As I approached the door I scanned the amount of vehicles parked outside the house, which told me there were a lot of people inside. I rang the door bell could hear laughter and voices in conversation, all the sounds you would expect to hear from an ongoing party. The door opened and as I was invited in I inwardly sighed, “Here we go.” I walked into the room, looked for a seat in a corner, sat down, and began attempting not to feel. This never works, and by the time I left the party I was feeling a vast range of emotions that I knew would eventually wash into one of feeling weary and tired. “I hate parties,” I told myself.
The above is a true scenario replayed many times in my life. It describes many of my experiences being in groups of large people. It was not until I was in my mid-twenties that I would discover language for this problem. I had no understanding of why I was affected in this way when in groups of people. I coped as best I could, which to be honest was not well. The problem, it turned out, was that I was a burden-bearer and a keen discerner, but did not know it.
Not knowing led me to become a solitary man. I enjoy being alone, perhaps an oddity to some, but for me it is a refuge. Not knowing, however, also led to some serious problems. I struggled with depression for years, and still do sometimes. I became intensely cynical of others, distrusting, and wanted to have very little to do with people. My emotional health suffered greatly as I rode conflicting waves of what I felt from those around me in the midst of my own very strong emotions. This would leave me inwardly exhausted and mysteriously angry. In short, not knowing was not a good thing. My response, or more properly said, my reaction was to avoid people, judge them, and to hide from them as much as possible.
I first learned about burden-bearing when I began to attend Samuel's Mantle, a prophetic school headed by Murray Dueck. It was here that I would discover what burden-bearing was and what life was like for those with the gift. I began to feel a great sense of relief as well. I was not crazy and there was a very real reason for some of my problems. Now the process of healing could begin, for I would learn how to not only live with my gifting, but how to properly respond to it.
When I walk into the room I am quickly affected by what others are feeling. Imagine it like this: there is a radar antenna in your spirit that picks up the signals others are emitting. The data comes in the form of feelings and emotions first. Now imagine how many different signals come hurtling towards you from a room full of people, and not just one from each, but multiple signals. It is easy to see how this can be overwhelming. The longer I am in a room filled with people the more I pick up on and the more of the feelings of others I begin to carry. Burden-bearers often express this overwhelmed state as “feeling heavy.” Without a proper response to the burdens and pain of others this is the inevitable overall feeling, but it is an evitable state.
Feeling and picking up the burdens of others is what I call the initial response. It is the raw emotional data burden-bearers begin with. When I walk into the room as a burden-bearer it works like this: I pick up from others their pain; their wounds, their anger, their frustration, their fear, etc... These are examples of what lie nearest the surface of the heart, even though we think they are the secret pains we hide deeply. What is deeper is far different, but we will discuss that in a little while.
One of two major spiritual signals I pick up on is the pain of others. The second group that my antenna picks up on is more insidious and it causes me to trip up more than the first: judgments. Understanding how this functions is extremely important for burden-bearers, so let me see if I can describe it clearly. When I walk into a room, I need to sort out two aspects of judgment that affect me. First, there are the judgments people make against themselves. These have very real power in a person's spirit. Imagine those who have judged themselves to be “losers.” This is how they view themselves and on a spiritual level it is as though they have put up a sign reading “Loser.” When a burden-bearer picks up on this judgment the initial response is not, “That person thinks of himself/herself as a loser,” but rather they feel what the sign reads: “Loser.” In a very real way the burden-bearer is drawn into that judgment and their initial response will be “That person is a loser.” An opinion of others is quickly formed, as we all know, and if we stop at the initial response we will leave feeling that the person is indeed a loser. Judgment has led to judgment.
The second type of judgment I pick up on are those imposed on a person by others. This aspect of judgment is so damaging it can only be described as cruel. It works like this, in keeping with our loser theme: Imagine a person who is judged by another as being “a loser.” What happens spiritually is that this judgment becomes a sign posted over the judged person that reads “Loser.” Wherever they go this sign follows. When I walk into the room I will feel this judgment and again my initial response will be, “That person is a loser.” Every time this judgment is affirmed by others in the spirit it is reinforced. The letters on the sign become bolder, louder if you will. The ultimate and cruel result is that the person so judged will, at some point, come to believe the judgments made against them. Then that judgment gains a power that will both lead to self judgment and even serve to fulfill it in some way. Our imaginary loser will begin to behave like a loser. This can be heard when someone says something like “Well everyone thinks I'm a loser, it must be true,” or “Everyone thinks I'm a hopeless addict… might as well get high.” Judgments defeat the human spirit.
