Sharing the Burden
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. Philippians 4:14
In the aftermath of my addiction and subsequent downfall, my life was a disaster and everyone saw it. At the time, I was keenly aware of the loneliness of feeling like everyone looked down on me. In almost any social setting, I understood that I was the lowest, worst person in the room. So, I tried to avoid other people completely, which wasn’t a healthy behavior. In my desperation, I began going to a local Christian men’s recovery residential facility for Bible study once a week.
I remember the relief of realizing I wasn’t alone. There were others in my situation and in sharing our experiences, we helped each other. In sharing our individual burdens collectively, they became lighter as we encouraged each other to pursue faith and recovery. In my shame, I avoided community, but as it turned out, community was something I desperately needed.
In today’s passage, Paul spoke to this need. In the preceding verses, he’d just explained that even though he’d been through some awful things, he’d learned that he could find contentment in Christ alone. Then, he acknowledged however, that he wasn’t alone and he thanked the Philippians for standing by him in his trials. Paul wrote this from prison, where he found comfort from those who shared in his troubles. Could he have found contentment in Christ even if all others abandoned him? Yes, probably. Did God use other Christians to comfort him though? Absolutely. Paul knew and experienced the importance of living in community with other believers.
When those closest to us hurt, we hurt, and we want to be of comfort to them. This love and concern shouldn’t stop at the walls of our home though. We were made to live in community with others and we’re commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. The problem is that it’s often messy to get too close to the lives of others. Usually, it’s easiest to simply not get involved. So, we frequently watch the trials of others from a distance, curious, but not helpful.
To truly love and live in Christian community though, is to get involved, not as a gossip, but as a comforter and partner. As followers of Christ, we are to love as he loved. We must reach out, supporting, and helping, thereby sharing in the trials of those around us. Yes, it may require some sacrifice, but we all have our burdens and suffering through any trial alone only makes it worse. In sharing our burdens, we make them lighter.