I had never heard that phrase before…to “be burdened for someone.” My sweet young friend asked me about it. And even though I had not heard of it, I had felt it. In fact, I was feeling it in the moment that she asked the question. That’s how God works. Just when I’m struggling with an issue or curious about something in God’s kingdom, He sends a human angel to talk with me about it.
Our pastor had preached a few days earlier about the Good Samaritan. You’ve heard the story of the man who had been robbed and beaten and left in a ditch as “godly” people crossed to the other side of the street to avoid him. The Good Samaritan, a regular Joe, not only didn’t avoid him, but went above and beyond to care for the man. My pastor said that like the Good Samaritan, we need to be ready to provide generosity to others in those unexpected moments.
The day after I heard that sermon, I got a call from my friend, whom I adore. And she was in a ditch. Not physically beaten and robbed, but pretty beaten down by life. The problems felt thick and just hearing my friend’s pain made me feel like I was in quicksand or drowning in mud. Or both.
I was flooded with questions. How can I help? What does God’s kind of help look like? Where does help turn into meddling?
I wanted to rescue my friend from her pain. I wanted to fix it for her, immediately. But God showed me the value of walking with her instead of fixing her. He showed me how to be a real friend, one that gives when giving is needed. But maybe more importantly, He showed me the power of receiving as well. My friend is not my project; she is God’s blessed child. He holds her in the palm of his hand. It is for me to show her Jesus’ kind of hospitality, one that expresses a willingness to sit in the ditch with her for a while, take a look around and see what it’s like in there. Jesus would say, “Show me your pain. It’s not too much for me to bear. I will turn this mess into beauty. I will turn your mourning to joy. I’m right here with you. And when you’re ready, we’ll walk out of this ditch together. And you will be made new in Me. Thank you for the honor of seeing who you really are, the happy parts and the tangled parts and the devastated parts. Now let’s get busy on building you up.”
So I helped where I could. I prayed. I walked through that ditch with her. The burden God put on my heart, that caused my heart to ache for my friend became a blessing of giving and receiving. As is always true in God’s economy, I received more than I gave. I was reminded of the incredible gift of friendship I have been given.
Now I would ask for a do over to answer that question, “What does it mean to be burdened for someone?” I do think it means that my heart aches on my friend’s behalf, but not just because of pain. My heart aches with tenderness and gratitude and a fierce longing for all to be well with her soul. Like a camel is a beast of burden, I joyfully carry her burden for a while, lighten her load, and point her to the One Who eases all burdens. Just as she does for me.