Carry Each Other's Burdens

6:00 AMHeather

I think I could write a book entitled Bad Things that Good Intentioned People Say. That might be a long title? But, it could also be a long book. Now, don't get me wrong--I certainly don't mean to sound harsh. When I've been on the receiving end of such things, I REALLY have tried to look beyond the words to the caring heart of that person. Like, for instance, one of my all time favorites--when I got a card two weeks after my dad died. I knew the sender was truly concerned, but I scoffed at this phrase, "I hope that things are getting back to normal." HUH? My dad was gone. And so was my normal. Or the friends who asked me to change the subject because they just couldn't handle talking about my dad. I was silent. Because I didn't quite know how to respond to the fact that MY loss was too much for THEM.

It is hard to know what to say or do when someone is hurting. And people tend to say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. I certainly don't mean to add to that fear. But, I do mean to point out this fact. I think that all too often we miss opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ because we shy away from carrying each other's burden. And, that has very little to do with the words you say.

Let me paint some pictures of what it means to carry each other's burden. It's lining the hospital hallways to quietly pray someone through delivering a baby that is already gone. It's donating your blood for someone in a life and death battle. It's setting up 24 hour prayer cover for someone in ICU recovering from a horrific car crash. It's bringing in food to a family sitting in a hospital saying their last good-byes. It's sitting up all night holding the hand of a sick friend. It's holding back your wife's hair and rubbing her back as she leans over a toliet with a migraine or morning sickness. It's grocery shopping for a friend who is too sick to handle it herself. It's cleaning someone's house who has been too overwhelmed to do so themselves. And, yes, my dear sweet friends--it IS coordinating and delivering meals to friends facing hardships or transitions in life. Nothing says you care like a home cooked meal.

In my personal opinion--you want to know one of the best things you can say? The honest truth. That you hurt for someone and you don't know what to say. Hug them tightly. Then sit quietly with your friends, handing them tissue after tissue. And cry with them. When you see them, just offer a quick, "I'm thinking of you." Or, set your phone to remind you to pray at the exact time of someone's surgery. And not just a "Lord help them." But find a Scripture to pray. Get on your knees--or face down on the floor. In other words, don't just pray, but storm the Throne Room of heaven, pleading on their behalf. And, look for physical needs to meet--and meet them. Ask someone close to that person to help you identify physical needs, and rally others to join you in that endeavor.

And, here's the clincher. Here's where the rubber meets the road. Here's where your obedience to carry their burden will lead to being blessed more than you can imagine. Keep doing it. Keep carrying the burden. Don't just show up at the point of crisis. Because seldom does a major illness or a loss contain itself into a short little time frame. The ramifications are long lasting. But, unfortunately, the initial outpouring of support and meals and cards taper off just as the initial shock wears off and the reality of the ripple effects begin to set in for the hurting. Generally, the response is for a sprint, but the pain is like a marathon.

Need some ideas on finding ways to meet physical needs for the long haul? Instead of lining up daily meals for a week, line up meals a few times a week for a longer period of time. Send a card regularly, letting them know that you are STILL praying and thinking of them. Once a week, deliver little care packages of their favorite snack, a new movie, or a good book. Be that rare friend who lets them know that you will walk the road with them--even if you don't know the exact words to say. Just be present with them.

INTENTIONAL challenge: I've really enjoyed my pastor's series called "Reimagine Church." He's offered some great insight and teaching on the body of Christ. A few weeks ago, he talked about the fact that the question is not IF we will face hard times, but rather when. He challenged us to respond to other's needs because the time will come when we will have a need. THAT is what Christ wants from and for his church. The Bible says that the world will know we are HIS by our love. Love is a verb. So, what actions can you take today to really carry someone else's burden? Be the author of a new book...Great Ministry to Hurting People.

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