Sunday, October 25, 2015

he ain't heavy, he's my brother

artwork by Krista Hamrick


When I first saw Krista Hamrick’s beautiful work of art, the sound of The Hollies’ 1969 song He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, began to play in my heart. The first time I heard that song, I was 16 years old, the new kid in 10th grade at Sebring High School. I walked up the steps alone on that first day, I had felt alone most of my life. Adopted at four months of age, I had been an only child until my adoptive parents adopted my little brother from different biological parents when I was 12. We moved eight times in the seven years from 1961 to 1968, and although I felt greatly loved by my adoptive parents, I was reminded often that, “if there had been anything wrong with me, they could have given me back.” My empathy for children with special needs was born with that awareness. What if there had been “something wrong” with me, where would I be now?

I made friends quickly in my advanced classes at Sebring High, becoming one of the editors of the school yearbook my junior year, and being elected as the first female president of the student body my senior year. At the same time, we had a sweet neighbor, Ralph Shuckford, who was an adult with developmental disabilities. I would often think as I spent time with him, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I led Bible studies at my church before school, and was a volunteer with a community group that planned parties and special events for mentally handicapped adults in Highlands County on the weekends.

It was a natural progression when I completed two years at the community college to major in exceptional student education. I was participant in a college student group which completed the “Admitted-for-a Weekend” immersion program at the Sunland Training Center near Gainesville. I was brought in and admitted on Friday as if I was one of the mentally handicapped adults in one of the cottages with locked doors and house mothers. I was told only to observe and not speak for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, we had a debriefing session, and I wrote my reactions to the weekend as a stream-of-consciousness term paper for my college English class.

During all these experiences,
the song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother was my anthem. Now all these years later, after earning a BA in exceptional student education and a M.Ed. in gifted education, serving in various teaching and supervisory roles in education, and as a staff liaison for a church ministry for children with special needs, the lyrics still ring true for me… The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where, who knows where. But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him, he ain't heavy—he's my brother. So on we go, his welfare is my concern. No burden is he to bear, we'll get there. For I know he would not encumber me, he ain't heavy—he's my brother. If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness, that everyone's heart isn't filled with gladness of love for one another. It's a long, long road from which there is no return, while we're on our way to there, why not share? And the load, it doesn't weigh me down at all…he ain't heavy—he's my brother. These precious memories prompted me to do a word study on the scripture reference in Krista Hamrick's artwork, Galatians 6:2

NASB: Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Amplified Bible: Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].

Expanded Bible:  By ·helping each other with your troubles [L
bearing each other’s burdens], you truly ·obey [accomplish; fulfill] the law of Christ.

The Message: Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.

The Voice: Shoulder each other’s burdens, and then you will live as the law of the Anointed teaches us.

Pastor Wayne Barber writes: “When individuals begin to choose to walk by the Spirit, willingly led by the Word and by the Spirit of God, what does this look like in the body of Christ? God’s love in us initiates divine action. Now, not humanistic action, but divine action; there’s a difference here. In Galatians 6:2, Paul gives a command. It’s helpful to remember that even though it is a command, it’s also the response of someone who’s walking by the Spirit. See, God’s commandments are not burdensome. You don’t struggle with them when you’re walking by the Spirit because God lives in us to will and to work. Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will,” God in us gives us the desire to say yes to Him, and then “to work for His good pleasure.”

In Galatians 6:2, Paul gives this command, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Now that’s present imperative. Imperative simply means it’s a command. In other words, there’s no option here. This is what happens when you walk by the Spirit. This is the response. Bear and keep on bearing one another’s burdens. Now why would Paul say that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God? Well, he’s already told us, because we’re family. And that’s the way family treats one another.

The word for "bear" is the word bastazó. Bastazó comes from the word meaning to support, to hold up. Here it means to get up under a heavy load that your brother has and help him bear up under that load. Help support him. Matter of fact, the apostle John uses this particular word to describe Jesus bearing up under His cross in John 19:17. It says, “They took Jesus therefore and He went out bearing His own cross to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.” So the idea of bearing up under something that’s heavy. That’s the word bear one another’s burdens. Do what you have to do, Paul says, to help support your brother when he’s under a load that he cannot handle himself.

