When your burden doesn’t look heavy (and how to help)

I will admit something straightaway, with (relatively) no shame: I have never been fashionable.

When I was sixteen, studying for A Levels, it was the nineties and army bags were The Thing. Not great big ones with camouflage, the smaller ones that look like they’re made out of hessian sack material, the ones with thin, adjustable straps.

I did try. I was almost-fashionable. I bought the army bag just like my friends. But mine didn’t have cool slogans written in Tippex or marker pen. My other failure was that I didn’t wear it properly – my cool friends all had the straps loose, wore the bag over one shoulder and slung it around in a careless fashion. My blank, un-defaced bag always had the straps tight and short, over both my shoulders.

The thing is: I had to wear it that way because I was carrying so much. In the days of three A Levels, I was doing four, and I had four lever-arch files, an A4 notepad and approximately one million books to carry each day. I squeezed it all into the small bag, and the straps dug into my shoulders each step I took. But no one knew.

One day, my Mum moved my bag to vacuum the hall – and couldn’t lift it. It had looked so small she hadn’t realised its weight.

“Gosh, Tanya, that’s heavy!” she said. And I looked, and admitted to myself, yes, it is heavy. The pain I feel every day is not because I am weak or unusual, but because the burden I carry is heavy. And although it doesn’t look like much to others, if they were carrying it they would know how hard it is. It was a throwaway remark, but I remembered it because it validated what I felt.


It is a gift to have someone else describe your life truly. Maybe you’re someone who feels like you’re weaker than everyone else, and you don’t know why.

Only a caring friend can hold an accurate mirror up to our lives. You need a friend to say, ‘the burden you’re carrying is heavy.’ You’re carrying too much, and that’s why it’s hard. Maybe you will hear that, and you will cry because in your soul you knew it was heavy, too heavy, but no one else had noticed.

Maybe you’re someone who’s supporting someone else. Never underestimate the power of speaking the seemingly obvious. 

  • You’re massively sleep-deprived.
  • It’s hard to be chronically ill.
  • It’s exhausting parenting young kids.
  • You’re working really long hours.
  • Grief takes up a lot of energy.
  • You have been looking after others for so long.
  • You are carrying so much.

This is what friendship does. You can’t necessarily take the burden away – but you can look at it, pick it up, and say, ‘Gosh, that’s heavy’, and when the friend puts it on their shoulders again, it will feel a little lighter.

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Prov 17:17

Over to you:

  • To whom do you need to say, ‘that burden you’re carrying is heavy’?
  • When has it been a relief for someone to describe your life truly, even if it doesn’t change anything?


'Never underestimate the power of speaking the seemingly obvious.' @Tanya_Marlow- When Your Burden Doesn't Look Heavy Click To Tweet The power of telling someone 'you are carrying too much.' @Tanya_Marlow - When Your Burden Doesn't Look Heavy Click To Tweet 'Only a caring friend can hold an accurate mirror to our lives.' @Tanya_Marlow - When Your Burden Doesn't Look Heavy Click To Tweet

Joining with #fiveminutefriday. This was my best five ten minutes on Burden.

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7 Responses to When your burden doesn’t look heavy (and how to help)

  1. Tara 12th November, 2018 at 2:34 am #

    What a great reminder to acknowledge each of our unique burdens. Even if we have not been there, you are right, we need to still let people know that we see how it wears on their shoulders. Ironically I too carried my backpack on two shoulders and also had a pile of book in my arms….my friends simply declared that i was meant for the 50’s.

  2. Joy Lenton 10th November, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    Beautifully written, Tanya. Would you believe we had those bags in the 70’s as well? Or something very similar at least. Fashion spins in cycles, doesn’t it? However, I think that being fashionable is overrated, much like perfectionism. It’s preferable to be true to ourselves, unique and lovably human as well. Thank you for being a friend (such as you have described) for the weak and marginalised. Our burdens do feel lighter for being acknowledged and shared. You definitely play your part in helping others to feel less alone. <3

  3. MARGARET 10th November, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    I need prayer, my burden is heavy with disabilities and caring for a family member for 40 years it’s getting harder both in our 60s now.
    I don’t have friends or support I empathise with your right up thank you.
    Yes if any of you have people you can encourage go ahead and do it I know it would mean the world to me.

  4. Naomi Hill 10th November, 2018 at 11:35 am #

    love this – from our little bit of interaction I’d say this is one of your gifts Tanya – thank you for using it! xx

  5. MARGARET 9th November, 2018 at 11:12 pm #

    I can personally relate to this. I have been looking after someone for so long I am tired and worn, no one notices.
    I’m in physical pain and weary, I am so fatigued.
    I had to take 6 buses to two different hospitals with chronic disability to support a close family member for his 2 appts today.
    My big brother we are both in our sixties but I have looked after him for 40 years.
    It’s getting harder but altho I have no friends.. I know God will see me through. Thank you for your nice write up please pray for me will you.
    Thank you God bless

  6. Vicki Johnson 9th November, 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    Great post! All it takes is knowing that one other person really cares about us and the burden(s) we carry and it’s enough. Your word picture of the “little burden” is perfect! thanks for this!
    Visiting from #28. God bless!


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