Help to Bear the Burden
This past spring, I participated in a women’s retreat with a small group of missionary women from our area. We went up to the beautiful town of Baños de Aqua Santa, Ecuador where we were surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation found in mountains, waterfalls, and luscious greenery everywhere we looked. It was a well-timed retreat for me as we had been living in Ecuador for about four months and were in the throes of culture shock and adjustment. Meanwhile, my family back home was enduring crisis after crisis, and I was just really drained.
It was with this context of life that I came to the passage of Exodus 18, the story of Moses and Jethro. One of the exercises we were encouraged to do was to read through the passage, then close the Bible and write down any words or phrases that had stayed with us. I read the entire chapter and then, from memory, this is what I wrote down:
“He told his father-in-law…all the hardships that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.”
“You are not able to do this alone.”
“Then you will be able to endure.”
I was actually rather surprised that there was such a clear theme to what I remembered from the passage. Although, I really shouldn’t have been surprised that God could cause me to remember exactly what he wanted to say to me considering how worn and frazzled I felt coming into it.
As I began to ponder the passage and ask the Lord for insight, his lesson for me that day became clear. Hardship vs. deliverance, not ability vs. endurance, this is the ebb and flow, the valleys and peaks of our journey through this life as spiritual beings. Out of every hardship that Moses and the Israelites went through, deliverance had followed. There are always hardships, but there is also always deliverance.
This fact alone brought me comfort, knowing that I was in a season of hardship and remembering to look for the deliverance to come. But as I began to look at the chapter in more depth, God had more to say to me than just speaking comfort into my particular situation. I think there are two things that God showed me through this passage that we can all learn from.
At the beginning of the chapter, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, brings Moses’ wife and sons to him where he is camped in the wilderness after God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. As soon as Jethro gets there, they go into the tent and this is where that verse that I had remembered comes in, “Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord delivered them.” (Ex. 18:8)
And do you know what Jethro’s response was? “Blessed be the Lord…Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.” (Ex. 18:10-11)
When we tell about what God has done for us, it causes others to adore Him. Telling is important!
I know this is something the community at Crosstown strives to do well. There is a lot of emphasis put on sharing the struggles we are going through or what God has done in our life. However, I know for me personally, there is some pressure that goes along with that, especially when we think about telling people outside of our small group of close community. When the Facebook world is watching, my prayer requests seem too selfish, or God’s provision seems too much like a Sunday school answer.
When we don’t tell others about the hardships that have come upon us, and how the Lord has delivered us, we rob them and ourselves of the opportunity to marvel at His greatness.
The second thing I saw in the passage was in the next part of the story, where Jethro helps Moses realize that he needs help and gives him advice on what to do. This is a pretty familiar passage to most of us, but the part that I particularly noticed was in verse 14. It says, “When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people…” (Ex. 18:14)
Moses had to let Jethro into his life and let him see what was actually going on. He had to be transparent. It was then that Jethro could say, “the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” (Ex. 18:18) Especially from a distance, it’s easy to be like Moses and say, “Oh yeah, I’m just over here leading God’s chosen people, no big deal,” when in reality, you are drowning. It’s only when we let people get close and see what is happening in our lives, that they have the ability to speak into our situation.
In April, when I read this passage at the retreat, just about every part of life felt too heavy for me. So, when I got to the part about, “You will be able to endure,” in verse 23, I was all about figuring out how to get there.
You know how we get there? The key is in verse 18 again, “You are not able to do it alone.” We get from, “the thing is too heavy” to “you will be able to endure,” by inviting people to help bear the burden (v. 22). And how do people know what burdens we have that need bearing? We have to tell them and show them.
God convicted me that day of trying to bear my burdens alone, and he brought to mind some specific areas in which I could either tell what He has done for us, or ask for help during the times of hardship.
Is there something in your life that is too heavy for you to carry alone right now? Maybe, like Moses, you haven’t even realized it yet. I wonder if Moses was thinking, like many of us do, that he should be able to handle that workload because it was what God had called him to do. God did, after all, call him to go and free the Israelites from Egypt and lead them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Didn’t this job come with the territory? I see this type of thinking often in my life. Often, we need someone from the outside to help us see that we can’t bear the burden alone.
In conclusion, what are some ways that we can be telling others of both the hardships and the victories? And in what areas do we need to have the humility to accept help to bear the burden?