We Christians put on a good face, don’t we? Each of us shows up on Sunday morning looking like we are doing just fine, like our lives are on cruise control, like we have had the best week ever. But ask a couple of leading questions, and probe just beneath the surface, and it soon falls apart. Each of us comes to church feeling the weight and the difficulty of this life. God has something he wants us to do in these situations. There is something he calls us to—something beautifully surprising and uncomfortable. Track with me for a couple of minutes here, and I’ll show you what it is.
The Reality: You are Dust
One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is Psalm 103. I pray it often, and focus on these words: “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” These words tell us that even while we pray to the all-knowing and all-powerful God, we do so as created beings who were formed out of the dust of the ground. If we learn anything from our dusty origins, we learn that God did not intend for us to be superhuman and he did not intend for us to be God-like. He made us dust, not divine, and this was his good will. He made us weak.
The Difficulty: You Are Burdened
Meanwhile, the Bible tells us that this life is full of trials and tribulations. Experience backs this up. This world is so sinful, we are so sinful, and the people around us are so sinful, that trials are inevitable. Each of us has burdens we carry through life. Sometimes these are burdens of our own making, sometimes these are burdens that come through sickness, sometimes these are burdens that come through other forms of suffering. But whatever the case, we dusty humans inevitably face burdens that seem crushingly and insurmountably heavy. Jesus speaks to the reality of life in this world when he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are weak and we are burdened.
The Promise: Help
God knows that we are weak. God knows each one of the trials we face, and he makes the sure promise that he can and will sustain us through each of them. In Psalm 55:22 he says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” In times of temptation toward sin he promises, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There are many more promises we could turn to, but the theme would be the same: God acknowledges our weakness and promises to meet them with his strength. We are weak and we are burdened, but God promises to help.
The Temptation: Self-Reliance
We dusty, sinful human beings face a ridiculous temptation: self-reliance. Despite our weaknesses and despite our track-record of sin, we find ourselves constantly tempted to look to ourselves for help. Listen to what John Piper says: “Pride, or self-exaltation, or self-reliance is the one virus that causes all the moral diseases of the world. This has been the case ever since Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to be God instead of trust God. And it will be true until the final outburst of human pride is crushed at the battle of Armageddon. There is only one basic moral issue: how to overcome the relentless urge of the human heart to assert itself against the authority and grace of God.” We may see this self-reliance manifest itself in our lives in at least two ways: When we will not bring our burdens to the Lord in prayer, and when we will not bring those burdens to other Christians. In both cases we like to convince ourselves that we can bear this weight on our own, that we are strong enough to carry it.
The Solution: Community
When we are ready to let go of our self-sufficiency, we find that God offers an amazing solution. He offers a way that we can be relieved of the burdens we carry. Very often, the way God fulfills his promises and answers our prayers is through other Christians right there in our local churches. God expects that we will tell others about our burdens and that we will respond to them together, in community. This is why Paul told the church in Galatia to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Our church communities are to be marked by the sharing and bearing of burdens. If this is to happen, our churches need to be marked by humility, as each of us admits that we cannot make it through life on our own; they need to be marked by vulnerability, as we open up to others and seek their counsel and their help; they need to be marked by awareness, as we pursue the people around us, asking them how we can assist in life’s trials. God’s solutions always come from outside ourselves.
The Vocation: Burden-Bearing
All of this leads us to the joyful vocation of burden-bearing. Piper says, “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” Make them lighter through prayer, make them lighter by skillfully bringing and applying the Word of God, and make them lighter by the comfort of your presence. In every case, make it your sacred calling to seek out and to share the burdens of your brothers and sisters. There is no higher calling than this. (For more on burden-bearing read An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians.) But there is more: You also owe it to yourself and to your church community to share your burdens with them, to humble yourself by asking for their help.
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