I have been through some dark times in my life; some periods of time when I wanted life to end. I have made huge mistakes that cost me friendships and family relationships. I have beat myself up, put myself down, and thought I was unforgivable and unworthy of love, friends, or that personal relationship with Jesus I heard people talking about.
I carried my own burdens for years. I loaded my backpack with unloved, fat, ugly, undesirable, undeserving, and unworthy. Then for good measure I added words like slut, adulterer, thief, inflictor of pain, dreary example of a mother, bad sister, and horrible aunt. To top it off I added failure at ministry, sinner, and unforgivable.
I trudged along for many years just adding more and more shame and guilt to my backpack. I kept showing up and on rare occasions, I might share what was in my incriminating satchel, but mostly I put on a Sunday smile and pushed forward. I was hoping for forgiveness and acceptance; however, I frequently found only forgiveness in a healing prayer service and little acceptance of a new me after. I think because I still carried the shame and all the words I had heard about or uttered about myself. Those wouldn’t go away.
Until they did.
I found a friend who listened. I found a counselor that saw past the bag. I found a prayer ministry that one-by-one helped me remove those ugly things I was carrying and replace them with new words and beliefs. Words that came from a forgiving God: loved, child of God, important, gifted, and free. I came to believe that the forgiving words of Jesus I heard were words of redemption and transformation for me too. I found I could lift my head for the first time and take all those negatives and use them to help others empty their sin bags. New seeds were sown and new life was beginning for me.
It all began with someone who was willing to walk with me and tell me the truth. I am blessed to have dear friends who ask me tough questions and let me hear God’s answer for and about myself. One of those ladies carried me in my darkest times of despair and never let go of me. I would not be here had she not helped me carry my bag until I became willing to let it go.
We all have that someone in our lives who carries their backpack of lies and screwups. Walk with them. Pray for and with them. Encourage them to seek healing and if they can’t, keep walking. Don’t let them become lost. I have lost friends because I forgot how long this process can take. Introduce them to other friends because one of them might just be the person God is sending to help them cross the threshold. It isn’t easy to pick up others burdens- it is what God wants us to do and he demonstrated that over and over in the life of his son, Jesus. Be his instrument of change for yourself and another.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6 from The Message (MSG)