The Burden Bearer

The Burden Bearer

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
There’s a fact that we must understand about our Christianity:  we can’t make it through this life if we don’t let God help. God has offered His hand to us. He wants to help us. Problem is, we don’t always accept. When we refuse the help of God, we open the door to stress and anxiety. When we try to handle life on our own we are quickly drowned in helplessness and worry. But God wants to help us.
 
In 1 Peter 5, we are told a comforting fact about the Creator. In speaking of our humility in submitting to the leaders of the church, Peter tells us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (6-7). 
 
Peter tells us how we can show humility to God, by casting our anxieties on Him. And most of the time we refuse help because of our pride. We don’t need directions because our pride keeps us from admitting we are lost. We don’t need the user manual because doing so means accepting that we don’t know how to build a dresser.
 
Accepting help takes humility. Peter tells us that in order to show humility toward God we must accept the fact that without God we are lost. We are told in Scripture that God bears our burdens, but an important question we must ask is, “How do we let God bear our burdens?”
 
Transfer Your Concern.
 
Peter tells us in verse seven to cast our anxieties. This word “casting” is a very interesting word. It literally means to “transfer from one person to the next.” It is the act of handing off something to someone else. I want to pause and analyze a very intriguing and complex game. It’s called “hot potato.” Now it can be hard to understand the goal and purpose of this game so I’ll try as best I can to explain it. You take a hot potato and toss it around to other people…And that’s the game. When it comes to our anxiety that is exactly what we are told to do. Toss it like a hot potato because you don’t want it or need it.
 
When Peter tells us to cast our anxieties on God, he is telling us to get rid of it completely. Not just tell God about what’s worrying us, but literally transfer our concerns and worries over to God. We sometimes will tell God about our anxieties in prayer and then continue to worry and stress over our situation. If we do this we aren’t fulfilling the command given. God bears our burdens by taking what we transfer to Him. If we never give it to God He will not have it. 
 
Pinpoint Your Anxiety.
 
Verse seven also says, “Casting your anxiety.” What is anxiety? The word here is speaking of an emotion characterized by feelings of tensions. It’s worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure and weight gain or weight loss.
 
Peter is talking about the emotions we deal with when it comes to stressful situations. The emotions we feel when trying to solve an issue we are worried about. The situations we lose sleep over, the problems that are constantly in the back of our minds eating away at our joy and contentment. Those feelings are the ones that God wants to take from you. Those are the emotions that God wants to bear for us. But we must pinpoint what it is that is causing anxiety. What stress am I dealing with? More importantly, what am I doing about that stress?
 
Understand God’s Care.
 
Then verse seven says, “Casting your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” Why do we transfer our concerns to God? Because He truly cares. What concerns us concerns God. In letting God bear our burdens we must believe the fact that God truly cares about us (Psa. 40:17; Jn. 10:11ff). It is plainly shown to us in Scripture that God cares. But it’s interesting to notice that in His earthly ministry Jesus was often asked a question. For example, in Mark 4:38 the apostles are on the Sea of Galilee and a storm comes upon them. The waves are crashing down, the wind is beating on the boat, the Savior is sleeping, and the apostles lose their faith in God. They come to him and ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
 
In Luke 10:40, Jesus enters the house of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at His feet while Martha is distracted by serving and being hospitable, and Martha says to Jesus, “Do you not care?” We find ourselves in the storms of life and Jesus is nowhere to be seen and we immediately ask “Do you not care?” We get distracted and our problems aren’t getting fixed and we cry out “do you not care?” It is a question we tend to ask God, and we still fail to see the care of the Savior.
 
“Oh, yes He cares I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.” Do you understand that God cares for you? Or have you found yourself asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus? Do you fully understand the love that God has for you?
 
If we ever doubt God’s care, just think of Christ hanging on the cross taking your sin. Receiving the punishment for my sin. Does Jesus care? The answer is a resounding yes! And we can know that He cares.

 Is Our Savior Sleeping? 

 Is Our Savior Sleeping? 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Have you ever been afraid of your imagination? At times that fear can be so convincing that you truly believe that the worst case scenario is somehow inevitable. Try and make that opening question relevant to your life. Think about a specific event or experience where you were afraid of something that never came to fruition. The grip of anxiety can be debilitating as you wait for your medical test results to come in. You agonize over the poor quality of life you might have if there is ever an unexpected economic collapse. Your hairline might rapidly recede as you stress over the outcome of the war our nation is still involved in, and do I even need to mention the new global pandemic? You’re robbed of sleep as you imagine the potential horrible outcomes that may never happen. These things may never happen because the Lord could come. They may never happen because whatever you’re afraid of— it’s simply worse in your own mind. It may never happen because God has proven Himself to be one who calms the storm instead of letting you perish.

