I ran track in college and periodically we would travel to meets around the state. After one indoor track meet we traveled on a charter bus through some pretty nasty winter weather. We were a couple hours from home when our bus driver spotted a car that had slid into a ditch. He, being a caring person, proceeded to pull over in order to help out the person in the stranded car. As he got closer to the side of the road and put on his brakes, the bus started to slide, and we skidded into the ditch, tilting at a precarious angle. The people around me looked on in fear and held onto their seats as the bus slowly came to a stop. We were stranded in a leaning bus for a few hours that night.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. (Galatians 6:1-5

This passage tells the story of two people. It tells the story of you, the believer who has a spiritual load to carry. It also tells the story of a believer who has been caught in a sin. He is overwhelmed by the weight of this sin (almost by surprise), and now he needs help to get out from under the weight of this sin.

We are all messed up, marred and broken by sin. So how can any of us say that we have it together enough to be able to help someone else?

Though we are all stuck with the nasty effects of sin, we are not always incapacitated by the burden by sin. This is like the difference between me trying to carry a cup of coffee, my laptop case, and a stack of books out to my car or just carrying a backpack. (By the way, I’m fine until I try to open the car door.) We can handle a backpack. This is our own spiritual life. We daily deal with sin. We daily die to sin. We daily live in our baptism. We daily live out our faith. This is our backpack. This is our daily load. This is not the same as the overwhelming burden that our brother or sister is experiencing. We are free to open the door, hold the cup of coffee, take the stack of books, whatever we can do to help because we only have a backpack.

The Holy Spirit has given us faith in Christ who sets us free from the bondage of sin, He also helps us to walk with Him in helping our brothers and sisters who are stuck. So God tells us to help the overwhelmed, to watch ourselves, and be careful…we do have a few things to watch out for.

Examine yourself first
Even though you might feel fine about your spiritual life, check yourself before you dive into someone else’s world of sin. Look at your struggles, past and present. Is this the right time to mentor someone? Get input from those whose insight you trust. Pray for God’s guidance and the strength to help someone who’s hurting.

Consider your commitment and know your boundaries
What is a healthy amount of time and energy to commit to mentoring someone who needs support? How much are you willing to do? Think about what you are comfortable doing and not doing and set some boundaries for yourself. When should you consult a professional counselor? Decide ahead of time where the boundaries are and stick to them.

Have a Goal (Preferably Not Your Own)
How will you know when you’ve helped enough? How will you know when the person is ready to move on? Ask him. Have him come up with the goal or plan to deal with his struggles. You will be along for the ride, but that doesn’t mean you have to pick the route.

Have an Exit Plan
When will you be done? How will you know when to step out of the situation? Because of your boundaries, you might have to stop helping before the burden is lifted. If this is the case, it’s better to have someone else in mind to step in when you need to back out. Best case scenario – you stepped in to help a sister in Christ and after a time of support and mentoring she is ready to move on. Think of what that moment will look like so you can step out of the situation and celebrate it.