In this series, I’m writing about life lessons that I learned while hiking part of the Appalachian Trail with my son and two friends. This “Life Lesson” is about bearing burdens.
At the end of the first day of our hike – after 9 miles – my legs starting hurting. The next day started fine. But after a few miles, we began hiking uphill. I found out that I could not pick my foot up to take a step up because of the pain in my thighs. I could walk on level ground, and I could walk downhill, but I could not walk well when we were going uphill. And, unfortunately, for the next several miles, we were walking uphill.
I slowly made my way up a few hills, and climbed over some rock outcroppings. But, my legs started hurting even worse as I forced them to do something that they did not want to do. Eventually, the other three people in my group took my backpack so that it would be easier for me to walk. It was still painful, but it was not as painful.
So, for a few miles, until we turned downhill, I did not carry a backpack, and the other three (mostly Jim) took turns carrying two backpacks.
I have to admit that this was very hard for me. I like to serve others, and it is difficult for me to be served. However, it was better for me as an individual, and better for the group, for them to carry my pack while I did not carry a pack.
From that difficult afternoon, God clearly taught me about this passage:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5 ESV)
I could have refused to admit that I had leg problems – but, of course, it was obvious to everyone that I was walking slower and slower. I could have refused their help. They could have refused to help. But, because I admitted my own weaknesses, and because they helped me instead of condemning me, we were able to continue walking together.
Note that they could not relieve me of my “load” – my leg pain. My legs continued to hurt, and there was nothing that I could do about that. However, they could bear my “burdens”, so that I could walk more easily under that “load”.
I think this is one of the most important lessons that God taught me on the trail. It was a difficult and painful lesson, but an important one. Today, we often refuse to admit our problems. This is the sin of pride. Our pride tells us that we must seem to have it all together to those around us. We can’t seem weak or needy.
Since we don’t know one another, others cannot recognize our problems and weaknesses. This is also a sin, related to refusing to love one another. When we love another, we give up our own time in order to focus on others so that we can get to know them. Instead, we walk along carrying a burden alone when God has provided others to help us.
Even when we recognize someone’s problems or weaknesses, we tend to condemn or ridicule that person instead of coming along site that person and helping them to bear that burden. This is also a sin – the sin of refusing to love or refusing to accept a brother or sister. Many times, we simply don’t care about the person enough to help them. Other times, we’re afraid that if we bear someone else’s burden, then our own burden (plans, desires, goals, etc.) will not be accomplished. We put our own life and growth ahead of the life and growth of the community.
Do you know people in the church enough to recognize when they need help with a burden? Do you care enough to offer help? Are you willing to ask for help yourself?