I believe we would all benefit from recalling those occasions in our past where fear proved unnecessary and we worked ourselves up for nothing! If the fear in your life has a big appetite and it’s devouring all your time and peace, maybe it’s time to feed something else. Sitting Bull once said, “Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good. They fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, ‘the one I feed the most.’” How vividly this illustrates a daily struggle for so many. Fear and faith will scrap with one another until we decide which one will win. Do you think our faith would emerge victorious every day if we could physically witness God’s power, but in a miraculous way? If my own eyes could witness Jesus bring the dead back from the grave, cast out a demon, or walk on stormy waters, then I would never worry again. Or would I? Seeing Jesus perform miracles never made anyone perfect. His disciples were far from perfect and they stood feet from the Savior while He did things only God could do.

On one occasion, which was hinted at earlier, Jesus calms the storm after being abruptly awakened by His terrified followers (Mark 4). There are some details about this account that will help us feed our faith when fear threatens to win the day.

First, our cries to God, even in the desperate times, are heard. The disciples exclaim, “Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” Following this fearful plea, Jesus will demonstrate a fraction of His awesome power. After all, what is calming a stormy sea to the One who spoke every drop of water into existence?

Second, excessive fear of anything in this world is a foolish mistake. God is bigger and greater than our worries.

Third, God is not asleep. It may seem like He is when we don’t feel optimistic about the future, but it’s when we recognize that He’s the only answer to our peace that He will calm our storm. 

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Why Do We Sigh?

Why Do We Sigh?

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 I was watching a program from Japan in which the protagonist sighed. We can relate to sighing. I know I may find myself sighing quite a bit. (One researcher noted we all sigh about every 5 minutes. 1) In this program, however, another person, walking by, cautioned the protagonist not to sigh since that allowed happiness to escape. Later, I observed another Japanese show where the same idea was expressed. I know the Japanese have proverbs and idioms, but I’ve yet to locate the source for that expression. I presume it’s a cultural thing since it’s the only context in which I’ve seen it expressed.

 Why do we sigh?   A sigh serves as a reset, both physically and mentally, for the body. 2 As such, it’s an important biological function. Yet, we likewise tend to sigh when we’re frustrated. In fact, that seems to be when we become aware of our sighs. For this reason, most people interpret sighing with negative emotions. 3 If I sighed while we’re having a “vigorous discussion,” you might conclude I’m angry with or didn’t like you. However, the heated exchange might have simply stressed me, triggering a sigh to release the pent-up anxiety.

Despite being commanded to be “anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4.6), we’ve already observed people do sigh. Obviously, if we sigh every 5 minutes, our sighs cannot always be about anxiety. Yet, it remains amazing God provided for a means of regulating excess anxiety through that rush of relaxation one receives by sighing. This, is of course, in addition to the inconceivable peace received from prayer (Philippians 4.6-7). It may be that with one’s sigh, he is refocused upon his task. Thus, a burden is momentarily laid aside so one can get a better grasp of it to carry it further to the goal.

Jesus told us not to worry, but He also said each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6.33-34). One should try to practice mindfulness in connection with his faith. Since we do notice our sighs of frustration and anxiety more often, we ought to allow our sigh to signal us concerning our stress and take the appropriate measures to resolve it. If a sigh is prompted by a person, either you forbear (tolerate—NASB) them in love (Ephesians 4.2), or you talk to them about the troubling matter privately (Matthew 18.15-17; Acts 18.24-28).  If a sigh is because we feel we’re a failure, let us remember the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12.9). By walking in the Light, we have the continuous cleansing of Jesus’ blood (1 John 1.7). And if someone we’ve tried to reach with the Gospel frustrates us, after we’ve delivered ourselves of bloodguilt (Ezekiel 3.17-19), let us recall the sad truth that only a few find the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14). Our sigh may be a sign that it is time to knock the sand from our sandals and move on (Luke 9.5).

Yes, rather than serving to remind him of something negative, a Christian’s sigh might also serve as an opportunity, an opportunity to reset his faith.

 

References

1 Heid, Markham. “3 Reasons You Sigh So Much.” Prevention, Hearst Magazine Media, Inc, 11 June 2019, www.prevention.com/health/a20508517/why-you-sigh-so-much/.

2 Lewis, Jordan Gaines. “Why Do We Sigh?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC., 10 Apr. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201304/why-do-we-sigh.

