By TJ TENNISON
A few years ago, our culture adopted a saying that relates to a common experience we all face: “The struggle is real.” This phrase expresses the reality that life is hard for all of us, and none of us escapes difficulty. Sometimes we can see the hard things coming and prepare, but sometimes difficulty hits us suddenly. Sometimes the season of pain and difficulty is short, but sometimes it lasts a long time. These times of struggle present a crossroads in our lives. What direction we take will either grow us in faith or make our faith weaker; we will become more like Christ or less like Him. How we handle the struggle will result in an experience of victory or defeat.
The one thing that seems to be the deciding factor is if we are walking the path alone or with someone else. There is something extraordinarily dangerous about being alone in the middle of a struggle. It’s not just a cliché, it’s true: We are better together than alone.
Perhaps that’s why, in Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us to “bear one another’s burdens.” He is reminding us that we all will have burdens and struggles, so don’t let anyone struggle alone. Paul’s admonishment to us also means that we must be willing to abandon our pride in order to ask for and receive help when we have burdens. He then finishes by saying, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The “law of Christ” is a New Testament phrase referring to two commandments given by Jesus: to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus tells us, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Not only is bearing one another’s burdens a command given to us in scripture, but bearing someone’s burden is also our privilege. Bearing someone else’s burden is a privilege we get because Jesus did it for us when He took on our burden of sin and shame and gave us freedom and peace.
An inspiring story of bearing another’s burdens can be found in Exodus 17. Moses, the leader of Israel, stood on a hill holding up the rod of God over the battlefield where Joshua and the Israelites were waging war against the Amalekites. As long as Moses held the rod of God above his head, Israel won the battle; but as soon as his hands began to fall, Israel would begin to lose the battle. Aaron and Hur noticed Moses in his struggle and held up his hands for him when he was too tired to hold them up alone. Because Aaron and Hur helped Moses bear his burden, Israel received victory.
I’ve experienced the power of Paul’s teaching to “bear one another’s burdens” firsthand, especially as a pastor going through a pandemic. This has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult seasons of my life as a pastor. The pandemic presented questions I didn’t have answers to, and problems I’d never faced before. I felt overwhelmed. Our world had changed drastically, but our call from God had not.
Despite the challenges, great good has come from this time of struggle, largely because of my involvement in Mission Mississippi. As a group of pastors, we figuratively held up each other’s arms over this spiritual battleground. We met weekly and sometimes would call daily to check in on each other and help solve problems. We bore each other’s burdens. We determined as a group that we were not going to struggle alone. We fought through together, and we continue to do so. Mission Mississippi provided a place of solitude and strength for all of us to find encouragement to face the struggles of our day.
Just like the members of Mission Mississippi, I hope you will also make the decision that you will not struggle alone, nor will you stand by idly while someone else struggles. #BearingOneAnothersBurdens
TJ Tennison is a pastor at Crossway Church in Vicksburg, where he lives with his amazing wife and four children. If he is not at the church or at home spending time with his family, you can usually find him lifting heavy(ish) weights at the gym.