The Bible is an amazing gift from God to his people. I love how the different parts work together to tell a grand story of God’s work in the world and build our hope for God’s great work of renewal of all things. But I also love how a few verses, even a few memorable words, can speak to and frame our experience.
This spring many women studied the book of Galatians together—there were so many things that challenged and encouraged me from Paul’s epistle, but a particular idea has stuck with me for the past several months. Towards the end of Paul’s letter he writes to his friends, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:2, 5) These verses are simple and profound and immediately practical for any stage and circumstance of life.
Bear one another’s burdens
Throughout the letter to the Galatians, Paul joyfully describes how Christians are a part of the family of God—we are made heirs with Christ and we are united as his family. Paul’s urging to the “bear one another’s burden” flows out of this family, communal view. Paul is reminding the Galatians—and us!—that we are in this together, as brothers and sisters. We must carry one another’s burdens. We help when we see that someone is struggling. We show up. We work together.
Bear your own load
Just a few verses later, Paul wisely tells us that we all have our own loads to carry. There are responsibilities and burdens that are for individuals to shoulder. Paul is not espousing an individualistic ideal that says we do not need others; rather he acknowledges that God makes up his community with individuals who uniquely experience the world. In Christ and by his help, we are able to look at our lives and see that there are things that we must carry.
Paul holds these ideas together and so ought we. Communal care and individual responsibility are not at odds with each other; there is no “either or” but “both and.” The work of the Holy Spirit in God’s family allows us to do these things by being with each other and for each other in our burdens. The beauty of this paradox is that we are challenged on both sides. We might be challenged because we refuse to ask for help for our burdens that can be shared, because we would rather do it on our own. Or we might push back because we fear isolation if we take responsibility for something that feels hard.
Consider these questions:
How do I avoid the mess of other people’s lives?
What are the burdens of my friends, family, and neighbors that I need to help them carry?
What are the hard places in my life?
How can I ask for help?
How do I rely on other people to carry or fix my problems?
How can I take ownership of my responsibilities so that I bear those burden with the help of the Holy Spirit?
As we continue to desire to be a “more and more” church, let’s ask these kinds of questions and have these conversations so that we are more and more willing to carry our own loads and more and more willing to shoulder our burdens together.