Burden Sharing

That Friday, when my sister called to tell me that my brother-in-law would need to be intubated, I had a sinking sense of dread. This story was playing out across the nation. Healthy adults, brought low by the Covid virus, struggling to breathe, needing to turn to machines to help the body get the oxygen it so depends upon.

As fear gripped me, I felt a tightening of my own chest. I was also struggling to find oxygen. Not in a physical sense, but in that gasping way that a soul wrestles with a world that seems to hold too much pain.

Regardless of how I felt inside, Monday arrived as it always does, and I still needed to go teach first thing in the morning. How could I face students and continue to meet their needs when I felt so spiritually out of breath? I needed to be present for these students, but my heart was a million miles away.

I needed to be in a space where others would help me connect to God. I knew in my head that connection is what we all need in hard times. But I have this deeply ingrained pattern of behavior to withdraw in hard times that seems hardwired in my brain. Thankfully, with practice, even those patterns hardwired within us can start to change.

Our Faculty Commons group had been meeting for prayer in the morning for over two years. Coordinating academic schedules is notoriously difficult, so the workable option is 7 am on a Monday morning. It isn’t always easy to be there that early, but the sense of peace and joy that meeting together evoked was well worth the sacrifice. There was only a small group of us that had the space in our lives to make this commitment.

We had developed the practice of sharing the things on our hearts and minds, both big and little things. Sharing with this group had become second nature. I knew I could count on them to listen. I knew they would understand my struggle of entering the classroom. I knew they would pray and care deeply. 

This is the group that I could turn to, to help bear my burden.

Each week this group of faithful friends would lift up my brother-in-law in prayer. There were times when it seemed like he was making progress, but ultimately the all-too-familiar trajectory played out. After a month in the hospital, he went home to be with God.

There were and still are moments of deep grief and mourning. But I do not suffer alone. A group of caring Christ-followers was with me every step of the way, supporting me. I experienced God’s love and care through their care and concern for me and was drawn closer to God. This loving God calls us to help bear one another’s burdens. I am so thankful for this group, who continually answers his call.

David Pfahler


Santa Fe College

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