I think we all know what it feels like when someone says “How are you??” and we answer “Great! How are you?” and they say “Not bad!” and then we just keep on talking, like we didn’t just tell each other a great big lie. Know what I’m talking about?
God has worked miracles in my (and my family’s) life over the past year or so. Some of them are bigger and more obvious than others, but as I began reflecting on the things I’ve prayed for, asked others to pray for, worried about, lost sleep over, etc. for the past 18 months, it’s amazing how many ways God has answered prayers.
What I want to share with you today is that many of these prayers didn’t even come from me.
“Wait – How can God answer prayers you didn’t even pray?”
Glad you asked.
There was a time just over a year ago when I was facing so many difficulties at the very same time that it was literally weighing me down. There were some days that I was so overcome with fear and anxiety that I was unable even to think about moving forward. I’ve never actually been in quicksand, but I’ve seen it on movies, and if I had to describe the way I was feeling, it was that I was stuck in quicksand – unable to get out and sinking.
I remember one particular Sunday at church when I ran into someone who I would describe as an acquaintance. We were introduced through a mutual friend and had visited before, but hadn’t really connected on any personal level. On this Sunday we found ourselves in a time and place that allowed for conversation. She asked me how I was doing. I looked at her and said, “Actually, I’m having a really hard time.” I shared with her what was actually going on, how hopeless it all seemed and how stress was eating me alive. I cried and she cried. She prayed for me – right then and there. She asked God very specifically to provide for needs I had indicated were the most pressing. She hugged me, and then she THANKED me. I said, “For what??” And she said, “For sharing your burden with me. For allowing me the opportunity to pray with you.”
I’ll never forget that conversation, although over the last several months we’ve had so many more that I can’t recount them all. We have shared many burdens with each other, prayed for each other, rejoiced with each other and mourned together as well.
Sharing burdens isn’t easy. It requires humility and faith. (Neither of those virtues is over-abundant in my heart.)
There’s a saying that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” This is one of those sayings that felt like a Bible verse but I had no idea where it was. Being a sophisticated researcher, I googled the phrase. It turns out that it’s not technically a Bible verse. In my search results I found a devotional written by a pastor on the topic. He wrote:
We will face adversity in our lives. We will experience hardships. We, or someone we love, may face terminal illness. We may struggle with debilitating depression or suicidal thoughts or grief so heavy that we feel we’ll suffocate. We may walk through financial circumstances where it seems there is no way out. If we are like most human beings, at some point we absolutely will face things that are more than we can handle. The promise of Scripture is not that we won’t go through hard times. . . . What Scripture does promise is that at all times, good or bad, God wants to be our help and our strength.Rev. Shawn Coons
It’s not that God won’t give you more than you can handle, but that God will help you handle all that you’ve been given.
My prayer today is that none of you have burdens you are bearing alone. If you do, look for an opportunity to share them with a fellow believer. Conversely, look for ways to help carry another’s burden. The burden is much lighter when it’s not carried alone.
Matthew 11:29-30 – Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Psalm 68:19-20 – Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Isaiah 46:4 – Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Romans 8:18 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.