Not long ago, as I waited for my grandchildren at a school crossing, I watched a line of children cross the street, each carrying a huge backpack. I've seen check-in luggage that was smaller, and cringed at the thought of the loads they were carrying!
The Bible contains two words related to the emotional weight we carry in our relationships – the words load and burden. God's Word says that each person shall bear his own load (see Galatians 6:5). We could translate the word load here as "knapsack" – those things we carry daily in the routine course of our lives.
We are each responsible for carrying our own knapsack – or, as Jesus called it, our "yoke." While Jesus taught that we each have a "yoke" related to the work we do (see Matthew 11:29-30), the good news is that His yoke – what He requires of us – truly fits us, doesn't chafe against our God-given identity, and allows us to do what is required of us, efficiently and with tremendous productivity.
When you are responsible for carrying your own knapsack, or yoke:
• You are responsible for what you adopt as opinions and beliefs.
• You are responsible for what you take into your mind and your thought life.
• You are responsible for the talents God has given you and how you develop them.
• You are responsible for how you respond to the needs you perceive around you – especially your own needs.
• You are responsible for what you put into your body, and how you exercise and care for your physical being.
• You are responsible for what you do with the twenty-four hours a day that you are given.
• You are responsible for the way in which you approach your work and execute it.
• You are responsible for setting your own goals and making your own plans for achieving those goals.
Recognizing the things you are responsible for may bring you to a clearer understanding of what you are not responsible for. You are definitely not responsible for carrying another person's knapsack. Allowing another person to carry his own yoke is not selfish on your part; it's helpful!
When we attempt to take on the knapsacks, or loads, of other people:
• We keep another person from maturing or taking personal responsibility (see Ephesians 4:15).
• We become poor stewards of our own energy, strength, time and talents (see Matthew 25:14-30).
• We are in danger of preventing others from fulfilling God's plans for their lives.
Remember, your particular knapsack has been God-designed and God-given. Nobody else has your unique set of talents, gifts, propensities, capabilities, dreams, or desires. Nobody else has your personality. You are designed to be a one-of-a kind person, crafted to carry a one-of-a-kind load. The more you occupy yourself with carrying another person's load, the more you are prone to neglect what you are responsible to become and do.
We do have a responsibility to love others, but not to do for them what they can do for themselves. We are to help others, but never to take on the responsibility of being either their god or their slave.
The second word the Bible uses to describe a weighty load or responsibility is burden. God's Word says that we are to bear one another's burdens, and that in doing so, we are doing what Christ commanded us (see Galatians 6:2).
Think of a burden as a boulder. A boulder has crushing, oppressive power; if a boulder falls on a person from even a moderate height, it can kill that person. A boulder is often so large that it can't be lifted, carried, or moved by one person.
The boulders of life tend to be crises or emergencies - a flood that washes away your home, the automobile crash that puts an entire family in the hospital, the sickness that knocks out the family breadwinner. When we see a situation where someone is struggling under a crushing blow, physically, emotionally, materially, spiritually – by all means, we are to help that person to the full extent of our ability.
The carrying of boulders, however, is not an ongoing task or responsibility. We are to help move boulders out of people's way, and then let them get on with their lives. Boulder-moving is short-term work, is never an ongoing responsibility, and usually requires teamwork.
Boulders and knapsacks require far different responses, and it's important to become an expert at recognizing the difference between the two. Ultimately, of course, we must take all loads and burdens to God. Ask for His help. He can remove, lift, release, and shift loads for your benefit as no human being can!