The word “burden” is the word báros. Báros means the felt weight of a heavy load on someone. Now there’s another word that means to bear something, but this one always is used to describe not just the bearing, but the heaviness that’s on top of you, and you’re trying to support the weight of something. Paul doesn’t tell us what that heavy load is and I’m really grateful for that, it could be anything. He leaves it open-ended. For whatever reason, he cannot bear up under the load that he’s under. So Paul says instead of ridiculing him, instead of ignoring him, help him recover by helping him bear his burden. It’s a beautiful thing when you see this happen in the body of Christ. That’s what Paul’s talking about. This happens to all of us when we begin to walk by the Spirit. We see each other’s need. We don’t see it when we’re walking after the flesh, but when we’re walking by the Spirit, we begin to see the need of the individual and God begins to put that burden on us to help them bear up under a load that otherwise they could not bear. This is Christ in us making us sensitive.

Now this act of love fulfills the law of Christ. Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” What law is he talking about? In Galatians 5:14 he told us what that law was, the law of love. It says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” That’s the law he refers to. That law is being fulfilled when it’s manifest in an individual who’s walking by the Spirit of God and reaches out to help a brother bear up under a load that otherwise that brother could not bear. It’s a command given by the One who fulfilled it Himself—the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to us when we were under the load and the weight of sin. We could not help ourselves. He paid a debt He didn’t owe; we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. And that’s the whole picture. He says, He even told His disciples, “Greater love hath no man but to lay down his life for his brother.” What He did was to manifest what He now wants to manifest through us. He is the source of that love. He now lives in us. It’s Him in us reaching out to others. He expects nothing less than what He did. He expects nothing less; therefore, He lives in us to enable us to do just that."

How can we avoid becoming discouraged when we deal with overwhelming tasks and challenges, including individuals with special needs, in the world around us? We can successfully keep running our race with endurance and not burn out only by fixing our eyes on Jesus. Our faith, our ability to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters, or to accomplish anything at all of lasting value depends on Christ from start to finish. When we lift our eyes to the all-powerful, all-loving God, we can commit our way to him and receive his assurance that in God’s time we will reap what he has richly prepared for us—a harvest of blessing—as we daily draw fresh strength from his inexhaustible supply.

Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching me that I can do nothing apart from You. You are my life, my strength, my salvation. I give myself to You anew each day and ask that Your resurrection power restore my joy and renew my vision for the special needs of those around me daily. Truly, there, but for the grace of God, go I. In Your precious name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Galatians 6:2

Look In—as you meditate on Galatians 6:2 pray to see how you might apply it to your life.

Look Out—as you meditate on Galatians 6:2 pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others.

30 comments:

  1. I also remember hearing that song as a teen. Raising a houseful of boys, I have tried to remind my sons of their responsibility to each other, and, through the years have been thankful for my family in Christ. Joys doubled, troubles halved when both are shared!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Michele. It is such a blessing from the Lord to have our families. Many blessings to you and your sweet family ❤️

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate your insight on caring for one another. This is very well written and I can tell you put a lot of work into it. Stopping by from Inspire Me Mondays.

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    1. Leah, thank you so much for your encouraging comments! Many blessings to you ❤️

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  3. Powerful... I love that verse in Galatians (and that gorgeous Bible Journal page, too!) So good... and so very thankful that we are grafted in and He is our Brother and He carries us, as we come alongside and help carry the load of others as well!

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    1. Amen, Karrilee! I so agree with you...thank you so much for your kind comments. Many blessings to you ❤️

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  4. Oh, my! I have not heard that song in many, many years, and reading those words today brought the tune to my mind, but the meaning came through in a way that in the 60s, surely NEVER did, Beth. Never!! Powerful and beautiful, all wrapped with God's Word.

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    1. Linda, you will never know how much your sweet, enthusiastic comments blessed my heart today! It is such a blessing to me to hear that you are encouraged by what the Lord has used to encourage me. Many blessings to you ❤️

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  5. Thanks for giving us a peek at your heart, Beth!