3 ibid

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When Will I Ever Be Free…

When Will I Ever Be Free…

Neal Pollard

…Of concerns over the future–decisions to make, the specter of tomorrow, growing old, retirement?
…Of sin–fighting temptation and not always winning, beating one thing and then finding another cropping up in its place, and the guilt it brings?
…Of disappointment–both of what I inflict and what is inflicted upon me?
…Of fear–when it comes to my spouse, my children, my parents, my brethren, our nation?
…Of doubt–whether in the process of prayer, struggles with asking God “why?,” or especially doubting myself?
…Of neglect–leaving undone things central to my purpose as a Christian due to apathy, distraction, misplaced priorities, and the like?
...Of failure–trying and not succeeding, not trying hard enough, not knowing what or how to try, and of simply falling short?
…Of betrayal–whether through gossip, lying, broken promises, insincerity, or treachery?
…Of insecurity–that can result from any of these and other struggles?

We don’t always have days when we wonder these things, but they come around often enough that they can prey on our minds. Sometimes, we face these questions due to our shortcomings. Other times, it’s because of the failings of others. Both can lead to despair.

The wonderful news is that we can be free of them all. There is a day coming when none of these will weigh us down ever again. I love the encouragement of the Hebrews’ writer, who urges, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (12:1-3). 

Whether we are struggling due to our sinfulness or if it is any other weight, we’re encouraged to hang on and hang in there. When the struggle might be the greatest, that’s when we’ve got to turn and fix our focus on Jesus. Watch how He won! See what He did! Remember that He helps make it possible for us to fight and win.  

If you are in the valley of despair right now, for whatever reason, don’t give up! Look to Jesus. Hang on! The end is in sight. Through Him, we will overcome!

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The Rubber Band Metaphor

The Rubber Band Metaphor

Neal Pollard

The rubber band’s a handy tool
If it but follows a simple rule
It must know how much that it can take
If it goes beyond that, it might break

It does no good inside the drawer
Or on a peg inside the store
It must assume its intended use
If sitting unused, it amounts to abuse

But when in working operation
It must guard against its ruination
Stretched too often or too far
It will not work or be up to par.

Just like that loop which holds together
That which needs a trusty tether
You and I must know our max
And not our limit to unduly tax

We’re not useful up on the shelf
We must work hard, extend ourself
But taken too far, we risk too much
We can hurt ourselves by doing such

Let’s prayerfully consider each opportunity
And realize none has complete immunity
From burnout, fallout, stress and strain—
Then we’ll be useful, happy, strong and sane!

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DEALING WITH STRESS

DEALING WITH STRESS

Neal Pollard

A few years ago, the American Psychological Association named Denver the city with the most stressed out people in America. 75% of Denver residents are too stressed out about job and money, with half of Denverites saying their stress had significantly increased over the past year. Doctors and researchers have long connected a variety of health problems to stress, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The Harris Interactive polling group conducted this survey on behalf of the APA. Maybe the high stress levels are why so many Denver-area folks have such high octane workout routines, to counteract all of this.

In response, the Colorado Psychological Association provided some tips for coping with stress: (1) Set limits, (2) Tap into your support system, (3) Make one health-related commitment (cut back on caffeine, exercise, get more sleep, etc), (4) Strive for a positive outlook, and (5) Seek additional help. These tips are wise and useful, and especially is this true when we consider a “spiritual twist” on them. While I have found living in this area to be peaceful and enjoyable, I also know that life in America in general is stressful. There are so many uncertainties and that alone is a stressor.

Christians are best-equipped to deal with stress. Matthew 6:33 helps us properly prioritize so that we have a spiritual basis to determine what needs to be eliminated and what is more valuable. Further, we have the greatest support system possible through the church (cf. Rom. 12:15; 1 Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:13-16; Heb. 13:1; etc.). Living the Christian life properly is a prime way to a healthier lifestyle, so long as we remember such principles as are found in 1 Timothy 4:8, Proverbs 23:2, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (I’d recommend your reading those). Who has a more positive outlook than one who can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21-24). That is essentially saying, “I’ve got it great, and it will only get better.” Finally, there is no better help than that which we have available in Christ. Having the help of heaven to cope with life’s uncertainties is the greatest stress-buster there is.

Whether you live in Denver or even Small Town U.S.A., you are not immune from potential stress. Yet, wherever you live, if you are a Christian you have the best coping tools imaginable. Being in Christ eliminates many of the worries so many face. May we not take this for granted. Even more, let us not neglect to take advantage of the peace found only in Jesus (cf. John 14:27).

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