What burden are you carrying today? It may not be anything anyone else knows about, but it is weighing on you. Maybe you’re a little more irritable than usual. Maybe you’re having a hard time focusing. Maybe you just feel miserable because of a health issue; heartbroken because of a broken relationship or tragic loss; worried; afraid; tired. You aren’t alone.
It’s embarrassing how often I need reminded that the people I encounter and interact with daily are all carrying unseen burdens. The distracted driver could be on his cell phone; or, it could be that he’s got a huge worry on his mind. Another person’s snappy voice and short answers might be plain old rudeness, but perhaps it’s the voice of someone who is overwhelmed with a hardship at home. Years ago, I concluded that a certain lady who worked the check-out line at a grocery store I frequented was just plain rude. I avoided her line whenever possible. Then I noticed that she lost her hair—the tell-tale sign of cancer. I felt terrible. It’s easier to give grace when we can see the burden, but we don’t always see.
In the letter of Galatians, Paul writes: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). God gives us church family to lean on during difficult times. None of us need to be ashamed when we feel overwhelmed. He intends for us to help each other, and it would do us good to open up more often with trusted brothers and sisters about our burdens. At the same time, we are called to be gracious and considerate with the difficult people who are showing symptoms of an unseen burden. Such grace helps more than we realize.
So, let’s strive to be more merciful, loving, patient, and gracious to everyone we encounter—especially those who test our patience. If we’re going to make assumptions about people, it’s better to err on the side of mercy. Assume people are carrying a burden, and then give grace.