|Photo by Amelia Grace Photography|
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”
Galatians 6: 1-5 NIV
This is such an important subject for Christians. It took some time to be able to see that there is a difference between what I need to be responsible for "my side of the fence" and what I can come alongside and help others with, their "side of the fence" burden." Here's the difference, just as I have my side of the fence as identified in Galatians as "load" others have their side, their responsibilities or " load" as well. I am not responsible for others load, basically what you need to do for yourself. If I make myself responsible, this enables you to not pick up your load, and casts me in a role as "Rescuer."
Many of those in ministry I have walked with while on staff at FBCW (First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA), did not make a distinction here and ended up overwhelmed, stressed out, burnt out, and suffering from compassion fatigue. We are not called to do for others what they need to take care of themselves. Where we need to come alongside is what that same verse describes as a "burden." Because our language is not very specific, the difference escapes us.
A burden would be that overwhelming thing that you cannot manage, fix, change or alter on your own. A wayward kid (you need prayer, comfort and support), job loss, serious illness etc. I can do the former as well as minister to real physical or financial needs. Do you see the difference? It's not me helping you be irresponsible in your life by doing things for you that you alone ought to do, but helping and supporting you where you are under a "burden."
I have 3 really close sisters in Christ who I cherish. We used to meet and pray and support each other through life's issues prior to my relocation. This was a good environment to really see what needed comfort and prayer, and what needed action and caring involvement. So if in any of your relationships you are feeling taken advantage of, burnt out etc., check yourself to see if you have stepped across the line into someone else's "yard" and get yourself out of there.
You see people who are irresponsible and those that are codependent seem to fit together out of brokenness. We are all broken, yet freedom starts by recognizing it and working on "our side of the fence" to make sure our boundaries are clear and appropriate - and not feel guilty about it. We don't want high and impenetrable walls however, but praying for discernment between loads and burdens will keep us healthy and able to minister without having the life sucked out of us or feeling guilty for not taking care of everyone.
Cheryl Laurenza, LPC, NCC
Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor