God’s Word commands Christians to come alongside brethren who are hurting. Are we obeying the call? Are we striving to be effective burden-bearers?
If you’re inclined to discourage a brother or sister in Christ from wanting to share their hurts with you, treat said brother or sister as though those hurts just aren’t a big deal.
I will assume that you aren’t inclined toward what you just read, but be careful that you don’t write off the idea as though you never do. We may not want to believe that we’d disregard the [tough] circumstances of fellow believers, but I think we all do more than we realize. I’m certainly not immune. My tendency is to be tempted to shrug at others’ trials simply because those trials aren’t what God has ordained for me. And it makes sense that it’s naturally difficult for us to empathize about difficulties that God hasn’t designed for us personally, but that doesn’t excuse us from failing to line up with Romans 12:15.
Do you relate? Are you tempted along these lines? Do you give in to such temptations?
We will do well to improve and grow in this necessary, and I what I think is under-practiced, ministry of burden-bearing (Galatians 6:2). Several months ago I visited the concept of reaching out to hurting believers in a genuine way. That article looked at some of the “do”; now I’m after how you “think” about this ministry, which is where it truly begins. The fact is that a burden is a burden, no matter who is burdened, when the burden has come, or what the burden is.
To try to go deeper on the fundamentals of the concept would really just over-complicate things. It all boils down to asking ourselves some form of the following question, “Will I disregard how I personally feel about a person’s burden and seek to simply encourage however the Lord enables me to, or will I glaze over and only smile and nod at the end?”
Sin could be the root cause of a believer’s hurt, and the believer must at some point be encouraged with God’s Word to allow the Light to shine on it if so. It’s not, however, our job to be eager to bring our hammer down on the fact that sin is involved. We all bring hurt upon ourselves; it’s the harsh reality of naturally bending to the flesh. If perhaps the burden seems to be a pattern and the believer is unaware, then the situation might require a different approach. Assuming this isn’t the case, how would you react if after being vulnerable to a brother or sister, you walked away with the impression that your confidant was truly thinking, “Well, why is that such a big deal?” Would you not subsequently want to avoid such a person mentally and physically? Why then treat any believer similarly?
A person’s burden is a burden to them, just like your burden is a burden to you. It’s no one’s job to decide whether or not a believer’s burden is the “genuine article”. No one has the right to make a burden seem like anything less, and no one should make a burden seem like anything more. We also shouldn’t exaggerate someone’s burden to show how seriously we care, well-intended or not, since that could convince the person that their burden is more significant than it ultimately is. And furthermore, we should never act as a know-it-all about someone’s burden, as though we have heaps upon heaps of invaluable wisdom to offer.
Altogether, just lovingly offering an ear could be all a hurting believer needs or wants, and giving that can be the catalyst to beautiful relationships. Don’t forget to pray for them (again, because I do!) and at least offer to do so with them as well. Be willing even to come along-side them. In the end, talking about troubles can be very liberating, and standing there just to digest the details isn’t particularly difficult, and God will notice your sacrifice (Hebrews 6:10). And if anything, it’s a small peek into what Christ did for us on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself.
Thus, the next time a fellow heir of grace approaches you with a burdened heart, consider yourself privileged! And remember, their burden is a burden, no matter how little or much it resonates with you. Your concern is sharing God’s love, and God’s Word.