Sometimes people claim the Bible is full of contradictions. If you asked them to show you one, most of the time they aren’t able to do so. But if they could, maybe they’d use this passage. Bear one another’s burdens, it says. But then it goes on to say, For all must carry their own loads. Huh?
Actually, like most alleged Biblical contradictions, when we give this a little be of thought, it resolves itself rather nicely.
When we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens, the idea is that we would support one another in our life in faith. Specifically, the burden referred to here seems to be the burden of our temptations. At least part of the point seems to be that we all have temptations—whether it’s the temptation to gossip and negativity, or envy and discontent, or selfishness and greed. And if we are ever going to get beyond these things and live the life to which God calls us, it is going to take the love, prayers, and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It does not happen alone.
At the same time, however, we have to take responsibility for our faith. In the end, we have to say that the problems we are facing in our spiritual lives are not caused by anyone other than ourselves (and if we are honest in pursuing our spiritual lives on a level that goes beyond the superficial, we will face problems in doing so). Ultimately, therefore, we are the only ones who can solve them.
That doesn’t mean we don’t ask for help. We do, and that is part of what it means to take responsibility for doing life differently. It doesn’t mean we don’t need God’s power; we surely do, but we must come to the place where we realize that and so take the responsibility to ask for it and avail ourselves of it.
I need to take responsibility for my own stuff, and not blame others for it. But when I do that—when I admit my sin, my desire to change, and my commitment to work through the problems such sinfulness in the past has already created—boy do I ever need help. I absolutely need you to help me bear my burdens. I won’t make it through without you.
Bear one another’s burdens, Paul says. It is so desperately important that we do so. Are you bearing someone's burdens? Get specific. Whose burdens are you bearing right now? How are you bearing them? If you can’t answer those questions, what are you going to do about it—today?
All must carry their own load. It is, in fact, the only way ahead. Will you do it? Is there something you’ve been blaming someone else for, that you want to see as their problem when it is in fact your own? Will you admit it, confess it, and ask for help? Again, be specific. Who will you ask help? When? Where?
These are not verses to be approached intellectually simply as a problem to be solved. They are to be lived, in your life and in mine. Please, dear God—may it be so.