Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bearing One Another's Burdens

Earlier this week, my roommate and I were talking about the covenants we make at baptism. We identified seven imperatives, many of them closely related. The ones that stuck out to me the most were these:

"Bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light...mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:8-9).

We promised at baptism to bear the burdens of those who are weighed down, to "succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees" (Doc. & Cov. 81:5). It is in this way, perhaps above all others, that we best stand as witnesses of Christ, for His earthly mission focused on bearing the burdens of His brothers and sisters. Of Christ, Alma prophesied: "and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12). According to the flesh--how beautiful! How compelling! To know that the Lord knows my heartaches and yours, not because He read a textbook about human suffering, but because He actually suffered them "according to the flesh" gives me great hope, and a knowledge that I can never turn to Him and say "you just don't understand what I'm going through."

Now, I'm not suggesting that we should all go out and try meth so that we'll know "according to the flesh" how to help a person with a drug addiction. Bearing one another's burdens and showing love to our brothers and sisters doesn't always involve perfect empathy. I don't have to be able to completely understand your experience to know that it hurts, and to love you through that hurt. I do have to listen to you, to refrain from judging you, and turn to the Lord and say, "give me Your love for this person."

I remember vividly the case of a friend some years ago, who was struggling with a trial I had never experienced and could not understand cerebrally. As I watched him go through it, I saw the depths of hell in his eyes. I saw his pain and anguish, and I chose to love him, and I hurt with him. But there came a point when I had nothing left to give him, no more emotional energy for him, when my heart was empty and I had exhausted my natural strength. And at that moment, I was filled with a love so deep I knew it did not come from within me. I saw my friend as the Savior saw him. I loved him the way the Savior loved him. When I had nothing left to give, the Lord filled me with His love, gave me His strength, so I could bear up under a seemingly overwhelming burden.

I know that when we keep the covenants we have made to bear one another's burdens, the Lord srengthens us and prepares a way for us to accomplish that vitally important commandment (1 Nephi 3:7). This I know from personal experience, for time and time again the Lord has blessed me with power beyond my own to bear the burdens of the dear children He loves.

Paul wrote "Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). Christ, after all, declared His mission in the words of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). His mission was to heal the brokenhearted. And He has called us to follow Him, and given us power from on high to fulfill that mission. "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32).

The Lord will give you power to bear the things that otherwise would destroy you. His work is a "marvelous work and a wonder" to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Isaiah 29:14, Moses 1:39). I know that as you bear others' burdens, yours will be lightened, and you will be strengthened as were the people of Alma, of whom it is written "that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord" (Mosiah 24:15).

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