Bearing one another’s burdens

Published 10:36pm Friday, October 4, 2013

Gabriel Byrne portrayed Paul Weston, a therapist on the TV program “In Treatment.” I caught a few episodes when our cable company gave a preview, and later rented the series.

I watched in amazement as Dr. Weston probed the issues and brought about breakthroughs for his patients.

But Paul was often clueless about himself! For example, Laura was simply a vamp. Paul knew this, and knew he should refer her to another therapist, but he wouldn’t do so. And Paul’s wife, Kate, messed up. A little tenderness could perhaps have healed their broken marriage, but Paul kept reminding Kate that she failed.

Paul did have the good sense to talk with an old friend, Gina, who made an insightful comment.

“Paul,” she said, “we often see clearly the patterns in the lives of others but not our own.”

I’m quite sure this is true for us all.

I heard Dr. Jimmy Allen a number of years ago teach about the Christian solider Paul described in Ephesians 6: the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. Allen pronounced this soldier completely defended save in one area.

“This solider is vulnerable to an attack from the rear,” he said. “He needs someone to watch his back.”

I thought about this lately when a woman asked me about an issue in her church. Her pastor is apparently a bit out of touch over a matter that has potential of becoming a larger issue.

The Ministering to Ministers Foundation has recommended for years that every pastor have a “feedback group” in his church. This is an informal group of three or four respected church members who know the pulse of the congregation. MTM says the pastor should bring this group together occasionally and ask, “How are things going? How am I doing?”

Of course it takes a confident pastor to submit to some of the possible judgments, but the pastor is wise if he listens to his leaders. They watch his back.

The pastor needs some folks who watch his back, but the rest of us do, too.

One way we do this is with a support group. Ideally that’s what a Sunday School class is — a group of believers who love, support and pray for each other. Sometimes believers join their fellow church members at another time and in another place during the week for Bible study, sharing and prayer. Some do this with a group outside their own church.

We all need support in dealing with blind areas in our lives. We must have some folk who love us and can tell us the truth, even when it’s painful — they watch our back.

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