Burden Bearers

            Is it really true that God will never give you more than you can bear? 

            I've heard people say this many times – I may have even said it myself.  These words are usually intended to give comfort, or to reassure the person that is facing some agonizing situation that they will get through it.  That somehow, someway, they will be strong enough to come out on the other side.

            I’ve searched for the Bible verse promising that God won’t give us more than we can bear, and I can’t find it.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. But in terms of the painful trials we experience in this life, I don’t find scriptures suggesting that God gives us trials in proportion to our strength to bear them.
            If we stop and think about it, what are we implying?  That for some reason God “rewards” strong, faithful people with weightier, more challenging problems?  That He protects the weak from trials but burdens the strong? 

            Sometimes I hear people say, “Oh, I could never survive if such and such a thing happened to me.”  Usually the person is imagining some catastrophic event, like a tragic accident, or the loss of a child, a spouse, or a loved one.  They just know they would not be able to keep going if their worst nightmare became reality.  And yet for people who have suffered loss and devastating situations, they will tell you that they did not feel that they could bear the weight of these trials before they faced them either.
            I know in my own life, I have faced disappointments and trials beyond my capacity to bear.  I have felt hopeless.  And rather than discovering that I was strong enough, after all, to endure such hardships, I found that God gave me the strength I needed when I needed it.  He brought people into my life to help me carry the burden, and He Himself carried me when my burdens were too much to bear.

            I believe that God is in control and does allow trials to come our way, and that He is always working for our good.  But it’s not our own strength that determines how we will weather the storms of life; it’s our dependence on Him that matters most.  Look at these verses:

Psalm 68:19:  Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Matthew 5:3: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and His rule.  (The Message)

Isaiah 43:18: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your GodI will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  (Notice the emphasis on God’s presence, His strength, His help, and His hand upholding us.)

Psalm 55:22: Give your burdens to the Lord.  He will carry them.

Isaiah 40:31: But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
            Even Jesus, on the night before he was crucified, felt overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  He prayed; he asked his disciples to stay awake and pray with him.  “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me” – He knew what was coming, and it was too much to bear.  He submitted his will to his Father’s, saying, “yet not my will, but yours be done”. Luke’s gospel records that after praying, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.  On the way to Golgotha, the place where Jesus would lay down his life for us, after having been brutally beaten and whipped, his human, broken body could not bear the weight of his cross.  Soldiers seized a man named Simon from Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. 

            God brings people into our lives to help us when the weight of our burden is too much for us to carry alone.  Many of us love the declaration in Philippians 4:13: ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  But we miss something if we don’t read through the next verse:  “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”  It is a “both/and”.  We are given strength through Christ for the trials we face, AND He often chooses to strengthen us, help us, and encourage us through others.

Galatians 6:2: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:4:  God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

            My mom is undergoing treatment for cancer, and many caring friends have come alongside her and our family to help during this difficult time.  They're driving Mom to appointments, taking her shopping for scarves and hats, picking up her mail and bringing her dinners.  They're supporting my sisters and me as we learn and process information, coordinate schedules, take turns traveling, and do our best to navigate this unpredictable road.  Alone, my mom’s burden is too much to bear.  But with the support of her friends and family, with God giving her strength and grace each step of the way, she is getting through each challenge.  She hasn’t made it in her own strength; she depends on God to help her and provide for her, to give her what she needs when she needs it.  Her dependence on Him is what makes her strong.

            I’ve had help with my burdens, too.  As I have tried my best to juggle mommyhood, working part-time, and traveling back and forth to Michigan to help my mom, I have been so thankful for the support from my husband, my children, and many caring friends.  Several friends brought our family meals.  My bible study group prayed for my mom and our family every week, all year.  Just when I needed encouragement the most, I’d get a text, a phone call, or an email from someone, telling me, “I’m praying for you.”  And when no one could ease my deepest fears and sadness, God has consistently given me peace and comfort, hope and a sense of calm that could only come from him.

            I am not counting on my own strength to get me through any future trials that may come my way.  I am learning to depend on God, believing he will help me and give me strength.  He will bring people alongside me when my burdens feel too heavy.

            Are you relying on your own strength when you face difficulties, or are you depending on the One who daily bears your burdens?