Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
How do we share our burdens?
In church, we may be surrounded by brothers and sisters we have known for years, and some perhaps for a lifetime. But how deep are our relationships? How well do we know one another? What do we know about their lives?
Do we know about their joys and their challenges? The chances are we know a little, but not much. At the tea table, we often prefer to talk about the mundane – general things about the week gone by, our holiday plans, and our children’s progress at school. But not many conversations go beyond that.
That’s why it’s important to communicate. To understand someone, we need to talk; not once in a while, but on a regular basis. To bear the burdens of others, we need to build rapport and trust. Only then, meaningful, deep and honest conversations can happen. This takes time, and cannot be hurried.
It is important to practice active listening – to pay attention to the words, but also to what is not spoken. Often, the real needs are hidden in the silences. Some words cannot be uttered because it hurts too much to say them; there is too much at stake, or there is fear that tears might come unbidden and not stop.
After we have listened, this is the time to impart God’s word – not before. To apply the word of God in a meaningful way, we need to know the other person’s situation and needs, much like a doctor prescribing the right medication at the end of the consultation. A hasty prescription can cause others harm.
Lastly, we can intercede – to carry the other person’s burden through prayer. With understanding, love and a heart of compassion, we can allow our prayers to wing their way to our merciful Father in heaven, who will know what to do.