Bearing One Another’s Burdens
Galatians 6:2 instructs Christians to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Bear someone else’s burdens?! How are we supposed to do that when our own hearts are buckling under the weight of our own problems? Even if we did try, how are we supposed to do that? What does it look like?
Paul uses the phrase “bear one another’s burdens” in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Ephesus (see Ephesians 4:11–5:14). These letters are not filled with suggestions; rather, they are commands for believers to “grow up in Christ.” When we are ensnared in sin, Galatians 6:1–10 beautifully explains how we come alongside each other by pursuing with love, seeking restoration with gentleness and humility, and compassionately carrying the weight of pain, shame, and struggle. In addition to Christ as the ultimate bearer of our burdens, God provides fellow Christians to share life’s weight. God never intended that our spiritual journey be limited to living on our own islands; instead, he gave us the body of Christ. But what does it look like to bear one another’s burdens in real life?
Our Harvest USA Women’s Ministry team calls those who bear our burdens “journey companions.” Journey companions are people you invite to intentionally help you grow in your relationship with the Lord. Some people might call this an accountability partner, but we prefer the term journey companion because, honestly, many Christians have taken the concept of accountability and formed misleading, unhelpful practices that, in the end, haven’t worked!
The journey companion relationship is more than a set list of accountability questions regarding particular sin struggles that only require “yes “or ”no” answers. We have found that for true burden-bearing relationships to work most effectively, there needs to be a relationship. This means that people come together for the purpose of transparent life-sharing about sin struggles and make commitments to grow in Christ through prayer and applying God’s Word. Simply put, journey companions agree to know who we really are and to encourage us through listening, speaking the truth in love when we fail, and faithfully praying for us.
The problem is that many of us have not experienced this type of life-on-life, burden-bearing relationship. If this is you, don’t be discouraged! You can find guidance for these relationships by seeking God in prayer and in Scripture.
Here are four ways we can bear one another’s burdens:
Provide encouragement for the painful and often difficult race of faith. II Corinthians 1:3 calls God “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” Those verses don’t say some of our afflictions, but rather all. With God, “all” means “all.” In our heartaches and struggles, God lavishes us with his direct and personal comfort. Verse 4 says that God comforts us so that we might be able to comfort others with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. This is one of the most beautiful “pay it forward” blessings we can be a part of. May we be gentle, humble, compassionate conduits of God’s comfort to others.
Exhort one another to seriously battle sin without growing weary. Ephesians 4:12, 16, and 29 mention building one another up. Often, we take “building up” in Ephesians 4:29 to simply mean lifting up or encouraging someone. However, if we compare these three verses in chapter 4, we see that Paul has in mind all that is involved in building up the body “into” Christ—in other words, helping each other know and love Christ more and love each other more in him. Journey-companion relationships will involve real-life conversations that are specific to the struggles we experience, so ”challenge” should include speaking truth that is specifically shaped by that. The goal of our truth-speaking to each other is not merely to curb an undesirable behavior, or even to prevent sin. It is nothing less than deeper relationship with Christ and all that that entails, especially love.
Establish intentional and regular meeting times with life-sharing as your primary focus. Hebrews 10:24–25 soberly reminds readers that the day of Christ’s return is drawing near, and one of the things the author emphasizes is to “not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some.” Persevering in faith is a community effort, and encouraging one another to persevere requires consistently being together.
Notice any movement of the Spirit and celebrate spiritual growth together. This is often an element absent from these accountability relationships. We tend to focus so much on our sin or what we need to do to be a better Christian that we miss the beauty of seeing God’s hand at work. To be celebrated is to be seen by another. Don’t neglect to celebrate victories, new responses to temptation, surpassing peace, God’s provision of physical needs, or changed thought patterns. Basically, be on the lookout for any movement of the Spirit in someone’s life and name it! As we are called to weep with those who weep, may we also joyfully rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
To some, the idea of seeking out a burden-bearing journey companion may prompt excitement, hope, and inspiration; others may feel fearful, anxious, and ashamed. We are all most likely in different places in our willingness to actively engage in these types of relationships. You know what? That’s okay! These relationships take time, but as we grow, we can seek to bear one another’s burdens by being present, offering Bible-based counsel, following up on struggles, listening intently, and celebrating any movement of the Holy Spirit that happens in our lives, one step at a time.
This blog post is taken from our upcoming Harvest USA Women’s Ministry discipleship workbook, which will be released in December 2020.
You can also watch the video, “Finding Faithful Journey Companions,” which corresponds to this blog.