July 16, 2019

An Excerpt from “Guide Them Safely Home, Lord”

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Note from CM: My new book, Walking Home Together, has two companion booklets. Today, I present an excerpt from one of them: Guide Them Safely Home, Lord: A Caregiver’s Companion. The booklet consists of 4 weeks of readings (5 days each week), designed to give encouragement to those who care for others.

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Bearing (and sharing) burdens

Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.

• Galatians 6:2

Sometimes as I deal with my patients and their caregivers, it’s the religious people that befuddle me most. One cliché I have heard repeatedly from caregivers who are people of faith is, “I just try to remember that God tells us he will never give us more than we can bear.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but God never said that. Never. Said. That.

I’m not sure where that cliché came from, but it is not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t say it. Paul said something like it in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but if you check you will see that he is talking about our common temptations and how God provides the means we need to escape them. The text does not say, “God will never give us more than we can bear.” Nope. Somebody made that one up.

The plain fact is that there are burdens in life that are too heavy for any one person to carry.

For some reason, many well-intentioned folks don’t want to accept that. So they try to handle challenges that are simply beyond their ability to deal with alone. The results usually aren’t good.

That’s when I direct them to another verse in the Bible that is clear and unambiguous: “Bear one another’s burdens…” Is not this verse telling us that everyone needs help sometimes? There are loads that are too heavy for one person to carry, and we can’t do it all by ourselves. So, help each other out! That’s pretty clear, right?

One more thing: I also won’t buy it if you tell me that since God helps you carry your burdens, you don’t need other people to assist you. This is the same God who said that it is not good for us to be alone. God created us to live in relationships, families, and communities for the very purpose of loving and supporting each other. God wants you to get help from others!

Instead of what I often hear, I’d love it if more caregivers would say, “God regularly gives me more than I can bear. That’s why I love and appreciate his gift of others in my life so much.”

Comments

  1. Thanks – 13 years into care of Alzheimer’s Mom – 3rd in stage 3.

    I hate when people quote that at me or tell me I’m a saint. Not so. I’m just doing what has to be done the best I can, and without other people to listen when I’m broken, meet me for adult conversation about nothing, and help with her care occasionally, I would be certifiable.

    • 13 years. Wow.

      I saw all that my dad did for my mom through her Alzheimer’s. Trust me, you are a saint. You’re doing some really hard stuff.

  2. Danielle says

    If God doesn’t give us more than we can bear, something else sure does.

    The one possible merit the statement has is that it can be a cheerful assertion that, “hey, you can handle this, it will be Ok,” which is meant to be an affirmation. Yet even in mild circumstances that is not entirely true. People usually do better with help from others than without it.

    What bugs me isnt really the optimism, despite how misplaced that is in some some circumstances. Its the denial. Its very close to saying, i know this looks like a problem, but actually its not truly a problem. You are actually fine, or you would be if you were looking at it the right way. Come on, just help the poor guy up already. Dont look for ways to explain why tripping on the cement sidewalk is an opportunity.

    • I like your take on the “God won’t give us more than we can handle” mumbo-jumbo, Danielle.

    • From another angle –

      My sidewalk allusion suddenly made me remember the last time I took a good, hard spill onto an actual sidewalk. The first thing I did was check to see if anyone had noticed, and the second thing I did was get up as quickly as possible before some could. Now: let’s walk very carefully. See? Nothing happening. No, sir.

      I’d like to say that in less surprising or more extreme circumstances I would seek out help, but then I thought about two cases that might serve as examples. Did I? Nope.

      We lone wolves don’t like owning up to things. So, CM, apparently I’ll need to read this later.

  3. David Cornwell says

    Problems arise that one would never have thought of. Sometimes an unexpected pebble causes a ripple in the water. Not so bad. But suddenly you look again and that pebble has somehow become much bigger and in the process bumps against another one. The ripples become riptide. Now your entire day is a mess, and you think of some new word combinations that would make a marine blush. And going to bed at midnight becomes going to bed at 2:55 am.

    You feel as if you might sink. But somehow ride the wave instead, gasping for breath on the up. And then someone else extends a hand, an arm, legs, an idea, and helps pull to a place that is a little quieter. And with it comes prayer, a prayer that might join my own desperation.

    So yes, some days do become more than we can bear. And its not always easy to accept that hand. But in the end we must, we should. we will. And are thankful.

  4. When people say this to me I point out 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

    For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.
    For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
    Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us
    rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

    Even Paul felt like God gave him more than he could handle!

    • As someone who spent most of his adult life making it thru with gritted teeth and self-medication, I have come to realize that this not only is not the best way to cope, but apparently the opportunities for learning a better way will continue to come along until the lesson is learned. At this point I figure I may possibly have fifteen years to get this down, and that may not be long enough. It’s a hard lesson.

      Since childhood I have met impossible situations and people by wishing people were dead. That is not helpful, tho until recently it has seemed like the only way out. And mostly it doesn’t work except to come back on yourself. Now I am trying my best to learn the skill of letting dark thoughts and feelings go rather than burying them, and the art of responding to stress-makers with compassion. These are things I wish I had been able to learn when I was fourteen, but better late than never. I do expect to be asked what I did with my talent some day.

      Apparently I signed up for this. Oh well. Jesus help me.

      • I understand completely. Having grown up with no one to help bear my burdens, I’ve become very self -contained.
        The sad fact is that it’s hard to find a community or even individuals to help.
        Church can be a very lonely place sometimes. Friends don’t always lend an understanding ear. (Suggestion: when someone is confiding in you, yawning while they’re spilling their guts is unapologetically rude.) “Forget it, I’ll just deal with this on my own,” is where I usually end up.
        But CM is right; we are not supposed to handle this life alone, without the help of other people.

  5. Good post.

    Isn’t this trope simply another way to say “You can handle it. Leave me alone”? It makes weakness into a sin. As if being overwhelmed is a sign of spiritual imperfection.

  6. Mourning Dove says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This has driven me nuts for years. It makes no sense.

    My husband and I have had many of the not-mainstream-Christianity viewpoints expressed on IM for years. It has been like medicine to the soul to hear others with similar beliefs and thoughts.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Heather Angus says

    ” God never gives you more than you can bear” always makes me seethe with anger at the speaker, especially when someone else has just talked about a horrible situation like divorce, cancer, or the death of a loved one. It’s almost as bad as “Everything happens for a reason,” said comfortably in the face of grim disaster. I think these things are said because people don’t know what to say, and these sound vaguely holy and comforting. Very vaguely indeed. If I can’t think of anything else to say, I generally just say, “I’m so sorry. That’s horrible.” Inviting further talk if the other person wants to.

  8. Buying this one too. (For Mom)