On a first read, this passage seems contradictory. Bear one another’s burdens, Paul writes
(v. 2). Then three verses later he says, For all must carry their own loads (v. 5). Which one is it?
Every December, our church holds a Blue Christmas service. It offers the opportunity to sit in sadness as we remember the lives of those we have lost over the past year. We light a candle for each of them and say their names aloud. Some people give testimonies as to how difficult or tragic or painful the separation has been. We read Scripture, sing hymns, and weep.
To sit in a space of sadness with friends and family is what I think it means to bear one another’s burdens. Gathering to name our sadness and not feel the need to mask it becomes holy ground for the participants. It also offers a communal reminder that we are not alone in our grief.
But we also sit in individual seats and light individual candles that remind us that we are each carrying our own load. This worship service does not remove the pain of death from any one person. It does not lighten anyone’s load of sorrow. What it does, and what it reminds me of every year, is that it allows us to share the tension and the sadness we feel together in a loving community.
Paul is telling the church that their individual pain is not going away. They will each carry its wounds through life. But church can curate sacred space, reminding us all that the pain we each carry can be shared together in love.
When did you sit in sadness with someone to reflect on a loss or a death? Who sat with you, and why was that important?
God who always stays with us, help us see that you remain, even in our sadness. Help us learn to bear one another’s pain. Amen.