Bearing Burdens

While doing some reading on Job this weekend, I found this by Francis Andersen:

“But God did not suspend each individual in isolation, to find fulfillment solely in communion with himself. God put each man with family and friends and things, with property and work. Only a false piety, a disdain for things as evil (the Manichean heresy), a contempt for emotions as weak (the Stoic error), would expect in Job an unflinching fortitude in the midst of such loss and pain. Job rightly grieves his bereavement; he is authentically depressed by his illness. He is human. The untrammelled serenity which some prescribe as the goal of ‘victorious living’ is a negation of whole areas of our experience as God has made us. Job lives fully.”1

I think these thoughts are a profound affirmation of who we are as human beings. They are also a pointed insight into the false piety that masquerades as counsel for those who suffer.

God did put each of us here with family and friends and things. Sometimes we lose some or all of those things. He also placed each believer with other Christians to be members together of the body of Christ. We were created by God not only to know and love Him, but also to know and love one another. The New Testament depicts our lives as Christians living together through affliction and suffering. In Romans 15:15, Paul said to weep with those who weep. In Paul’s opening words in 2 Corinthians, he wrote about the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who had comforted him, so that he in turn would be able to comfort the afflicted with the comfort he had received from God. Those who suffer need prayer that God will console them with His Holy Spirit, and they need consolation from their brothers and sisters in Christ.

“God has not created man to be a stock or stone but has given him five senses and a heart of flesh, so that he loves his friends, is angry with his enemies, and commiserates with his dear friends in adversity.”2

Did you know that together is built into console, comfort and compassion? Con– or com– means together or with. Console: give solace. Comfort: give strength (notice fort). Compassion: suffer with. In Greek comfort and compassion begin with a prefix that means near or side. And one of the Greek words for compassion means to suffer with. Several years ago, while missing my close friends who all lived far away, I wrote this:

My Friends

My friends, my friends, where have you gone?
Where are those with whom I chattered and laughed?
Where are those with whom I had my ease?
Where are the minds who loved me?
Where are the hearts who knew me?

My friends, my friends, where have you gone?
Where are those with whom I talked of my pain?
Where are those with whom I shared my fears?
Where are the ears that saw me?
Where are the eyes that heard me?

My friends, my friends, where have you gone?
Where are those to whom I would freely give?
Where are those from whom I courage knew?
Where are the feet that helped me?
Where are the hands that bore me?

My friends, my friends, seem to live in other places,
Where time and distance make their rending mark,
Where shared thoughts become more poignant,
Where the arms that hug are far,
Where the faces that endear are treasures veiled.

My friends, my friends, close in my thoughts and in my smiles,
Givers of God’s grace, clear mirrors of His love;
My friends, my friends, what great gifts you lavished on me,
You gave me yourselves, but you also gave me, me.

My friends, my friends, we shared strength and help in weakness,
Shouts of laughter, storms of sobs, delight of life;
My friends, my friends, my true companions on the way,
Because of you, I could sparkle being me.

Of all afflictions, loneliness and isolation are some of the worse. Desertion by family and friends is the hardest to bear because it cuts closest to who we are as human beings. Other difficulties can be hard, but lack of love and communication of our hearts will shatter us.

And friends and companions who are there with you in your dark times can lift and enable you to live through the most terrible of other afflictions.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2

1Francis Andersen, Job, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, pp. 70–71.
2Martin Luther, quoted by Os Guinness, Doubt, Lion Publishing plc, England, 1976,
Third Edition,1987, p. 221.
Walter Langley, “Never Morning Wore To Evening But Some Heart Did Break”: Public Domain

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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