What To Do With Your Burdens

Title: What To Do With Your Burdens

Bible Book: Galatians 6 : 2-5

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Problems; Burdens; Peace



Galatians 6:2,5, Psalm 55:22

There are many joys and blessings in life, but along the way there are also burdens to deal with. The burdens that people have to contend with include physical illness and pain, spiritual doubts, mental and emotional distress, family problems, financial pressures, frustrated ambitions, low self-esteem, loneliness, broken relationships, guilt, bereavement, shattered dreams--and the list could go on.

The big question is, what are we to do with our burdens? There is no shortage of advice from many different directions, much of which is of little or no value; but, thank the Lord, there is one infallible, completely truthful and dependable source of advice, and that is the Bible. God, in his Word, tells us that there are three things we are to do with our burdens.

Before I point those out, it is important to bear in mind that at least two of these, and most of the time all three of them, are to be done simultaneously--and the reason for that statement will become evident as we proceed to look at certain Scripture passages. Two of the passages might appear to some people at first glance to be contradictory, but actually they are complimentary.

Let’s look now at those three things God says that you and I are to do with our burdens. In the hope of making all of this easier to get hold of and to remember, I’m going to use three key words--two of them actually found in the Bible, and the other word very definitely descriptive of a Biblical concept.

The first key word is...


Galatians 6:5 in the King James Version says, “For every man shall bear his own burden.” The Greek word for “burden” in that verse (phortion) means “something carried.” The Williams translation of the New Testament renders Galatians 6:5 as follows: “For everyone must carry his own load.”

Paul Powell, former president of the SBC’s Guidestone Financial Services, in his sermon on this subject called attention to the fact that in ancient times (and the same is true today) soldiers, even while working together at certain tasks, nevertheless had to each carry his own backpack. Indeed, the Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament renders Galatians 6:5 like this: “For every man must ‘shoulder his own pack.’” Powell went on to point out that, in like manner, there is a sense in which each of us must shoulder, or carry, his own burden.

If a person is a Christian he can, and should, call on the Lord for help and strength, and the efforts of other people to help us are appreciated--but the point is that from a human standpoint some burdens are such that there is not a great deal that others can do for us--we have to carry those burdens alone.

Alexander Maclaren, a well known British Bible expositor, of a past generation, said that each person is, in a sense, like the lone inhabitant of an island. He went on to say: “Like the inhabitants of the islands of the Greek Archipelago, we are able to wave signals to the next island, and sometimes to send a boat with provisions, but we are parted, ‘with echoing straits between us thrown.’ Every man, after all, lives alone.”

There is, for example, the burden of personal responsibility for our choices. To be sure, the people and circumstances surrounding us can and often do influence us--but in the last analysis we and we alone are responsible. Romans 14:12 solemnly declares, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

The subject under discussion in Galatians 6 is that of dealing with some brother who has gone astray. Paul is making the point that, while others should should, in every way possible, encourage that erring brother to get back on course, the fact remains that just as he himself chose to sin, even so it remains for him, and him alone, to decide whether or not to repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and make a new start. That burden of responsibility is his alone.

But many people don’t want to accept responsibility. In fact, that’s one of the major problems in our modern society. Some of these bleeding-heart, liberal social engineers have sold a bill of goods to a lot of folks, with the result that many people don’t feel personally responsible for much of anything--even for criminal activity; they’ve been convinced that they are merely victims of the culture in which they find themselves.

Many of you probably remember a public-service ad that was often heard on the radio years ago. The voice said, “Don’t leave the keys in your car and make a good boy go bad.” Adrian Rogers remarked that the ad should say, “Don’t leave the keys in your car; some punk might steal it!”

Of course our heredity, our upbringing, and our environment have a definite impact on us; there’s no doubt about that. But all of that withstanding, when you get right down to “where the rubber hits the pavement” each individual is responsible for his own actions. No one will ever be a winner in the race of life until or unless he faces that reality.

Even in regard to those burdens that others can help us with, there still is an element that simply cannot be imparted. For example, when someone has lost a precious loved one in death. you and I may able to help in a number of ways--we can visit, we can take in food, we can send flowers, we can send cards--and normally all of those things are beneficial and are deeply appreciated by the person who is grieving. But in the wee hours of the night or morning--or as for that matter, even when others are nearby--that heartbroken person has to bear his or her grief alone. There is wonderful help available from God, but other people can only do so much--we can’t reach into that grieving person’s heart and alleviate the ache and the emptiness. That person must, from a human standpoint, carry his or her own burden.

The second key word is...


I am admittedly creating a verb out of a word which is actually a noun. The dictionary defines a co-op, or a cooperative, as “an organization in which the profits and losses are shared by all members.” Take special note of the word “shared.” So, to give a spiritual meaning to that newly created verb, to “CO-OP” our burdens is to SHARE them--and that’s exactly what Galatians 6:2, according to the New Living Translation, tells us to do: “Share each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The King James Version says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens....”

As already acknowledged, there is a sense in which each person must carry his own load; but Galatians 6:2 makes it clear that, at the same time, there is another sense in which our burdens can be shared.

