„Carry each other’s burden (NIV)" (Gal. 6:2.)

Some might have uneasy feelings or feel uncertain after having read this Biblical command. It can trigger others to have joyful feelings and they are ready to act. Both attitudes are familiar and understandable. On one hand we are happy when we can spend time assisting others and can help them carry their burden by listening to them in an empathetic way. On the other hand it can also happen that we do not know what we should do. By using the Greek word “bastazo” in Gal. 6:2, the apostle Paul shows a way of carrying each others’ burdens. The burden of our neighbour that is very heavy and surpasses their strength, so we hurry to their aid. Maybe unexpected and tragic burdens have fallen on them such as a chronic illness, grief, financial problems, failures etc. In such circumstances we are to help them by carrying them in prayer, showing interest to their situation, and dealing with their issues. In so doing, we can make their burden lighter. We feel that this verse is about counselling which can be defined as “a discussion about life’s questions in other words.” In this conversation we deal with their problems empathetically by paying attention to them. Talking with someone in the form of counselling is an expression of love as well. Sometimes it takes longer to discuss problems than to share a Biblical message but the Christian counsellor is to be ready to share the message any time. Thus there are burdens we have to assist our neighbours to carry. In other cases we are in need of help.

The Gal 6:5: „for each one should carry their own load“ (NIV) uses the Greek word of „phortion“ and includes the usual carrying of the load we have to bear on our own. We need to carry this quietly without discontent so that we would experience the support and assistance of our Lord. Our personal load can be God testing our faith or simply the consequences of poor choices. During my service as a Christian counsellor and family therapist I am constantly aware of this challenge. Wisdom is needed when choosing between a supportive and an active role: when do I talk, when do I listen, when do I encourage, when do I admonish, when do I pray, when do I act?

The following philosophy might be helpful: the greater the problem is, the more unexpectedly a crisis has occurred—the more responsible we are to support the other. The nature of the crisis DOES matter whether rooted in grief, illness, or the suffering of another loved one. God’s Spirit can help us discern which supportive role we should assume. Some live in the syndrome of altruism; they are compulsive helpers. For them it is essential to make the right decision when the above listed situations arise.

Listed below are some practical ways to offer assistance in several real-life situations:

  • A believing, childless couple miraculously discovers they could adopt a baby after 15 years of marriage. Since then they have been through a number of crises, adrift to burn-out yet they do not ask advice about child-rearing and do not accept such.
  • A young Christian girl has been struggling with eating disorders and depression since the age of 14 but has kept it a secret.
  • A couple is experiencing marital discord. Their three sons are the perfect examples of how not to bring up your children. The couple uses allegation towards others as their life strategy and portrays themselves as victims. As a solution to their problems they decide to leave the church.

There is no such a thing as straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer because the problems are multifaceted. Often it is not enough to deal with one member of the family. In a relational system like the family unit everyone has an impact on everyone. In some cases, each member of the family would need counselling or even therapy.

In the counselling world we need to master each technique in order to appreciate their hidden potentials. It is the only way we can serve joyfully and effectively.

This article dealt with the importance of the counselling service. We offer training to answer these or similar questions through our counselling course which was founded in the Fall of 2013 by Eleos-Education. If you have done some counselling in your church so far and would like to learn more about the topic or if you have no previous experience in this field yet would like to have a better understanding of it, then this course is for you! The aim of this course is NOT to get a better/deeper theological knowledge, but rather to give a better insight/a competence in the area of counselling. The course topics are: the foundations of leading a counselling related conversation, the functions of counselling, knowledge about depth psychology, interpretation of life events etc.

For more details about our course and programs, please visit our website.

Ms. Márta Reimer, April, 2016.