Sharing the Burden

1224141025158I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself. (Numbers 11:17)

We share the burden because it not only helps us but helps others. We often welcome the opportunity to take some burden off of someone else, but we’re more hesitant to relinquish our own burdens, especially when we see them as our responsibilities.

We think we have to do so much in our own strength, whether it’s bearing our own burdens or sharing someone else’s, but that’s not God’s intention. God seems to put a priority on sharing burdens not simply bearing burdens.

And by sharing, He assures us we don’t stand on our own. We don’t just share and bear in our own strengths. He wants us to rely on and trust Him. He is the one who bears the burden. We need to share with Him and bear with Him, because only He is wise enough to know the details and powerful enough to handle all the details well.

The Burden of Compassion

Compassion comes with a burden.

We don’t always feel the burden. Sometimes our enthusiasm and joy with serving and showing compassion overrides the feelings of burden.

But sometimes we have compassion and feel helpless, because we’re not sure what to do. Perhaps we’re not supposed to do anything in terms of fixing the problem. Showing compassion is sometimes simply sitting alongside and being available.

It still feels helpless at times.

However, we are never helpless in our compassion, because compassion is rooted in God and infused with His help. He is the source of compassion, and He is powerful and wise enough to know how it can and should be fulfilled. We just have to accept the help God gives instead of trying to own and control all the help. We have to yield even when the approach isn’t what we would choose. We need to trust Him.

The burden of compassion is ultimately God’s. He loves people way more than we can even imagine loving people. Plus, He has the power to do something about it. He’s inviting you to help by seeking and trusting Him.

The Selfishness of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves…to get well and move on.”

“The first to forgive is the strongest.”

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

It’s great to see so much encouragement on social media and in everyday conversations to encourage forgiveness, but how well are we representing what forgiveness is and should be?

I get the motivation behind it. Forgiveness is tough. We often feel the other person doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes they refuse it, and other times, we don’t even have the option of saying it aloud to them. So, we make it more about ourselves than the other person. The scales begin to slide, and we can justify finally forgiving someone, because it helps us, too.

Forgiveness does, indeed, take a weight off of us. Someone once explained it to me as taking someone off my hook and putting them on God’s hook. In reality, the person was already on God’s hook, regardless of what I did. Forgiving them was simply my acknowledgement of His authority, power, and grace. And a reminder of His mercy to me.

God wants my burdens, but He doesn’t want me to release them selfishly. He doesn’t want forgiveness to become about what I gain by it. He simply wants me to stand under His authority. My forgiveness is a mere shadow of His. And His forgiveness has always been and is completely unselfish. Letting His Son leave His side and live a messy life on earth and suffer rejection and a horrific death? No selfishness. Jesus asked for forgiveness on our behalf; we only have forgiveness because of Him. He didn’t live and die for Himself. He did it for us. Completely unselfish.

So, why do we forgive? Because God says that’s the way to respond. It’s a reflection of His love. It’s not easy. In fact, it feels tortuous at times. It doesn’t make sense. But neither does dying to ourselves to live with Him and humbly choosing last, which actually becomes first. Everything doesn’t make sense, at least, to us. And that’s okay.

Don’t buy the distortions of forgiveness the world is trying to get past you. They might sound good and make you feel good, but only truth sustains and endures.

The Climb of Forgiveness

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Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Forgiveness  is like standing at the top of a tall lighthouse with an unobstructed view of vast landscape we’d only catch glimpses of while on the ground. It releases a burden and gives renewed perspective. When we extend forgiveness, we catch a glimpse of the vast beauty of God and His will.

After we forgive, we still have to live in the day-to-day reality of life. Our perspective has changed. We made the effort of carrying a burden up the stairs of the lighthouse. We’ve experienced the thrill of the unobstructed view. Now begins the journey down the steps. It’s seems easier than climbing up, but it still takes effort. We need to place our feet securely on each step. We get tired and dizzy as we wind downward. We might begin to wonder if the journey has been worth it.

When you extend forgiveness, life around you might not change. The coworker might still be mean. The family member might still mistreat you. The friend might continue to ignore you. You have a fresh perspective because of forgiveness, but you still live in the messiness of life. You might question the completeness of your forgiveness. You thought forgiveness would fix it all, and you’d no longer have to struggle.

Forgiveness is an action of the heart. Sometimes it takes a while for the heart to pump new passion and habits into our lives. Sometimes the journey of carrying the vast, beautiful perspective of forgiveness into the foundational level of life takes steps of effort. Take it one step at a time.

Acknowledge an area of forgiveness that’s still messy in your life. Be intentional in your next steps. Ask God to reveal where you are and what you need to do in the process of forgiveness.

