Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
As he was walking by the woods one chilly evening, he came across a felled tree which was perfect for firewood. He stared down at the enormous trunk trying to figure out how he would transport it the two miles back home. A passerby saw him struggling to drag the tree down the path and advised him it might be easier to roll it. A second passerby saw him struggling to roll the tree and advised him that it would be best to carry it. A third passerby saw him struggling to carry the tree and decided to give him pointers on how to properly lift heavy objects, but it was just too large and heavy for him to move alone no matter what he tried. It was the fourth passerby who put down his things and helped the man lift that tree and carry it home.
To bear one another’s burdens is a specific kind of caring. We might think that we do this when we offer advice or instruction to someone on spiritual matters. We might think we do this by offering a prayer. We might think we do this when we provide any number of kinds of help to someone in need. To share another’s burden, however, is much more than that. It means that we stop watching someone try to carry a load they cannot bear and instead help them carry it. It means walking alongside someone who is in the thick of battle and picking up a sword to help. This is an intimate kind of assistance. Think of the classic picture of the two oxen yoked together walking down the field. Sharing the burden of plowing that field means sharing the weight and the work as they walk side by side. The farmer directing them is certainly helping but is by no means sharing that burden.
As we grow spiritually, we should gain a desire to do more than just assist people from afar. Something grows inside us, perhaps a mixture of compassion and courage, and it causes us to want to roll up our sleeves and get our hands in there. When we bear another’s burden, we play an active role in helping that person overcome that obstacle instead of sitting on the sidelines and simply watching it all unfold. If we do this correctly, the one we help should feel the burden lighten. After all, the goal is to make it manageable for that person. Burden-bearing is about taking on the weight and putting forth the work so that another can succeed. Father, give us the heart of your Son to be yoked with our brothers and sisters in their times of need, helping them carry their burdens with our own hands.