The church has a long and unfortunate history of Christian overshare. From the Catholic confessional to the mid-week Bible study, believers have needed very little encouragement to spill the beans on themselves and, strictly for prayer, their neighbour.
Truth be told, much of those oversharing moments were either unnecessary, unrelated to the conversation, or downright cringy.
I am thinking of middle age women who start discussing their husbands’ anatomical dysfunction in a bible study, or the man who confesses his criminal fantasies to a stranger in a Catholic phone booth. Or the one who gossips in the mum-and-bub club about where and with whom she thought she saw the minister’s wife, the night before last.
When King Saul realised the Philistines were winning a decisive battle against Israel, rather than face humiliation, he chose to take his own life. But Saul had trouble finishing the job, so he employed a passing Amalekite messenger to do the dirty work ( 2 Samuel 1:5-10).
The Amalekite thought he was doing the king a gracious favour and had no problem explaining to David what he had done.
But David was appalled that anyone should strike down the Lord’s anointed and had the Amalekite dispatched into the next world. He then wrote a song about it.
Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult. (2 Samuel 1:19-20)
For David, the whole thing was a shameful embarrassment. The last thing he needed was the enemy looking in and rejoicing over the humiliation of the Lord’s anointed king of Israel being finished off by an Amalekite messenger boy.
There are some humiliations in life that, for the sake of repentance and the glory of God’s mercy, get shared whether we want them to be or not. And there are other humiliations which, in the sharing, though they have the appearance of vulnerability and openness, bring no glory to God. They just bring cringe.
The Apostle Paul said,
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness… Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
“Caught”, as the word is used here, has reference to the sudden and public exposure of some serious sin – which Paul called a “burden”. The aim of the mature Christian standing by should be restoration (a word used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe mending fishing nets or setting a broken bone), not further publication. We are to help such a man in a spirit of gentleness. In this way, we are sharing in the burdens of others.
But in the next breath, Paul went on to say,
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:4-5)
There are some things in our own lives that we ought to share with the people directly involved (James 5:16). And there are some things that reveal themselves, whether we like it or not, to our shame but also for our restoration.
And then there are some things which simply cannot, or more to the point, ought not be told in Gath.
The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. (Proverbs 14:10).
“Distress, sorrow and trials”, writes Alexander Maclaren, “These can be borne by sympathy, by true love going out from the heart, and by the rendering of such practical help as the circumstances require.”
Yes, there are burdens that we must both share and carry for our neighbour’s sake and our own sake.
But there are burdens, of which the humiliation of our own sin is chief, that cannot be borne by any but the man himself.
Like the inhabitants of the Pacific islands, we can wave and signal to the next island and sometimes send a boat with provisions. But we are parted, ‘with echoing straits between us thrown.’
This is the burden of personal existence. Each must stand before God on his own. And each has God with whom he can share those burdens. Burdens that no one else may ever know.
We might complain that ‘The woman that Thou gavest me, she tempted me, and I did eat.’ Or we might say, ‘My natural appetites, for which I am not responsible, drew me aside, and I fell’, or we may say, like the Amalekite, ‘It was not I; it was the other guy. He made me do it.’
To all of this, God replies, as Nathan did to Kind David, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7).
These are the burdens we are to bear.
But thanks be to God. We do not really bear them alone. Just as Jesus spoke to the adulteress woman by the well. Just the two of them. So also He comes to us and offers to carry our burdens in His own body to the cross.
For those who are looking to the world around them, or to the midweek bible study, or to the priest in the confessional box for their justification, Jesus is no comfort, and cringy overshare is usually where we land.
But to those who each carry their own burden quietly to Jesus, because they have come to know Jesus, and love Jesus, and trust Jesus, these can leave their burdens at His feet, and His feet alone, knowing that this is enough.
Tara Brown says
I love your writings. Your wisdom. They constantly bless me. Thank you brother. Another lesson learned. Anothee one i need to apply to my life. Thank you!
Love to you and yours. X
David Trounce says
Thanks Tara. Appreciate the encouragement. Love to you and yours 🙂
Karen Mackay says
Thank you David…as always!