Rooftop Friends

rooftopOne day as Jesus was teaching the people, the Pharisees and teachers of the law from every town in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem were there. The Lord was giving Jesus the power to heal people. Just then, some men were carrying on a mat a man who was paralyzed. They tried to bring him in and put him down before Jesus. But because there were so many people there, they could not find a way in. So they went up on the roof and lowered the man on his mat through the ceiling into the middle of the crowd right before Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:17-20)

Do you have friends like the paralyzed man?

They went to a lot of trouble. Not only were they working together to carry him on a mat (instead of one or two people scooping him up) but they weren’t easily deterred. They were persistent in getting to Jesus. When they couldn’t push through the crowd, they looked for another access point: the roof. It wouldn’t have been an easy task to get a man on a mat onto and through the roof, but they worked together and got it done.

Who will carry you as a burden?

This man could do nothing to help. He couldn’t make himself weigh less. He couldn’t limp along, sharing only part of his weight. If they had put him down, he couldn’t have proceeded unassisted. He was completely dependent on them.

Do you try to help others help you, or are you willing to let someone fully carry you through a situation or season?

Jesus noticed “their faith.” He saw compassion in their little community. He noticed mercy in their relationship. He knew that it came from a faith in him so intense that they weren’t willing to stop. They pursued him even if it meant going through the roof to reach him.

Who are your rooftop friends?

We’re often willing to be the kind of friend who does the lifting. We’re willing to help. We’ll sacrifice for others. But are we willing to sacrifice our pride to accept the same kind of help? Are we fostering relationships that invite us to humility, accepting and trusting the sacrificial help of others?

Friends come and go through seasons of our lives, so sometimes we’re in the process of letting go of friendships while we’re in the early phase of planting seeds in other friendships. But we should always be cultivating. We might not know who is going to be in the group of rooftop friends when we need them, but we always need to be intentional in not only investing in others but also letting them invest in us.

(And for my rooftop friends, I’m sending you a huge thank you! I couldn’t get anywhere without your sacrificial support!)

Fit Faith: Agony: If It Hurts…

No pain, no gain is a popular fitness adage, but discriminating between constructive pain (discomfort as you stretch your limitations) and harmful pain (ignoring warning signs that you’re damaging your body) is essential. Agony makes me think of writhing pain, which I’ve only felt a couple times in my life.

I ran track when I was in junior high, and I was a pretty good sprinter. Near the beginning of practice one day, I approached the curve, running a 200-meter leg of a relay. It happened quickly, but I remember feeling a clicking in my right hip for a few steps and then a loud pop, which threw me to the ground. I was in agony, feeling as if my hip had exploded. A couple teammates immediately ran to me, and the coach wasn’t far behind. I gave her the best explanation I could about what happened, and she proceeded to yell at me, insisting I hadn’t warmed up well. Let me just say that whether I did or didn’t warm up well wasn’t going to help my hip pain at all!

My friends helped me off the track, and my mom picked me up to take me home. I grew up in a wait-and-see-how-you-feel-in-the-morning household, but when I couldn’t walk the next morning, it was time to go to the doctor, who sent me directly to a specialist. Apparently, my hip joint had grown faster than my leg bone, and the pressure of running made it move around enough that it just popped out. It had already popped back into place and not caused any bone damage – just some torn tendons and strained muscles that would take time to heal. I left with crutches and the satisfaction of telling my coach it was something more serious than inadequate warm-ups.

I wouldn’t have been able to run if I had wanted to, but I’ll admit, there have been many times I’ve pushed through pain when I should have stopped. I enjoy pushing limits, so it’s a fine line for me. When my legs are on fire from a hard workout on the elliptical, I’ll continue to push to reach a specific time or distance. That’s not a bad thing. But when I feel the pain of an old injury but continue to jog anyway, even when I know it might mean I won’t be able to jog again for a few days, it’s a bad thing.

Life isn’t pain free. We can’t avoid discomfort. Growth is uncomfortable. We might love the end result, but when we’re in the middle of it, we can easily feel our spiritual muscles burning. We feel as if a weight is crushing us and we can’t possibly withstand any more.

Perhaps you know the Bible verse that says, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” It doesn’t exist. Surprised? Here’s the verse that gets misquoted:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The weight we feel (in this case, temptation) isn’t about what God gives us. It’s about what God provides for us as we deal with the burden. It’s about our response to the weight, not the weight itself. We get so focused on the weight itself. We weaken under it and wonder why God would give us such a heavy burden. We try to rationalize that we must be able to handle it, since God gave it to us. Yet Scripture doesn’t say God gave it to us!

When you’re in spiritual agony, you must discern: Is the pain you feel harmful to your relationship with God, and is enduring it going to harm your relationship? Or, is the pain going to challenge you to grow through endurance and patience as you seek God’s will, understanding and peace?