Monday, May 2, 2016

When the Weight Gets Too Heavy to Carry

Can you carry a medium-sized glass of water? Unless you’re restricted by a physical disability, you can with ease. For a while, that is. But what if you were forced to hold up that water glass for 30 minutes without stopping? Would it feel like it was getting heavier, even though in reality the weight hadn’t changed?

A water glass - and life's problems - can
become unbearable weights over time.
How about after an hour or two – how easy would carrying the glass seem then? Your hand and arm would probably start feeling achy. If you tried to carry the water glass continuously for an entire day, can you imagine how painful that would be? Your arm likely would become numb, maybe even paralyzed by the effort.

An online video made this point recently, not for encouraging people to lug glasses of water around all day, but to offer a metaphor for our all-too-common practice of carrying the worries and stresses that fill our lives, without help. Bearing them for a little while, a few minutes, isn’t much of a problem. But the longer we carry those burdens on our own, the heavier they become. They can even paralyze us after a while.

That’s one reason for the appeal of support groups, ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous to cancer survivors’ meetings to new parents’ gatherings. As glorious as life can seem at times, at other times it loads us down with cares and anxieties that seem unbearable. We’re cruising along thinking life’s a breeze, then boom! All of a sudden we’re overwhelmed. It might be a serious health problem, a troubled child, challenges at work, seemingly insurmountable financial issues, marital strife, or other personal struggles.

So what can we do? We might elect to “suck it up” or, at the urging of an unsympathetic family member or friend, “just deal with it.” And we try. But when the difficulty refuses to go away its weight becomes heavier, eventually so oppressive that we feel paralyzed, clueless concerning what to do – or what can be done. Unlike a glass of water you can put down if it gets too heavy, many of life’s challenges can’t just be set aside.

The good news is we don’t have to carry the weight alone. And we shouldn’t. God and true friends are more than willing to help in shouldering the burden. In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus told His followers: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

In the Old Testament we find the same assurance: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). And the apostle Peter affirmed this promise when he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

At the same time, just as parts of the body support and contribute to the health of other parts, we as followers of Christ are called to support one another. As Galatians 6:2 instructs, “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

One of my favorite passages from the Scriptures expands on that idea. Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

What’s in your “glass”? Have you been carrying it around for so long the weight has become almost too much to bear? Swallow your pride, humble yourself, and share the burden with someone else. They might not be able to solve your problem, but at the very least they can pray with you. They can remind you of God’s love and faithfulness, and share the load, at least emotionally. And who knows? They might even offer some ideas you haven’t considered that could prove helpful in some way.

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