Mother Teresa was a small woman with a strong back. I learned of her incredible strength reading Malcolm Muggeridge’s classic, Something Beautiful For God. In the book, Muggeridge recounts a conversation he had with Mother Teresa about the early days of her work and the founding of the Home for the Dying.
Malcolm: “When you say Home for the Dying, you mean that these are people on the streets who have been abandoned and are dying.”
Mother Teresa: “Yes, the first woman I saw I myself picked up from the street. She had been half-eaten by rats and ants. I took her to the hospital but they could not do anything for her. They only took her in because I refused to move until they accepted her.”
Mother Teresa exercised what I call, “The ministry of the strong back.” It is a ministry that God calls all believers to join:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.Galatians 6:1-5 ESV
The ministry of the strong back is bearing the burdens of others. That could be pulling the dying off the streets of Calcutta, but it will more likely be pulling a grieving person close to our side, helping a friend who is in a bind, easing someone’s financial load, praying for a person at a moment of crisis, relieving the stressed-out mom for a couple of hours, or telling a ministry leader you can be counted on to serve. There are all kinds of burdens we can carry on our backs: emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, relational, and vocational burdens just to name a few.
The ministry of the strong back takes more than muscle; it requires an uncompromising resolve. God calls us to enter into the pain of others and carry some of it away with us. That isn’t easy or convenient. However, when we do it we obey Jesus who carried the biggest burden of all, and we take an important step in fulfilling his law—the law of love.
Lord, help me see the burdens of others today. Give me a strong back and an uncompromising resolve to help!