74. Sharing God’s Shoulder

SHARING GOD’S SHOULDER

     It was one of those Facebook posts that immediately caught my attention.   For the life of me I can’t seem to find it again, but the image has been stuck in my mind for the past week.  The short video showed a man who had obviously recently had a leg injury or surgery trying to walk up a long set of stairs.  He was dragging his suitcase in one hand  behind him and both his crutches in the other.  When the video starts this unfortunate man had only made it up a few steps and was obviously struggling.  I’m sure he must have been questioning his decision to even attempt this ascent.  The frustration of the moment was etched on his face. 

    A few moments later another good-sized man, moving freely without hindrance, came up alongside him.   This stranger suddenly stops, makes a brief comment,  convincing the man to hop on his back. He then picks up the man’s suitcase in one arm, hands the crutches to the man who is now his “rider”, and begins to walk up the long flight of steps. It was a pretty amazing feat of strength and endurance.  Upon arrival at the top he sets his passenger down, transfers the suitcase, says a polite “goodbye” and quickly goes on his way, leaving his passenger behind in somewhat stunned disbelief.  It was a simple act of kindness done for a complete stranger only because he was at the right place at the right time to help another man in need of assistance.  He was willing and able to help carry the burden of someone else. 

    The picture I’ve attached to this blog post depicts the “Fireman’s Carry”.   First responders and soldiers in the field are all taught how to employ this life saving technique.  Using this method the good Samaritan can carry to safety another person even larger and heavier than themselves.   That’s reassuring for anyone who is a pretty good-sized human being ….like me!!   A wounded, injured or unconscious person’s very life may depend on someone else being able to carry them to safety.

      In the same way there are times when we all need to be carried simply because we’ve become overwhelmed by the circumstances in our lives.   Perhaps we’ve lost a job and we don’t know how we are going to pay the bills.  A distressing diagnosis may fill our minds with worry and concern as we anticipate the future.  A failed relationship may have broken our hearts and dashed our dreams.  Someone we love and care for may be making decisions that negatively impact them and those around them, creating a whirlpool of anxiety and frustration around us.  A past mistake or failure may come back to haunt us, resulting in sleepless nights, a churning stomach, and numerous ramifications, both real and imagined.  Maybe we allowed our schedules to become overcrowded, committing ourselves to more than we can possible accomplish, and as a result we are being ground to a pulp by a whole slew of unrealistic expectations.  Whatever may be the root cause, we all know what it feels like to be  that guy trying to navigate a long set on stairs with our crutches in one hand and our suitcase in the other.  Life can seem downright impossible sometimes.  We need someone else to come alongside of us and give us a lift to the top of the next hurdle.

     In my personal devotions a week or so ago I came across a verse in Psalms 68:19 that spoke to me about that universal experience.  It says, “Praise be to the Lord , to God our savior, who DAILY bears our burdens”.  I’m not trying to be over-spiritual, but it was the “daily” part that really spoke to me. The reality Is, burdens are a somewhat “daily” part of my life.  Sometimes that starts with how I feel physically, my own sense of self-worth, or the number of things on my personal schedule that day.  Then, of course, there are concerns for my family, what they may be dealing with, and how I can relate to them better.  When I get to the office I am faced with issues in other people’s lives, their strained relationships, their current needs, and the things they want to add to my own “To Do” list.   My plate can get full faster than I could ever imagine, leaving precious little time to recuperate from one step until I have to climb another. The issues and opportunities come faster than I can keep up with on most days.  My only hope is to be able to off-load some of the things that have begun to burden me down and look for someone to help be carry the load that’s left.  That truly is something I need DAILY!  And unless I’m totally off base, that’s something you need too!

     The fact that God has promised to help carry my burdens “daily” is incredibly refreshing.   I don’t have to pretend to come to Him with my life perfectly under control.  I certainly can juggle the many balls I have in the air with the best of folks, but that doesn’t mean one of those balls doesn’t hit the ground every once in a while or that the stress of constantly trying to be the juggler doesn’t get to me.  At times I actually feel like I should just let all the balls drop and go away to sit and sulk alone in a hammock somewhere!

     Fortunately, I’ve experienced the relief that comes from understanding that God is there to help lighten the load.  His presence hasn’t kept the burdens and pressures from creeping into my life, but it has given me the resources and respite needed to face those challenges.  He’s never taken a day off or dropped the ball Himself, though He certainly has picked up a few of the ones I dropped.  He’s provided the shoulder to carry me over numerous rough patches in my life, and carried me to top of the stairs of difficulty on more situations that I can count.   He just always seemed to know when I couldn’t make it on my own, though I certainly had been trying.  I may have earned an “A” for effort, like the man on crutches trying to walk up that flight of stairs, but what a difference it made when He chose to step in and carry both me and my burden. 

      As I was thinking about that over the past few days I realized that Facebook post had another message  I need to hear.  Not only has God carried me when I needed it the most, but He’s also sent me on His behalf to help carry someone else.  He shared His shoulder with me and I need to share my shoulder with others.  I don’t know who that guy was who met our friend on the stairs, nor evidently did he.  But whoever he was he was at the right place at the right time to make all the difference in that man’s life.  I’m sure he didn’t set out that day to carry someone up a flight of stairs.  He was apparently heading the same direction, working on his own “to do” list, when he saw this man struggling.  It was an opportunity to set his own agenda aside for a few moments to help someone else.  I try to imagine the internal conversation going on in his mind as he began up the stairs and saw this other man struggling.  He was well within his rights to just keep walking up the stairs and sticking to his own agenda.  No one would have thought any less of him if he just stayed out of the other man’s way and didn’t impose more burdens on him.  He was under no obligation to step into the situation or any fear of retribution if he didn’t.  No one was compelling him to get involved.  But he chose to do so! 

      Just as we’re assured that God is willing to “….bear our burdens daily”,  I think we can also be sure that God wants us to “daily”  help carry the burden of others”.  We don’t have to be Superman or solve all of someone else’s problems, but we need to be a part of the solution when we are confronted with the opportunity.  We need to show our appreciation for how God has been there for us by making ourselves available to be used by Him to help meet a need in the lives of another.  There’s something satisfying about this “mutual back scratching” concept that we shouldn’t miss.  If we will open our eyes to look around us on almost any given day, we will see ways in which we could be a small part of a solution to another’s burden. It might just be sharing a word of encourage, a few dollars from our abundance,  taking on a responsibility to lighten their load, or even sharing a smile in this crazy, mixed up, fast-paced world.  A small act of kindness, an offer to help, an encouraging comment,  an investment of our time, talent or resources,…..all of these things can help someone else “bear” their daily burden. 

    I was a huge Neil Diamond fan in the 1970’s-80’s.  His songs were some of the first I ever learned to play on the guitar!   On song in particular always stood out to me, “HE AIN’T HEAVY…HE’S MY BROTHER”.   I want to do more than just take in the promise of God’s help in the crush of my daily experience.  I want to invest my life in helping to lift the burdens of someone else.  I may not have all the talent, skills, or resources of some others, but I want whatever I have to be available where needed to make a difference.  That’s a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn……and I’m still learning. 

      We only go through life once and our lives will be measured primarily by how we’ve invested that which is at our disposal in our relationships with God and others.  God’s carried me on His shoulder more times that I can count.  I guess it just makes sense that I should share my shoulder to help carry someone else’s burden  too!