Driving along one day to my next destination I heard these words over the radio: I am strong when I am on your shoulders, you raise me up to more than I can be. Immediately I began to think of the many times my wife or I have taken one of our children or grandchildren and put them on our shoulders, carried them on our backs, or in our arms. They might have become weary from a walk, or simply wanted to be close to us. But being carried on our shoulders lifted their burdens, and raised them up (literally) to new heights.
In life and in ministry I come across many people and church leaders who are weary and burdened. At times this struggle in life and ministry is spiritual. There is unconfessed sin, moral disobedience, and/or undisciplined life resulting in unrighteousness. It might by physical. An illness, a lifelong disability, a lingering ailment, a failing aging body. It might also be emotional. They find it difficult to cope with stress, face huge attacks of anxiety, and their mind cannot think straight and clear. This might be you. I’ve been there myself. So what do you do?
A default response to life’s weariness or burden is attempting to do more, to try harder, to exert more energy, to fix it by sheer human determination. But I have found this myself, and with those I mentor, coach, and do life with – these kinds of responses leave one only more weary, and burdened, and disheartened. Our human efforts are not enough. We always come up short (see Romans 3:23). Rather than attempting to pick ourselves up, we need to allow One to pick us up, put us in His arms, and carry us on His shoulders.
The song I quoted earlier, “You Lift Me Up”, popularised by Josh Groban in 2003, has some powerful lyrics:
For me, these words are a powerful picture of our Triune God, who picks up all those weary and burdened (Matt 11:28) and gives them rest. He seeks out those who go astray, who are lost, and when he finds them, “he joyfully puts [them] on his shoulders.” (Luke 15:5) This last image of the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep, an echo of Isaiah 40:11: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” When we find ourselves in life and ministry dealing with pressures and troubles, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, rather than doing more, allow yourself to become still with God, and allow him to pick you up in his arms, place you on his shoulders, and raise you up to more than you can be!
At times people, even church leaders, find it difficult to comprehend or even experience how God picks us up. We sometimes would love to have God with “skin on”. This is why connection with God’s people is so critical. For the image of being carried on one’s shoulders is not only a wonderful Biblical picture of our heavenly Father, of our Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit; it also is a wonderful portrait of Christ’s body, the church.
This is the nature of a Christian community. We pick up those who find themselves in the storms of this sin-filled life, and carry them on our shoulders, and help them become more than they can be. God tells us: Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) The law of Christ, the love command, calls us to be burden bearers. “Love bears all things!” (1 Corinthians 13:7) The word “bear” in the Greek literally means a “roof”. That is what we as Christians are to others. When the storms of life batter against their lives, we become a shelter for them, a safe place, a spot where they can come and sit awhile, and by our caring deeds and words, be lifted up, to become more than they can be. Love is a roof. Love bears all things. So if you need God with some “skin on” allow yourself to be carried by God’s people, the church. And as a Christ-follower shoulder one other, lifted by love and grace, and help one another become all that God would have us be.