My sister, Karen, and my mom and I went to Sea World in San Diego on Monday. Karen and I took turns pushing my mom in a wheelchair. I’ve pushed strollers in the past, of course, but I think this is the first time I’ve pushed someone in a wheelchair. I’d never realized how unwieldy a wheelchair is. It’s not easy to quickly change direction or stop quickly. In the crowds at Sea World it was a challenge. It was frustrating when people would walk straight toward us and expect us to maneuver to avoid them. I’m sure I’ve done the same thing to others and I finished the day determined to be more sensitive and compassionate to those in wheelchairs.

During the day, I thought of Galatians 6:2,5: Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For each one will bear his own load” (NASB).

These two verses have always fascinated me because they seem like the opposite. First Paul says to bear someone’s burden and then he says they should bear their own load. Hmm. What’s going on here?

The key is in the word meanings of “burden” and “load.” A burden is something someone cannot carry on their own. A load is something they can. We shouldn’t take on a load because we strip the other person of depending upon God to take care of something they are capable of doing in His power. But we should help the person whose burden is too much for them.

As I pushed the wheelchair, I felt like saying, “Look, people, this is a burden, not a load. Ya gotta give me some space.”

People with a load should be encouraged to call upon God to help them shoulder what they’re facing. Otherwise we could easily become their Helper when God is supposed to be that for them. But people with a burden need God’s help with skin on. They have a hard time maneuvering through life. They need extra help. We may need to give them extra grace and give them extra space to cope. Or they may need someone to point specifically the way.

Knowing whether someone is carrying a burden or a load is the hard part. And some people are really good at trying to convince you they have a burden when it’s actually a load. It feels very uncomfortable to not help more than God wants us to. We may feel like we’re not being loving or kind. But God knows that they need to call upon Him.

What have you found helpful or important to remember when deciding who and how to help?

I do know one thing. Give space to those in wheelchairs. They really don’t want to plow into you.