Following is another in my series of posts from my course material, tentatively named, “The King’s Table” about how to build a true community that moves from learning how to love one another to loving those far from God. This excerpt is from a lesson on how to biblically bear one another’s burdens. Pretend that Jacob is in your group and has come to share a big burden he has about an upcoming reunion with his brother Esau (Gen. 32). How would this look in our context?
Jake’s big burden
Facilitator: OK, everybody, let’s open up our text to “Group Process #6: How to Bear One Another’s Burdens”. We really appreciate your willingness to be authentic with us, Jake.
Jake. This is really hard for me to share with you all, but God has been dealing with me, and so I think I can try. My burden is pretty heavy right now: I am about to see my brother after 20 years of separation.
Group. You must be excited.
Facilitator. Questions, guys. Show curiosity. You are the learners here. You don’t know how he feels.
Group. How did you feel about getting to see him?
Jake. That’s my burden!
Group. How so?
Jake. Let’s just say I really screwed my brother over last time I saw him.
Group. So why are you seeing him now?
Jake. God told me it was time to go home. I knew that meant facing my past.
Group. How ready are you for this meeting?
Jake. Well, I sent messengers ahead to see if I could win some favor with him. All I got back was that he was ready to meet me and that he had four hundred men with him.
Group. So how did that make you feel?
Jake. Well, that’s not hard. I got scared. Panicked, really. I divided my people, sheep, cattle, and camels into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes on the first camp and attacks it, the other camp has a chance to get away.”
Group. So the panic makes your brain start to working on a plan.
Jake. I guess so. I mean, I haven’t seen him in so long, there’s no telling what he is thinking.
Group. OK. Let’s underline those words, “chance to get away.”
So would you say that safety was pretty important to you at this point?
Jake. You bet. This is my family, after all.
Group. And the word “chance,” what does that mean to you?
Jake. Hope, I guess. I’m looking for hope.
Group. Where else is your hope?
Jake. In God. In fact, right then I started praying, and I told God I didn’t deserve all the love and loyalty He’d shown me. I had nothing I could stand on, so all I could do was remind Him of the promises He had made to me.
Group. Did you sense God speaking to you in prayer?
Jake. Not there. I have heard God on other occasions, but I just couldn’t hear anything last night. I ended up just tossing and turning and planning what to do the next day, yesterday, that is. And I think it was a pretty good plan, actually. I treated the guy like a king.
Group. And the point of treating him so well?
Jake. To appease him. I mean on the one hand, I did want to honor him, but I admit I thought, “I will soften him up with the succession of gifts. Then when he sees me face-to-face, perhaps he will accept me.”
Group. So from Real Talk, what would we call that?
Group. You said it.
Jake. Gee whiz, I really didn’t deserve how good God has been to me.
Group. Were you ready to see him, then, yesterday?
Jake. No way. I dragged that process out all day. Then I got my wives, maidservants, kids, and all my stuff ahead last night, and I stayed back. Then the most amazing thing happened. He came.
Jake. I don’t know if it was God, or an angel of the Lord, but it’s kind of the same either way. It was incredible. The dude actually wrestled with me.
Group. Give us a break!
Facilitator. Step four, guys. “Avoid judgments by scanning your own heart.”
Jake. I don’t think I can go on if you guys don’t even want to take me seriously.
Group. We’re sorry.
Facilitator. What’s more important here – what you think is normal for God, or the burden Jake is carrying?
Group. His burden.
Facilitator. Are you ready to carry it?
Jake. Did you guys ever wonder why I am limping all of a sudden? God did it to me.
Group. What did that do for you?
Jake. It let me know who was boss. I mean, I kept asking for his name, and he wouldn’t give it. But he not only made me give my name, he actually re-named me himself.
Group. What was important about that?
Jake. I guess it helped me let go of my fears a little bit, but this is still weighing on me.
Facilitator. So today is the big day. Let’s see if we can name Jake’s values in the second column.
Group. Safety, deliverance. You also mentioned acceptance. Would you agree?
Jake. Yes, that’s in there. He is my brother.
Group member 1: My wife was in a car accident once, and I thought she might not make it. All I cared about was her survival. I couldn’t pray for “God’s will.” It was the hardest three days of my life.
Group member 2: My sister hasn’t spoken with me in four years. But in my case it was because I told her she was sinning. But sometimes it hurts so much I can hardly stand it.
(several more share)
Group: Lord, we share Jake’s burden. He is worried. He cares about his family, just as we all do. He wants his brother back, and we can feel that loss. Even if he caused it, it hurts, Lord. We all feel like something is missing when relationships are broken. We know you care about relationships too, especially family, so we bring this burden to your throne of grace – together.
Facilitator. Where are you now, Jake? What is happening inside you as the group prayed?
Jake. It’s incredible. It’s like I realized that God actually cares about me. In fact, I see more what he was doing by giving me a new name. He was saying I belong to him. Who I am is based on his acceptance.
Facilitator. Now we didn’t pray for these things.
Jake. No, but having others carry it with me helped me not have to carry it all. I mean I was tossing and turning, and planning and scheming. I couldn’t get it off my brain. And now you come and join in with me, and it allowed me to turn my attention to what God was trying to say all along.
Group. Praise the Lord.
Jake. I really don’t deserve all the love and loyalty God has shown me.