by the checker and sacker. We do it all ourselves. We take the groceries to the car, load them up, take them home and then try to carry them all in the house in one trip. We load as much as we can on our arms. When so done offers help, we say, “No thanks. I got it.”
Have you ever done that? I think most of us have. Why do we refuse help when we need it? Why do we continually try to do things on our own? We need help from others. In fact, not long after God made Adam, He looked at him and said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper.” God recognized right after He made Adam that we need help. He knew it wasn’t good for us to do things alone. So He created Eve. He gave us the gift of a helper.
I’m the type of person who loves to offer help, but has a hard time accepting it from others. I’m also the guy who uses the self checkout lane and tries to carry every bag in one trip. What I find is that doing things on your own wears you out. It’s tiring. That’s because it goes against the way God made us. He intended for us to have others help us. He intended for us to have others be strong when we are weak. But if we don’t let others know we are struggling while trying to carry all the bags on our arms, how can they know to help?
The bags most of us carry are invisible. We struggle to carry them trying not to let one break. It takes up so much of our energy. It’s ok to get help. It’s ok to see someone struggling and to offer help. In fact, Galatians 6:2 tells us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” That’s pretty powerful. Carrying someone else’s burden is how we fulfill God’s laws. Eve was made to carry Adam’s burdens. You were made to carry someone else’s. If you were made to carry someone else’s, then you were also made to let someone carry yours. You just have to let go and accept their help.
What all are you holding onto today? What burdens are you carrying that are wearing you out? You weren’t meant to carry them alone, so stop trying. Find someone you can trust and ask them to help you. Ask them to pray with you and for you. Share your burdens. When you do, your load will be lightened and your strength will return. Trust God’s plan that you need help. Don’t be too prideful in thinking you can do it on your own, God has someone waiting to help you carry the load. You just need to accept it and do your part in fulfilling the law of Christ.