One of my favorite films is Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The story revolves around the experiences of George Bailey, manager of a small town building and loan. George’s lifelong dream is to see the world. However, due to a series of inescapable responsibilities – his father’s death, depression, war, etc. – he never makes it out of Bedford Falls. Then in midlife, through no fault of his own, financial crisis strikes. With nowhere to turn and terrified of scandal, George considers taking his own life until…Clarence the angel shows him how many lives he’s touched and what the world would be like if he hadn’t been born. George quickly repents and rushes home to find all his family and friends gathered together, joyously singing carols around the Christmas tree, and having collected more than enough donations to meet his shortfall.
The story offers such an important reminder that my wife started calling me “George” many years ago as a nickname. In fact, she’s more apt to call me that than my own given name. What truth does it teach? Clarence summed it up in his farewell message to George: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” This is a truth I’ve witnessed repeatedly over the years as a pastor. The person who cultivates a close-knit family and a support system of faithful friends is able to weather almost any storm because he isn’t doomed to face it alone. Solomon referred to this need in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
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Paul reiterates this lesson in Galatians 6:2, commanding us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…” The law of Christ is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” But then he adds in verse 5, “for each one shall carry his own load.” This is confusing until you realize that Paul used two different words in this passage. The word “load” in verse 5 refers to a small load – like a backpack you’d take on a hike – something designed for one person to carry. These are the daily burdens God gives each one of us to develop our character – weeds to pull, budgets to live within, minor afflictions to grin and bear. These are responsibilities we’re to fulfill ourselves without expecting others to help us…or we’ll soon find our circle of friends shrinking!
But there are other burdens so heavy that no one should attempt to carry one alone – moving a piano, recovering from a debilitating illness, grieving the loss of a loved one. These are the burdens referred to in verse 2, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Just as God assigns us individual loads to strengthen our character, He also designs large trials that create unity in the family of God as we carry them together.
This post is a tribute to those of you who are doing this very thing as Cheryl battles cervical cancer. You have cooked meals for us, run errands for us, and driven us to doctor appointments. You have cleaned our kitchen, helped us with household maintenance, and generously contributed to the costs of her care. Hundreds of you have prayed for us and written us notes of encouragement. How rich we are in Christ! No one is poor who has friends like you!