As a child and young man growing up in church, I often heard people use the word “burden” quite often. Pastors would say they had a burden for their church. Friends would speak of “carrying a burden” for a family member. I don’t hear people use the term much anymore but I am very familiar with the term and the experience. I would define “burden” as a deep concern planted by the Holy Spirit to motivate us to prayer and action.
Perhaps there will be some who will read this and say, “Oh, it is not a burden to follow Christ and do the work of God!” I understand that sentiment but there are too many scriptures that speak of personal sacrifice and “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). I love following Jesus and following Him is the great joy of my life but often it is not easy. I have grown comfortable being uncomfortable in various situations (That is a another sermon in itself!).
I believe this burden, if planted by the Holy Spirit, is planted in our most inner man (our spirit) and not in our soul-ish nature of our emotions. Emotions ebb and flow but things in our spirit cannot be easily ignored or fade away.
These spiritual burdens that I speak of, are not to drag us down or weary us but they are constant reminders of God’s calling and assignments. When young men, who are wrestling with the call to ministry ask me for advice; I usually respond, “If you can shake it off, it is not of God but if it keeps tugging at you then it is God.”
I don’t know how these burdens show up, even though I know they are from God. Often there is something that stimulates them such as an experience or a scripture. I have been with many people on mission trips with all being affected in the short term but few who have a lingering burden. Many have a continuing desire to help but not a real sense of committing a great portion of their lives or resources to the Gospel on strange soil. I understand that God does not require this of everyone—so don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the same burden as others.
Personally, I have an overwhelming burden that I cannot ignore. My family and church family know this quite well. They have been very willing to share me with another part of the world which is to their credit. I am thankful for their understanding but it still produces some self-induced pain when your burden causes you to be absent for periods of time from the few who will cry over your grave.
Practically, every time I board a plane for home, I have a bucket full of emotions. I am thrilled to be going home but my burden is even deeper and greater than before I landed. I again feel like the apostles who were told by Jesus to feed the multitude and all they had in hand were five loaves and two fish.
It seems to me the burden is always bigger than your bank account, your perceived ability, and spiritual gifting. Perhaps God wants it that way so our faith and dependence will be upon Him and not on our own resources. The Lord responded to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV). When I compare my burden to my strengths, I feel weak but then I look to God for His sufficient grace, power, and provision.
We all have different callings, spiritual gifts, and burdens. We should never project our burden on other people. Yet, it is a great blessing when others see our burden and lend a helping hand to fulfill the call of God on our lives. I don’t expect everyone else to have the same burden as me but I appreciate those who lighten the load.
Scripture: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16 NKJV)!
My Prayer: Lord, thank you for the burden to preach your Word. Thank you for the burden to carry the Cross of Christ, to share our bread with the hungry, to take the light and life of Jesus to a dark and dying world. Please help me to be a good steward of the burden you have placed in my life.
Harry L. Whitt