Paul originally wrote these words to the church in Galatia--but by virtue of the timelessness of the Bible, they apply to churches of all generations. The reason we’re to co-op our burdens--that is, to share them--is that the church is not simply an organization, it is a spiritual family--Galatians 6:10 refers to it as “the household of faith”--and family members are to support one another in times of need. We who make up the church of the living God are brothers and sisters in Christ--and when one of us has a burden, to the extent possible others of us are to co-op it--to help bear it.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul compares the church to a physical body, and in verses 25-27 he says: “That there should be no schism [disruption, break] in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

Romans 12:15 says to believers: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” I love the words of that great hymn:

“Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.

“Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.

“We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear;

And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.”

In the early church in Jerusalem many members were hard up materially, but others made it their business to co-op the burdens of their fellow members. In Acts 4:32-33 we read: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

Apparently one reason that God blessed them with power and grace was their unselfishness--their willingness to co-op the burdens of one another.

Not too long ago I was interim pastor of a church where a young lady’s husband left her--he left her with two nearly grown children, one of whom was about ready to enter college. That young mother worked two jobs, but neither of them paid her very much, and when her husband left she was in real financial trouble. But bless their hearts, the members of that church rallied to her side--many gave individual gifts, and the church as a whole gave from its benevolent fund, and they helped that young woman through that financial crisis; they made it a point to co-op her burden--in other words, to share it.

As already indicated, the specific issue being dealt with in Galatians 6 is that of a brother having gone astray. In verse 1 Paul writes, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” We are to do everything possible to motivate that person to confess his sin and ask God’s forgiveness, that he might be restored to his former strength and joy. By reaching out to him with heartfelt concern, praying for him, and spending time with him and encouraging him to get right, we are in a very real sense bearing his burden with him.

Galatians 6:2 tells us that we are to bear one another’s burdens and thereby to fulfill “the law of Christ.” What is “the law of Christ?” Jesus himself explains it in John 13:34-35:

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

And how do we fulfill that law--the law of love? We don’t fulfill it by simply having warm, fuzzy feelings toward those who are in need. We fulfill it by taking action. Here’s how 1 John 3:16-19 says it:

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.”

Or, as Paul puts it in Galatians 6:10: “As we have therefore opportunity let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

The third key word is...


So, we learn in Galatians 6 that there is a sense in which each of us must CARRY his own burden, and another sense in which we are to CO-OP our burdens by letting others share them in whatever ways possible. Now let’s look at the most important thing of all that we’re to do with them; Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” So the third key word is CAST--we are to cast our burden upon the Lord.

Notice that this promise is given to “the righteous.” That means people who are right with God. In New Testament terms, that means people who have repented of their sins and, by faith, have received the crucified, risen, living, coming again Son of God as their Lord and Savior. They have personally claimed the wonderful promise of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” That’s the person who is in a position to cast his burden upon the Lord.

As emphasized earlier, we’re to do all three of these things simultaneously. Even as we CARRY our burden, and as we CO-OP our burden, at the same time we are to CAST our burden upon the Lord. That is, while doing both of these other things, we are to look to God for the ultimate victory in dealing with that burden.

What does the Psalmist mean when he says that God “shall sustain thee”? He means that God will give us the grace and strength to “keep on keeping on,” so as not to go down under the weight of that burden.

The inspired writer of Psalm 55:22 further says, “he will not suffer the righteous to be moved.” That is, he will not allow us ever to be moved outside the range of his awareness, his concern, and his ability to help us. In other words, if we’re walking with the Lord and daily calling on him, he’ll see to it that we never experience “overload.”

One Sunday night in the summer of 1999 when Connie and I were visiting back in Hannibal, Missouri, where we had once lived, during a Sunday night church service we heard a young lady named Stephanie Leavins give her testimony. She was 22 years old at the time. She said that she was born with muscular dystrophy, and the doctor told her parents that she probably would live only a few days. He told those parents that it would be best for her not to live long, because if she did she would have no quality of life whatsoever. He said that she would not be able to show any facial expression, and would never be able to talk. Yet that night, as she smiled radiantly, Connie and I heard her sing like an angel, one song after another.

And I’ll never forget this part of her testimony--I wrote it down verbatim. She said, “Often people ask me, ‘Do you believe God can heal you?’ I tell them, ‘Yes, I believe God can heal me if he so chooses. But if he doesn’t choose to heal me, that’s perfectly okay with me. I’ve lived in this wheelchair all my life, and sometimes it’s hard--but I know Christ as my Savior, and God has given me peace and joy in my heart, and he’s given me a ministry. What more could I ask?’”

That young woman knew from experience the wonderful truth of Psalm 55:12: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” That same truth is echoed in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” In that same connection, we read in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

A lady was tossing and turning in the wee hours of the night. A heavy burden was weighing upon her heart, and she was so distressed that she couldn’t sleep. She got up and began reading her Bible, and came across Psalm 121:4, which says, “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” The Holy Spirit spoke to her. She smiled with relief as she looked heavenward, and she said, “Lord, I reckon there’s no need for both of us to stay awake, is there?--so I’m just going to turn this problem over to you.” Then she turned over and went to sleep.

There’s an old song which contains these lines:

“Leave it there, leave it there;

Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

If you’ll trust and never doubt, he will surely bring you out;

Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”

If you’ve never gone to Jesus to confess and repent of your sins and invite him, by faith, into your heart to be your personal Lord and Savior, that’s the number one need in your life--to let him lift and dispose of that burden of sin and guilt and lostness. And he stands ready to do just that, if only you’ll ask him. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


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