“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV).
Three of us had left the car and started down the mountain-side (well, in Nepal it is “just” a hill) carrying four back-packs between us plus a heavy camera bag and a well-stuffed purse. Yes, one of us was my wife.
We were facing something over an hour’s walk down the hill on a rough trail, across the river by suspension foot-bridge, then up a smaller hill to the village where we would be spending the night. We were overloaded because we were carrying all our gear and clothing for five nights on the road and were making this village visit before checking into the hotel where we would spend some of the time.
It was with great relief that we met two young men from the congregation we were traveling toward on the way after 20 minutes or so. We were already wet with sweat (it is still hot in southern Nepal in mid-October) and beginning to feel the weight of our loads. We gladly surrendered the heavier packs to younger, fresher backs and resumed our trek.
When Paul wrote the words quoted above to the Churches in Galatia he almost certainly had in mind primarily spiritual burdens. He had already mentioned the restoration of those who had been overtaken in trespasses (Galatians 6:1). Yet we all have many kinds of burdens and we frequently need help with them all.
Our loads may be financial trouble, problems in relationships, the burden of sin and temptation, depression, or simply spiritual weakness in its many forms. But whatever the type, when we have more than we can carry, we must have help. Conversely, when we are managing well, we may be able to help those who are weaker.
It is one thing for a mountain climbing Nepali to take the pack off one’s shoulders, put it on his back, and take it over the hill. That kind of burden-bearing is easy to understand. But how do we help one another with the other kinds of loads? How does one help another to carry sin and temptation, or spiritual weakness?
First and always there is the help provided by prayer. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). We must never underestimate the power of prayer or the comfort one receives from knowing that others are praying for him or her. God listens to and answers our prayers. Even the Holy Spirit is involved with us in making our petitions acceptable to God (Romans 8:26).
Secondly there is the strength of fellowship. I am certain that modern Christians, in the main, do not spend nearly as much time together as was the case in the first century. We may blame it in part on the demands of different lifestyles and cultures, but I suspect one reason for the lack is that we do not see the need for Christian fellowship to the degree that the earliest Christians did.
They had, like Abraham of old, “[Gotten] out of [their] country, from [their] family, and from [their] father’s house[s]” (Genesis 12:1). They were acutely aware of their vulnerability without their former support group and in a suddenly alien world. Their need for companionship and mutual help caused a deep sense of spiritual family. This bond helped tremendously in the sharing of problems, of whatever nature. Perhaps one reason we find it difficult to bear the burdens of others is that we do not feel so isolated and in need of Christian fellowship.
When we practice effective fellowship, we lend strength by our presence, by encouragement, and sometimes by confrontation and rebuke. It is easier for two together to say no to sin than for one standing alone. The more there are, the greater the strength. Do not try to fight Satan alone, and do not stand by to allow another to fight him by themselves. We need the strength we get from one another. Be a burden bearer.