Sorting by

Skip to main content

My favorite line in the Belhar Confession tells us that the church’s job is “to know and bear one another’s burdens.”

I think about this all the time. Not the bearing part — the knowing.

I remember reading a post on Glennon Melton’s Momastery blog a long time ago, a post about sitting on a park bench with someone she barely knew and suddenly deciding to divulge that she was a recovering addict, probably had postpartum depression, and wasn’t sure her marriage would last. And the woman beside her, after a long blank stare, opened her mouth and told her own truth, which desperately needed telling if it ever was to heal. They saved each other on that park bench that day.

That’s church.

I remember hearing a brave young woman speak in front of a sanctuary full of college students about an addiction to pornography. She called it “the gift of going first.” The relief among those students, so locked into their own shame, was palpable. They, too, could their truth, and be set free.


Ours is a culture that hides weakness. I don’t think I’m the only one who hunkers down when the going gets tough, who draws inward. And maybe worse, ours is a culture that projects strength, happiness, even when things are at their worst. Maybe we’re just so used to the idea that anything can sell if it’s marketed right — we’re trying to sell ourselves on our own lives. Sometimes I wonder if us church folks are the worst perpetrators of this ruse, if we’ve led ourselves to believe that the projection of joy is the same thing as the experience of it, or at least that we can fake it til we make it.

It was the Apostle Paul who told us that, to fulfill the law of Christ, we must bear one another’s burdens. But it was the writers of the Belhar who rightly added the word that, I believe, makes all the difference “for such a time as this.”

In order for a burden to be borne, it must first be known.



Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    So simple, and so necessary. So much the gospel.

  • Kathy Sneller Davelaar says:

    Thank you Kate. Eloquent truth.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks, Kate. It is difficult to open up. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Marjorie VanderWagen says:

    Everything you say is true. As an ordained minister, I felt compelled to hide my grief when my husband of 50 years died. After all, I was a pastor, I should show strength and faith in God. I should be a solid encouraging example of how God carries you through tragedy.
    But I am a human in need of consolation from other humans. If they don’t know or guess my state, how can they comfort?
    Non-church support groups were my answer.

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    Yes, yes, maybe and “be very careful” … sharing our sorrows, our needs, our fears and foibles, our sin, if you will, with one another can be fruitful, for everyone. But care and reason are needed … you mention the young college girl before a full sanctuary … in some instances, the repercussions of this public utterance have been seriously damaging to the one who shared. I am reminded of the “public confession” required in some traditions, especially with regard to out-of-wedlock pregnancy … which is mostly about shame and control … allowing the community to feel smug, and the “confessed sinner” perhaps a later target of whispered rumors or outright rejection. Sometimes, I’m reminded of the “testimony” time in some traditions, where the “confession” is more about ego than truth, and more about lifting up the “victorious self.” Anyway, the park bench moment is, perhaps, a god-given moment, a surprise, a listening ear without too much hoopla. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, the stuff of community, and what it takes to build us all up, but not everyone in the community can, as Jack Nicolson said, “handle the truth.”

  • David Stravers says:

    Thanks Kate, and Amen! If we do not know what to pray, we cannot know when prayers are answered, and God cannot be honored. Jesus demanded public acknowledgement of healing from the woman with the issue of blood. It seems to me that Dutch-Americans have a more difficult time with this, and prefer to keep silent regarding their needs, even when those needs are not embarrassing. Why is this?

  • Arlen says:

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks,
    However I am experiencing problems with your RSS.
    I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having
    the same RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond?

Leave a Reply