Lenten Devotional for Monday, April 2, 2012

2 Cor 1:3-7
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] 6  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

As Mariko was highlighting One Great Hour of Sharing yesterday morning in the service, she quoted a Swedish Proverb: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is a half sorrow.” This proverb reminds me of bearing one another’s burdens.  A wise man once told me of two ways to bear burdens as described in the original language of Biblical text.  Now I am obviously no Biblical scholar so I have no proof or research to back it up, but the man’s words have always stuck with me.
He said in the one context the word burden is translated as a type of pack which the Roman centurions bore on their backs when marching from city to city in battle.  This pack was designed specifically for each person’s, size, height, weight, strength, etc.  If one soldier were to tell another, “I’m tired and don’t want to keep bearing this, will you carry my pack for a while?” then the one who agreed to bear the burden for him would be bearing his own pack designed just for him along with his friend’s pack. Soon, the one bearing both packs would be even more exhausted and perhaps at risk of hurting himself from the overload and strain.  Yet he if tried to give his friend’s burden back after a while, the friend might now be too weak to even handle his own pack any longer- having grown accustomed to the lack of bearing and thus losing his own strength and endurance.
The wise man said other word for burden is translated as boulder- something of tremendous size and weight so great that if one were to attempt to bear it alone, they would be crushed.  With this type of burden, there is undeniable necessity to have others come alongside and bear the boulder together.
I am sure we can all think of times in our lives when we may have wanted to be like the soldier wishing someone could take our pack for about a day, a week, a month- to just give up and have someone else live our lives and handle our day in and day out issues, tasks, responsibilities, etc.  And there are certainly times on the other side when “helping you is hurting me” and when good intentions to help end up becoming unhealthy or enabling.  But let us not allow the self awareness or conviction of the first story to stifle us.  For today or tomorrow, we will need a break from day to day afflictions, and someone out there will need a helping hand or an act of kindness. And there is always an unavoidable boulder.  My eyes well up with tears as I think about mine and I think about yours.  Those burdens too heavy to bear alone.  Thanks be to the God of all coming alongside, who bears and divides the crushing weight upon our shoulders through community.

Oh Father of mercy, thank you for comfort and community in the midst of suffering.  Teach us to share one another’s joys, shoulder the weight of the boulders, and half the sorrows in this world.

Rachel Smith

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