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    1. Thank you, Kelly. It is such a blessing to see how God has been there all along using everything for His Glory and our good. Many blessing to you ❤️

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  6. Loved your post! How you explain and give all the bible versions for better understanding!!! Thanks for encouraging me today to be a better friend, a one with the heart of God. I'm visiting you today from Testimony Tuesday Link Up.

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    1. Your words warm my heart, Tayrina! It is a blessing to me to hear that you have been inspired and encouraged by my post. Many blessings to you ❤️

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  7. Hey Beth. Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey with us at Good Morning Mondays. You always put so much heart into your writing. Blessings to you.

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    1. Thank you, Terri, I appreciate your kind words so much. I so enjoy your heart-warming posts at Good Morning Mondays, too. Many blessings to you and your sweet family ❤️

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  8. I know when ever I come to visit your blog, I am going to come away having learned something. :-)

    Your testimony of how the Lord groomed you to have a heart for those with special needs brings Him so much Glory.

    I thought it was interesting as part of the word study on "bearing" and "burden" that you included Pastor Wayne Barber's quote speaking to the fact that God's commands are not burdensome to us - showing us an opposite application from carrying to being freeing.

    And finally, He Aint Heavy He's My Brother was popular when I was growing up, and I found myself singing along with the words, words that I never really paid that close attention to until I read them here. I had no idea how rich those words were.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Karen, I so appreciate your very specific and personally encouraging comments. You are a blessing to me and so many others...thank you so much! Many blessings to you!

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  9. Hi Beth, I think we have become so self absorbed that we ignore these words "Bearing each other's Burden". Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I find this a timely reminder for me!
    Blessings to you, Beth.

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    1. Thank you so much, Ifeoma. I am constantly encouraged and inspired by your blog posts. Thank you so much for stopping by. Many blessings to you!

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  10. Yes, we should always remember God's faithfulness in the past when we face hardships! And, love one another. The law from Jesus himself. from #threewordwednesday.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Kristen. Many blessings to you ❤️

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  11. You speak straight to my heart again :) As a mom of one with special needs, I lean into my faith daily, trusting that God has all of this in His hands and He'll give me the strength I need to carry us all through whatever we face. I don't know this song, but will have to go find it. i can relate to these words, though - he ain't heavy, he's my son and God will give me whatever strength I need to carry him and bear his burdens.

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    1. Kathryn, thank you so much for sharing your heart with me...I believe we all have special needs, some are just a little more visible than others. My daily prayer is, "Jesus, I trust You, You know what You're doing"...His strength is made perfect in my weakness...many blessings to you and your sweet family ❤️

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  12. Yes. You speak straight to the heart. Thank you for sharing. We all need to remember to trust Jesus daily. Blessings, Chris~

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    1. Chris, I so appreciate your encouraging comments. Many blessings to you ❤️

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  13. Beth, I am so glad we connected a year or so ago and then met IRL at ALLUME. What a blessing it is when the Lord brings online friendships together, up close, face to face. You and your husband are kind folks and I'm blessed to call you friends. xo

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    1. Thank you, Susan ❤️ I feel exactly the same way about you. Since we first met through the (in)courage group, you have been such a sweet friend to me--recommending me for Life Notes and.BibleGateway--I registered for Allume after I saw it on your FB page...Jack and I had a great time. I felt like I had known you for years when we had a few minutes to sit down and talk. Looking forward to sharing many more adventures in the future. Many blessings to you and your sweet husband ❤️

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  14. Wow, what an in depth study and a wonderful story. I wondered how that must have felt to be locked in as if you were one of the mentally handicapped adults. My heart also went out to your younger you, thinking that if you messed up you could be given back. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like. Thank you for a marvelous post. BTW, did you do that artwork in your bible? Whoever did, I am trying not to be envious! I have a journaling bible that gives me ample room to do such things, but I do not consider myself to be anywhere close to artistic.

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    1. Mary, thank you so much for your compassionate comments...I titled the stream-of-consciousness paper I wrote about my experiences, "open"... unconditional love...I, too, admire the Bible journaling of others, Krista Hamrick did this beautiful piece...many blessings to you

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  15. I enjoyed this glimpse into your life Beth. Thank you for sharing with the Weekend Whispers community!

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    1. Thank you Barbie! It is a joy to link up with you at Weekend Whispers...many blessings to you ❤️

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