Remember what I said about picking up on the surface of the heart. This is exactly where judgments sit, covering over the truth that God speaks about a person. If as a burden-bearer I stop at the initial response, seeing only what is on the surface of the heart, I am not truly operating in the gift of burden-bearing. Rather, I become a judge perpetuating the vicious cycle of judgment itself. Similarly, if I carry away the pain and burdens of others and never do anything about it, I become nothing more than an embittered dumping ground instead of operating in the actual gift of burden-bearing. A deeper response is needed.
This deeper response requires looking further than what is on the surface of another's heart. It requires a deeper understanding of how burden-bearing is meant to function, and it requires the help of the Holy Spirit. This deeper response is not complicated, thankfully. What is difficult is not being overwhelmed by the burdens of others and not allowing judgments to have the last word. The response of Jesus to us is always rooted in love. It is his love that burden-bearers turn to and allow to flow through their gifting.
When I walk into the room and I pick up on a judgment against someone there are two primary questions I have learned to ask the Holy Spirit. The scenario might go something like this: “Lord this person feels like a 'loser' to me” (this is the initial response). “Can you show me the treasure that is deeper in their heart?” With this simple request I begin to operate in my gift. First, I have engaged with Jesus instead of engaging with the judgment. Second, I am moving past the surface of what the person's heart is covered over with. Third, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to show me how he values the person instead of allowing myself to be drawn into the devaluing effect of the judgment. I am no longer in danger of participating in judgment, but move to a place of being able to bless the person. This leads very naturally into the next question, “Lord, how do you see this person?” I give Jesus the final word about others and in so doing, I get to see the truth about them. I have ministered to many people simply by sharing with them what Jesus has shared with me about the treasure he sees in their heart and how he views them. His words about people disarms the power of judgment and allows truth to overcome labels that are so often lies. Another question to ask could be, “Lord how do you feel about his person?” Such questions can so profoundly shift the burden-bearer's initial response to someone that they wonder how they could have responded that way in the first place.
When dealing with the pain, wounds and burdens of others I have come to understand that I cannot carry them for too long. Christ alone can bear our burdens fully. When I walk into the room and I begin to take on burdens I believe that this eases their own burdens to some degree. Their pain is made somewhat lighter in a sense. But I am not meant to carry that pain perpetually. The ultimate destination for burdens is into the hands of Jesus.
Bearing the burdens of others opens two powerful avenues of ministry to the person. I am able to pray for them with insight, for the gift reveals what ministry the person needs. This is where burden-bearing and other gifts of the Spirit begin to mix. It may become a word of knowledge or a prophetic message that directly addresses the burden. My practice in these times is to ask the Lord if what I am feeling and sensing is something he wants me to speak to the person about. If he says yes then I ask to pray for them and share what he has been showing me. If he says no, then I know that this is a burden that I will carry to him in intercession. When I carry such a burden to Jesus, I lift it up to him and ask that he take it. As he does, I ask that the person I picked it up from would receive from Jesus his love and what they need for that particular burden. Responding in these ways results in powerful ministry. This deeper response allows the gift of burden-bearing to operate as it is meant to and prevents burden-bearers from falling into the traps of the initial responses.
Life is not as neat and tidy as we would like it to be. What can really cause problems for burden-bearers is the overloading of their spirits with the generalized pain of others. This often happens when there is no opportunity to identify what burdens are coming from where and there is no time to take to speak with Jesus about what is happening. The longer I am in the midst of a large group of people the worse this generalized burden bearing becomes. This often leads to me wanting to leave parties and gatherings a little earlier than my wife would like, but thankfully she understands what is happening within me.
Most burden-bearers can also probably identify with this general feeling of sadness and weariness. They will feel it when they are finally alone at home. At these times I have found that if I pray for the Lord to receive any burdens I have picked up and to minister to each, he cleanses my spirit of the overload. I close this cleansing prayer by asking for peace and the burden of Jesus, which he promises will be light. This practice of cleansing prayer is something that I do a few times a week to prevent burdens from remaining in my hands for too long lest they overwhelm my heart. When I neglect this practice, it does not take long for me to realize that I need to do it.
For many burden-bearers the gift is a difficult one. It may even seem like a curse. Many people learn a little later in their lives that they have it, but by that time it has caused pain for them as well as confusion. I received very deep healing as I released years of burden-bearing to Jesus when I came to understand that I had this gift. The weight that lifted from my spirit was incredible, and I encourage anyone who thinks they may be a burden-bearer to find out so they can give what they carry into the proper hands. Though the gift is not an easy one to have, it can be an incredibly powerful way that Christ ministers to others through us. Though at times I still find myself overwhelmed, I now know that I have an opportunity to bring the love and ministry of Jesus with me when I walk into the room.