Do you remember Stretch Armstrong? He was a thirteen-inch figure supposedly able to stretch up to four feet with the guarantee to return to his original shape. Perhaps you are more familiar with Gak? An unusual slime concoction that is extremely stretchable and aside from sensory play has no other real purpose. These toys are distant memories from my past but serve as perfect examples of how I sometimes feel.
I market myself as a stretchable object and allow others to pull me in different directions.
It is interesting that as most items extend, they grow thinner. Mr. Armstrong does not stay “muscular” as you pull his arms and legs. Gak becomes translucent as it lengthens. And while I can’t quote a physics term or law to support this theory, it seems that the more stretched an object is, the weaker it becomes.
Women often carry the burdens of others. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know this is true of myself. If a friend comes to me with marriage problems, I instantly bring them on as my own. If someone asks for advice but does not take it, I feel doubly strained. I am distraught when people get upset with me because my answer isn’t what they wanted to hear.
I have falsely assumed that carrying the burdens of others makes me empathetic which means I’m a good friend.
However, the Lord is revealing to me that I’m not helping anyone when I shoulder troubles that aren’t mine. My friends might cast their burdens on me, but my desire to carry their problems goes against Scripture. Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you…” Can I listen and care? Yes. Can I pray for and with them? Absolutely. But, I must not take their struggles as my own because when I do, I fail to point them to Christ. I don’t want them to unload on me and feel better. Instead, I want to point them to the only One who can help.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~Matthew 11:28-29
Now, replace the word “friend” in the scenario above with “children” or “husband.” It isn’t just for my friends that I stretch myself. I take on my own family’s issues and believe it is up to me to make everything better. When my husband is discouraged or finds himself in a season of doubt, I assume it is my role to bring joy back into his life. Reminding him of Scripture is where my responsibility stops because God’s Word will not return void.
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:11.
My daughter is struggling with pride, and I assume it is my responsibility to point out her sin and convict her heart. But that only puts a strain on our relationship and prevents me from trusting God to call her to Himself. I will indeed correct and instruct her, but it is not my responsibility to change her heart. My job to point her to the One who can.
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins… ~ Acts 2:37-38
My son feels left out at school so I say all the right things to comfort him, but I am not teaching him to share his feelings with Jesus. I’m keeping him from being comforted by the Holy Spirit.
If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. ~John 14:16
When I take sin struggles, heartaches, and discontentments on as my responsibilities, I end up feeling discombobulated. And the reason is that I’m not called to assume those roles. They are God’s to carry, not mine. I cannot be the savior, redeemer, or miracle worker that my husband, children, or friends might need and any given moment. When I assume it is up to me to be the schedule-keeper, organizer, peace-maker, joy-bringer, and load-lightener, I rob my family and friends from encountering God. I also rob myself. Because when I assume it is all up to me… I’m relying on my strength and not tapping into the power of Christ.
I don’t want to be a weak wife, but when I carry around burdens that aren’t mine, I am nothing more than a pulled-to-the-max-by-each-extremity Stretch Armstrong. I don’t want my marriage to suffer because I’m emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically worn thin by the burdens of those around me. I must remember that the Lord wants to rush in to comfort and convict, restore and redeem. It’s time to get out of His way.
This is what the LORD says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” ~2 Chronicles 20:15
Please note, I am not saying we cannot come alongside our family and friends who are hurting. In fact, the Bible does speak to this. In Romans 12:15 we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Likewise, in Galatians 6:2 we are told to carry each other’s burdens. It is very important for the body of Christ to be active in the lives of those around them. The point I’m making in this post is that when we try to take other people’s burdens on as our own and assume responsibility for fixing those struggles, our marriages suffer. Healthy emotional boundaries are necessary so that we can help carry the burdens of others without assuming we must bring about the solution by ourselves.
Are you stretched too thin? What burdens are you carrying that belong to the Lord?
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