I hear a lot of opinions on bearing others burdens. Some say you should not get involved in other peoples’ business. Some say you need to let people handle things on their own. Some say you should walk along side the friend, helping them every step of the way. Some say that helping others is using others to boost your own self-esteem. Some say that you have to love yourself before you can love on others.

Maybe all of those are true, to a degree. There’s a letter from a friend that I go back to every time I start to wonder about this subject. At times, I have good intentions, but my execution is often poor. This letter hurts, but it helps me get back on track every time. These ideas are some of the things she helped (and helps) me to think about.

It’s easy to view people like you would a hurting animal, in need of love and affection, but without its own ideas or reasoning. That’s a way to fall into the trap of taking on people as projects. We walk with people; we don’t walk them along. This kind of help is a way to fall into the trap of helping for my own self-esteem, and that is wrong.

Sometimes I want to fix everything, and I have a solution for every problem. If I do that, I enable the person and don’t allow for his or her own creativity and abilities. Or I can alienate that person by not listening and empathizing.

The issue of bearing one another’s burdens is so complex, and I often want to step back and retreat. Often I do. If I do that, then I’m not living the way the Lord wants me to. Galatians 6:2 says,

Carry one another’s burdens, and in doing so, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Jesus knows so much better than any of us how to carry our burdens. His sacrifice on the Cross and His constant intercession now show that. Hebrews 7:25 says,

Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

I think if we don’t intercede for those we love in prayer, then all of our efforts are in vain. Someone also pointed out to me a way that our hearts can be pure while giving, a way to avoid doing deeds for our own feelings. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says,

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Any burden-bearing, loving, or giving has to be Christ-centered; otherwise, it is in vain. We can’t hide or retreat. We can’t act in our own self-interest. We must move forward, with wisdom. John Donne said it best.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee