“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey (fulfill) the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
I was at my brother’s house in New Jersey last weekend and he had gotten this box of old family pictures out. So I started going through the packages of photos. There were many treasures in there.
I want to tell you about one picture in particular. It is a picture of my cousin Kristin and me. In the black and white photo, I am about 9 months old and she is almost two years old. And we are sitting close to each other and my hand is on her shoulder, either reaching out or leaning on, and she is smiling while she is saying something to me and I look amused as well. I was really glad to find it in general and at that time.
Because the next morning (last Saturday), she and I met in Hoboken, as we usually do when I visit New Jersey. This time we decided to get some bagels and go over to Frank Sinatra Park and sit on the benches under some shade with an amazing view of Manhattan.
And Kristin and I did what we have done for more than ten years now – “share each other’s troubles and problems (and joys and revelations)” so to speak. Other than perhaps Jenny, there is no other person with whom I can more easily share troubles and joy. Now, you have to know that she is a gifted psychotherapist; and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is preparing a case study based on our conversations J. But seriously, it’s really three things. Number one – she is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met – she has a beautiful heart. Second, she asks questions that no one else asks – some tough ones but always with love. Third, she really listens. I can see in her face when I am talking that she hears me and that she cares. She literally shares in my troubles and burdens. As a professional listener myself in the role of a pastor, I can only hope that people who come to me for encouragement or pastoral counseling have the same experience that I have with her.
I think there is another part to it. And I say this with all honesty. As a “caregiver” or pastor, most of my conversations are, as you might imagine, about others. And that is the way it should be. So it really stands out when someone wants to know and care about me.
We are able to share burdens about family, about our professions (of which there is some overlap) and faith. And according to this verse, when we share each other’s troubles and problems, we are obeying or fulfilling the law of Christ. That is, we are loving one another as He has loved us – sacrificially – through the sharing or bearing of one another’s burdens. Think about it. It takes effort and purpose to genuinely share in someone else’s life and troubles. In our humanness, we tend to not want to do this; it’s much easier to focus on ourselves.
It reminds me again that Christianity can’t be done alone. It has “community” or sharing in its DNA. A key element is Jesus sharing in our human condition, in order to offer us salvation and eternal life through the cross and resurrection. As well as in the daily living of life, that the grace and love and comfort that we desire and hunger for from or through others, comes from sharing and opening our lives to others. As He poured himself out and great grace was upon us all, a similar thing happens when we pour ourselves out to others – the grace of Christ is shared. His grace flows not from strength, but from brokenness.
How many times do we not share – keep things to ourselves? How often do we convince ourselves that no one cares or that we don’t want to burden anyone? We do this all the time to our loss and to the loss of others and in spite of the idea of this verse – fulfilling the law of Christ. Many of us still keep thinking that we have to be strong and handle things on our own. Not according to this verse – it was all meant to be shared.
I know it is hard to trust. I know it is uncomfortable. But I have to tell you, the best stories of grace I have heard and observed, have occurred when people have shared troubles and problems. As far as I have seen, this is where God’s grace in Jesus just pours out. This flood of grace is just waiting to overwhelm us and carry and wash away all our burdens – just by simply opening our lives and sharing with others.
And God is so good! He puts people in our lives to be the ones who will listen and share in those troubles and problems. Sometimes it is a spouse, a family member, a friend, a church member, and a pastor. But when you are ready, God will send you that person or people. They are already there. Last weekend, Amer and my brother Ryan were also great listeners in addition to Kristin.
I can look with awe at an old black and white picture circa 1971 and see that God planned all along that the same little girl that I am reaching out to and leaning on in the picture, would some 37 years later, be in my life, listening, making me laugh and making sense of things. And I am so blessed and thankful for Him and for her.
It was then and is today a beautiful picture of God’s grace and provision fulfilled.
- Do you have a “Kristin” in your life (she is unavailable – you have to get your own J)? What is it about this person that is so blessed.
- Do you hesitate to share your burdens with others? Why?
- Have you ever experienced the grace of God through others? How did it happen and what was it like?
- Is it time to share your troubles and problems with someone and fulfill the law of Christ? Or could you be that person for someone?