On the Bearing of Our Burden
J. R. Miller
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
We all have our burdens. Of course, they are not the same in all. Some are more apparent than others. There are people whose burdens we all see. These get our sympathy; we come up to them with love's warmth and help. There are others, however, whose burdens are not visible. It seems to us they have no trouble, no struggle, no loads to carry. We envy their lot. Probably, however, if we knew all that God knows about their lot—our envy would change to sympathy. The burdens that the world cannot see—are often the heaviest. The sorrows that are not announced in the obituaries, and endure no viewing—are often the hardest to bear.
It is not wise for us to think that our burden is greater than our neighbor's; perhaps his is really greater than ours. We sometimes wish that we might change places with some other person. We imagine that our lives would he a great deal easier, if we could do this, and that we could live more amiably and beautifully than we do, or more usefully and helpfully.
But if we really did change places with the one who, for all we know, seems to us to have the most favored lot; if we really did take this person's place, with all its conditions, its circumstances, its responsibilities, its cares, its duties, its blessings—there is little doubt that we would quickly cry out to God to give us back our own old place, and our own burden! It is because we do not know everything about him, that we think our neighbor's load lighter and more easily borne, than our own.
There are three Bible words about the bearing of burdens. One tells us that "Every man shall bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:5). There are burdens that no one can carry for us—not even Christ; burdens that no one can even share. This is true in a very real sense of life itself, of duty, of one's relation to God, of one's personal responsibility. No one can live your life for you. Friends may help you by encouragement, by sympathy, by counsel, by guidance—but, after all, in the innermost meaning of your life—you must live it yourself. No one can make your decisions for you. No one can have faith in God for you. No one can obey the commandments for you. No one can get your sins forgiven for you. No one can do your duties or meet your responsibilities for you. No one can take your place in any of the great experiences of life. A friend might be willing to do it—but it is simply impossible. David would have died for Absalom—he loved his son well enough to do this, but he could not do it. Many a mother would take her child's burden of pain, as she sees it in anguish—and bear it for the child—but she can only sit beside it and watch it suffer; she cannot take its place. Everyone must live his own life.
There is another Bible word which tells us that we should "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). So there are burdens which others can help us carry. No one can do our duty for us, or take our load of suffering—but human friendship can put strength into our heart to make us better able to do or to endure. It is a great thing to have brotherly help in life. We all need each other. Not one of us could carry on without others to share his burdens. And we begin to be like Christ—only when we begin to help others, to be of use to them, to make life a little easier for them, to give them some of our strength in their weakness, some of our joy in their sorrow. When we have learned this lesson—we have begun to live worthily.
There is another inspired word which tells us to "cast your burden upon the Lord—and He will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22). The word "burden" in this passage, in the margin of the King James Version, is rendered "gift". "Cast your gift upon the Lord." In the Revised Version, the marginal reading is, "Cast what He has given you upon the Lord." This is very suggestive. Our burden is that which God has given to us. It may be duty; it may be struggle and conflict; it may be sorrow; it may be our environment. But whatever it is—it is that which He has given us, and we may cast it upon the Lord.
The form of the promise is also suggestive. We are not told that the Lord will carry our burden for us, or that He will remove it from us. Many people infer that this is the meaning—but it is not. Since it is that which God has given to us—it is in some way needful for us. It is something under which we will best grow into spiritual strength and beauty. Our burden has a blessing in it for us. This is true of duty, of trials and temptations, of the things which to us seem hindrances, of our disappointments and sorrows; these are all ordained by God as the best means for the development of our lives. Hence it would not be a true kindness to us—for God to take away our burden, even at our most earnest pleading, It is part of our maturing. There is a blessing in the bearing of it.
The promise is, therefore, not that the Lord will remove the load we cast upon Him, nor that He will carry it for us—but that He will sustain us so that we may carry it. He does not free us from duty—but He strengthens us for it. He does not deliver us from conflict—but He enables us to overcome. He does not withhold or withdraw trial from us—but He helps us in trial to be submissive and victorious, and makes it a blessing to us. He does not mitigate the hardness or severity of our circumstances, taking away the uncongenial elements, removing the thorns, making life easy for us—but He puts into our hearts divine grace, so that we can live serenely in all the hard, adverse circumstances.
This is the law of all spiritual life—not the lifting away of the burden—but the giving of help to enable us to carry it with joy.
Much human love, in its shortsightedness, errs in always trying to remove the burden. Parents think they are showing true and wise affection to their children, when they make their tasks and duties easy for them—but really they may be doing them irreparable harm, dwarfing their lives and marring their future! So all tender friendship is apt to over-help and over-protect. It ministers relief, lifts away loads, gathers hindrances out of the way—when it would help far more wisely, by seeking rather to impart hope, strength, courage.
But God never makes this mistake with His children. He never fails us in need—but He loves us too much to relieve us of weights which we need to carry—to make our growth healthful and vigorous. He never over-helps. He wants us to grow strong, and therefore He trains us to strain, to struggle, to endure, to overcome; not heeding our requests for the lightening of the burdens—but, instead, putting into us more grace as the load grows heavier—that we may always live courageously and victoriously!
This is the secret of the peace of many a sickroom, where one sees always a smile on the face of the weary sufferer. The pain is not taken away—but the power of Christ is given, and the suffering is endured with patience. It is the secret of the deep, quiet joy we frequently see in the Christian home of sorrow. The grief is crushing—but God's blessed comfort comes in gentle whispers, and the mourner rejoices. The grief is not taken away. The dead are not restored. But the divine love comes into the heart, making it strong to accept the sorrow and say, "May Your will be done!" (Matthew 6:10)