What is your coping strategy when the suffering gets to be too much? When the pain of every person, every crisis, every disaster of all times and in all places is your burden?
Our bodies will always tell us when we are overstepping our capacity for compassion and need to switch into coping mode. It usually happens when we refuse to accept our fragility and try to carry our cross too long, too far. We humans can only cross-carry in stages, not in a sprint or a marathon. The stages should go something like this --
When I hit my pain threshold, it helps to visualize Jesus on the cross: The Suffering Servant bearing the suffering of the world. The emotional weight transfers from my body to his. Some space is freed up in me. I confess my limits and marvel at his unlimited tolerance. I am reminded that there is nothing that he can not, will not bear for us. This is my coping strategy and how I hand the burden over, rest, and recover.
My friend does not find this image helpful.
As I pondered what visualization might be more meaningful to her, I came across a possibility in the Greek version of Mark 7:34. A group begs Jesus to heal a man who is deaf and has difficulty speaking. Jesus finds some privacy for the two of them away from the crowd,.and then . . . the Greek becomes unclear. Someone’s fingers go in someone’s ears, then someone spits and touches someone’s tongue.
The impreciseness of the Greek is an opportunity to use your imagination to fill in the details. I imagine Jesus putting the man’s index fingers into the man’s ears, Jesus spitting on one of his own index fingers to clean it off, and then touching the man’s tongue with the now sort-of clean finger.
Next, Jesus looks up to heaven and ἐστέναξεν. There are a couple of different ways to translate ἐστέναξεν, and they all have different connotations--
If the sound that Jesus makes is a loud noise, that would explain the need to stop up the ears of one not used to hearing sounds of any kind. But what type of utterance is Jesus making, and what does it mean?
There is a wealth of possible scenarios in Mark 7: 31-35, which means that there are many different ways your visualization could play out. Which one, if any, help you trust Jesus enough to hand over your burden to him? If I’m ever in a situation where the image of the cross isn’t working for me, my backup image will be Jesus groaning under the pressure of a burden that he willingly took on for someone else. However, the whole fingers-in-ears part of the Mark 7 story is a little too keystone cops for me, so I’m jumping ahead to Mark 8 for a more me-appropriate image.
In the pericope immediately following Mark 7, Jesus tells his disciples that he is moved by compassion for the crowds because they have no food. The word used to express his emotion in this situation is σπλαγχνίζομαι, and it means that Jesus was “moved in his inward parts,” or as I like to think of it, Jesus’ gut ached as he observed the plight of the hungry.
The fact that Jesus cares so much about the difficulties faced by others that his emotion is expressed in a physical form tells me that I can trust him with my concern for others. His aches and groans mean that he is fully engaged and present, not distant or objective. Also, Jesus isn’t just belly-aching about a problem; he is able to do something practical to alleviate the suffering he witnesses. He is a compassionate and relevant savior, and knowing this enables me to rest, trusting that my worries are in capable hands.
What image comes to mind when you imagine handing a burden over to Christ?