“For all must carry their own loads.” Galatians 6:5 (NRSV)
Whenever someone bench presses, it’s always essential to have a spotter. No one wants to be crushed under a barbell! A spotter is primarily there to protect the lifter when the weight is too much.
Alternating between lifter and spotter, my husband and I worked on bench pressing as much as possible. Eventually, I soared past my last personal record (PR) and was moving on to set a new record.
Lying on the bench, I did a quick test push to feel how heavy this weight was. Yup, that’s heavy! But I didn’t want to psych myself out. I knew I could do it, so I started my next lift. It was slower than the last one. My face squinched, and I grunted as I pushed the weight up. As I was almost to the top, I suddenly felt the weight lifted and placed back in the rack.
“Yo! Why did you lift the bar? I was almost to the top!”
My husband, not used to this world of pushing for personal records, was trying to be helpful. He didn’t like seeing me struggle, and he wanted to protect me from harm. While I usually appreciate that, I coached him in his role as a spotter to first encourage me to finish strong, then help me in an emergency.
“Instead of jumping in to help when you see me struggling, cheer me on. ‘Keep pushing! You got this! UP, UP, UP!’”
He took the direction well and immediately went in on the words of confidence. On my next try, he spotted me as I successfully benched a new PR!
Sometimes we handicap the growth of those we love when we step in too soon to help. The Apostle Paul teaches a similar lesson in his letter to the Galatians.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.” (Galatians 6:2-5, NRSV, emphasis added)
There is a difference between helping someone carry a burden and a load. A burden is more than what the person should carry on their own. A load is just the right amount of responsibility.
Though I love being a happy helper, sometimes I’m guilty of not having good boundaries. It’s easy to mistake a load for a burden.
We step in too soon with our children in their homework or relationships instead of giving them room to figure things out and develop wisdom and healthy independence.
We step in too soon with our co-workers, doing work for them instead of guiding them and pushing them to excel.
And occasionally, we need to wait a little longer when our friends are experiencing difficulties. Instead of being an encourager or “spotter,” we try to fix their problems when we should trust God to move or teach them as He sees fit.
Sometimes, because of stubbornness, learning the hard way is the only way people will learn, so we have to discern when to wait and when to step in. God does something miraculous, even in the struggle, to develop His children in ways that will glorify Him. So let’s trust Him.
Father, sometimes it is hard to watch people wrestle through their challenges when we can easily and quickly fix those problems ourselves. Give us the discernment to know when our best role is to prevent disaster or simply speak encouragement to strengthen someone for their trial while we wait on Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Colossians 1:9-10, “So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” (NLT)
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