Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Galatians 6: 1 – 3, New Living Translation
Brother Joseph Wallace-Williams called me not long ago. He is the monk from Holy Cross Monastery who preached during our Renewal Weekend this past March. He is the most extroverted, exuberant monk you’ll ever meet. I had emailed him a prayer request and he was calling me back to check in on me. We spoke for about 15 minutes.
I’ve been a pastor for 28 years, and I know how to do pastoral care. When I ended my phone conversation with Brother Joseph, I thought to myself, “He’s good.” To borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul and the verses from Galatians 6 that I included above, Joseph was sharing, therefore bearing my burden with me. Of the many benefits from having a Church Family, burden-sharing might be at the top of the list. A burden shared, goes the saying, is a burden halved. The more I share with concerned, praying sisters and brothers in Christ, the smaller and lighter the burden becomes. The weight of the burden on my shoulders is much less when others bear it with me.
Let me share with you Brother Joseph’s burden-bearing artistry with you. His brilliance in giving pastoral care to me a pastor centered around two statements and two questions.
Statement #1: This burden isn’t your fault.
Joseph knew the details of my burden before talked together. His reading of my problem was that I was not the cause of it. He pointed out a few things—some of which I knew and other stuff I hadn’t thought about—that revealed that I was not at fault. Sometimes I’m a lot at fault and sometimes I’m not; and most times it’s somewhere in-between. This is why having someone near you to help with the burden is so crucial. There are times when I take took much blame and there are times when I don’t take enough blame. I need a good friend I can trust to help me gauge how much fault is mine.
Question #1: Are you taking care of yourself?
He wanted to know if I was exercising, eating properly and getting enough rest. I appreciated the question because sometimes in the course of carrying a burden I can stop taking care of my body. I can’t carry the extra weight of a burden if I’m not doing the things I know I need to do to stay in good health. I can forget about my health and that’s when I need a friend to ask me about it, just in case.
Questions #2: Are you able to pray?
This is another great question to ask as we bear someone else’s burden. The old hymn tells us about the great friend we have in Jesus. The hymn reminds us about the great privilege it is to carry everything to Him in prayer. Peace gets forfeited, needless pain increases all because do not carry everything to God in prayer. And the preacher needs to be asked that question too.
Statement #2: I love you and I’m praying for you all the time.
This one brought tears to my eyes and lump in my throat. I don’t have the words to express how meaningful it is to me to know that others pray for me. In this case, I have a whole bunch of monks, who do nothing but pray, praying for me and for my burden. And while, Brother Joseph didn’t have to tell me that he loved me because of what he was doing; I can’t hear that enough.