*Adapted from All Who Are Heavy Laden: Hope in the Gospel for Depression and Anxiety
For many of us, life is hard lately. As a worldwide pandemic rages on, school children figure out how to learn and socialize among stringent guidelines and fear. New graduates must find ways to support themselves as jobs are scarce. Many of us are coping with new realities and honestly are just tired of it all. Chances are, you need help right now. But does that make you weak?
Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and even raised a friend from the dead. He turned water into wine, and a little boy’s lunch box into a meal for a crowd. Miracle after miracle he created wherever he went. If there were one person to ever walk the planet that didn’t need help, you would think it would be the Christ, right? But that’s not the legacy He chose to leave.
Imagine for a moment: the Savior has just been convicted of crimes he didn’t commit in place of a murderer who deserved to rot. The crowds sealed his fate and handed him over to the Romans– world-class executioners. In front of a cheering crowd, the governor’s soldiers flogged him, stripped him, and ripped open his forehead with a crown of thorns. Once they had mocked and spat on him, it was time for him to carry his cross up the hill.
There was only one problem: after all of that, do you know any human who might have enough physical strength left to carry a cross uphill? So as Jesus’s strength faltered, he did the sensible, human thing: he accepted help. Simon of Cyrene stepped in to carry his cross for him.
Could Christ have found the strength to carry his own cross? Surely. At any point, he could have called down legions of angels to save him from the horrific torture he faced. As God, his strength was endless. But as a man, he had an example to set for the millions who would one day take up their crosses to follow his example. Sometimes our crosses get heavy; we need to find Simons to carry them part of the way. Further, we need the humility to ask them for help and accept it when it is offered. So who are our Simons?
I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to first turn to our most perfect Simon, the Lord himself. Scripture is full of desperate cries for help, and the Psalms are a perfect example. In chapter 18, verse 6, David writes, “I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” This is a consistent theme in all of scripture, but especially in the Psalms. The man after God’s own heart constantly reports that He cried out to the Lord in times of distress and He answered him.
God does not place the same sense of shame on asking for help that we do. He in the form of Christ accepted help. He implores us to come to him for help. And he places other believers in our lives to bear our burdens alongside us. Whatever you face, God has ensured that you never face it alone—and He reminds us on every page of his story that it’s always okay to ask for help.
God in his infinite wisdom built a Simon of Cyrene into each and every Christian’s life: the church. In Galatians 6, the apostle Paul commands the church to carry one another’s burdens. In humility, saints are to submit to one another and consider their brothers and sisters more important than themselves. For every local body who routinely disobeys that command, surely there is another who has written it on their heart.
Some advice I received from my dad illustrates Paul’s point. I was 16, refusing to open up about the heart wrenching details of my first breakup. I much preferred to bottle it all up and never let it see the light of day. His response to my silence has stuck with me: he said that one man carrying a 10-pound log will have a difficult time. He’s carrying all 10 pounds by himself. But if he lets four other men help, suddenly each of them only carries two pounds. Letting our fellow saints step in to help carry our load makes the heaviest burdens feel bearable.
Sometimes we need help beyond what our brothers and sisters and Christ can give. At some point, you may need the help of a professional, and there is no shame in that. We don’t hesitate to admit when we need a medical doctor. Why should we treat therapy as any more taboo? Whether a biblical counselor or a secular therapist, it’s okay to reach out for a professional Simon.
I have seen a counselor on and off since I was 18 years old, and found it incredibly helpful. Therapy has helped me learn strategies to cope with anxiety and depression, talk through overwhelming emotions with an objective listener, and untangle the truth from lies trauma made me believe. If your mental illness is particularly overwhelming, a good therapist may be an essential Simon for you.
God never intended his children to do life alone– solitude is a spiritual death sentence. That is even more true for those of us who suffer from mental illness; that burden is far too heavy to carry alone. What I hope you’ve taken from my writing is that you don’t have to. The Lord in his kindness has provided us with Simons in many forms. Find one– in fact, find many– and let them help you carry your cross.
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