Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2
I have had several dear friends follow up with my last post in concern. That is community. We have not been left to carry life’s trials, even the ones we bring upon ourselves, alone. While some of my burden has to do with a particularly exhausting circumstance in my life, most of the weariness has come from exposure to the burdens of those immediately around me rather than a particular crisis in my own immediate family. It’s a tricky thing. It can border on trying to control reality rather than believe the Gospel in the midst of it. It can feel like meddling. Bearing one another’s burdens doesn’t have a script. It certainly violates all of our society’s rules about individualism, stoicism and keeping our own hands clean and our personal space protected. But those rules are not part of the law of Christ.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Ps. 68:19 The good news about not being left as orphans is that God is not standing back behind lowered spectacles waiting for us to get ourselves out of the messes we have made or others have placed us in. Joseph’s mistreatment went on for decades, and it wasn’t that he was perfectly sinless in it all. Moses’ troubles, Job’s suffering, David’s turmoil, Paul’s struggles and even Jesus’ suffering did not contradict the love, intimacy and care of God but were part of and crucial to the divinely scripted redemptive story for all men and all of creation. Each of these men in their darkest moments felt the despair of abadonment…but only one took it so that nobody else would fully have to again.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col. 1:24
Part of joining in the redemptive life of Jesus is not merely standing back and offering words of cheer and high hopes to those suffering, but to enter into it with them. When struggling with depression, financial crisis, violated safety, broken trust in a close relationship or ugly personal attacks, an outsider speaking true words of hope without really grasping the true depths of despair, ends up sounding trite and almost more hurtful. I have felt trite and helpless and so ultimately, as expressed yesterday, hopeless in moments of this burden bearing in which I’ve wanted and attempted to hope and dream in the face of evident brokenness. So how can we do both – groan and hope with integrity and love? I cannot without the Gospel, and perhaps attempting to on my own is what made me so weary.
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1 Cor. 15:13-14 The resurrection doesn’t gloss over the agony of death, but requires it. It faces the darkness of Calvary with the truth of fuller life breathed into dry bones. It is the only thing that makes decay work backwards. It is the “deeper magic” of Narnia which trumps the deep magic embraced by the White Witch. It is what gives us the courage and strength to immerse ourselves in the darkness of our loved one’s pain and emerge on the other side with more life than we had before. But without the death, there is no resurrection; without the flood, there is no redemption. The way of the cross is suffering and then glory, but not the latter without the former. Your best life now may turn out to be a fairly unsatisfying product if not “made complete, perfect and lacking nothing”(James 1) through the trials of many kinds that produce in us the life of Jesus.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2Cor. 1:3-9
Whether it be my own burdens which I allow and even invite others to share with me, or whether it be the dark nights of my friend or family member’s soul into which I enter, would I spend less time trying to redeem on my own (the drive to be a bad ass for Jesus, if you will) and more relying on God who raises even the dead. I am thankful for just such a burden sharing (in both directions) community and just such a God. May we only grow into this more in the coming weeks, months and years to come.