All the screaming in the world can’t bear our heaviest burdens.
ou’ve gotta hear this album that just came out!” My roommate grabbed me one evening in the fall of 2000 during the height of the Britney Spears pop era. I’d known him since we were about 12. He always into music, and we even played in bands and toured together a bit. We’d been complaining about the lack of honesty in the music industry and hadn’t seen anything fresh hit the mainstream in quite awhile. Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory
was exactly what we’d been waiting for.
We sat and listened, mesmerized by Chester Bennington’s ability to change from a scream to a quiet whisper in the same verse of a song. The heaviness of the music appealed to my 90s-groomed punk rock sensibilities; every song had melodic hooks and memorable lyrics, deeply personal and honest. From the opening lyrics of “Papercut” (“Why does it feel like night today?”), it was obvious Bennington was a man with an intense internal battle.
Both of us were transfixed and played the album on repeat for weeks.
A few weeks later I found my roommate passed out on the floor in our bathroom. He had been struggling with depression for years and had cold-turkey stopped taking his antidepressant that he’d been prescribed. Something snapped in his head that day as he stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, and he started punching himself in the face. I walked in a few minutes after he’d knocked himself out.
It freaked me out. I didn’t know how to respond. So I didn’t.
He eventually moved out in a not-so-healthy state of mind and we lost contact. I can’t help but wonder if I had just opened my mouth and said something that things would have been different. But as it was, he was just...gone.
And then I was angry—not at him, but at myself. First, for not knowing how to help; second, for being paralyzed by fear to the point of not even trying to help. And I beat myself up internally with condemnation for my lack of action.
Flash forward 17 years to Linkin Park’s song “Heavy,” which I first heard on the radio back in March of this year. Bennington starts off by stating “I don’t like my mind right now.” Here’s the chorus:
I'm holding on
Why is everything so heavy?
To so much more than I can carry
I keep dragging around what's bringing me down
If I just let go, I'd be set free
Why is everything so heavy?
The video for the song culminates in Bennington staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, and suddenly he’s in a nasty fistfight with a double of himself.
Chester Bennington, one of the biggest musical influences of my 20's, committed suicide on July 20. I can't help but contemplate his lyrics now and how he's been screaming for help for nearly two decades in his songs and only just now we've discovered he was serious. And now it’s too late. He’s gone.
I’m reminded of Paul’s struggle as expressed in Romans 7:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing . . . what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Paul is basically saying that each one of us is born into a sort of civil war within ourselves. Bennington screams the struggle in his lyrics, my roommate violently acted it out and I secretly fought myself inside my own head.
I still do. I struggle even now to write this admission. I’m convinced we all struggle. We’re all at war inside, and it seems like suicide is becoming an epidemic in today’s world. Via technology we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but that connection is curated to put our best face forward to the world, and we suffer quietly. We fight our battles in isolation and some fall to suicide like a soldier in battle that doesn't have a buddy covering his back. The world’s answer to this struggle is typically distraction—ignore the problem, escape into the momentary pleasures of sex, alcohol or adrenaline, but the escape is temporary. It doesn’t provide an answer, and we’re left feeling alone and heavy.
Jesus says this about feeling heavy:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
A yoke is designed to strap onto oxen to pull a load. But it’s never for just one ox. It’s designed for two, and Jesus is saying he’s strapped in next to us, pulling the burden and taking the heavy onto his own shoulders. The next time you’re straining against what feels like the weight of the world on your shoulders, remember that Jesus is next to you, pulling the load.
Frederick Buechner said this in his book Telling Secrets
: “It is important to tell our secrets, too; because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . .”
Bennington has been screaming his secrets for years and yet it didn’t help him. I can’t speak for the people around him or his spiritual life, but I do know that my roommate’s violent actions so long ago were also a loud cry for help, and I met his cry with silence. Perhaps if I had opened up to him about my fear regarding his situation, he’d have been able to open up about the war in his own head.
Galatians 6:2 reminds us to bear each other’s burdens. I think Jesus often does his burden-bearing through people. When someone near us is struggling, we need to come alongside and allow the power of God’s Spirit to work through us to help bear the weight. It’s still not always natural feeling for me to do this, but each time I yield and experience God’s power at work, either through me or another brother or sister in the church, I trust him more in the next struggle.
Buechner goes on to say:
Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.
The more we bear each other’s struggles and expose our own, the more we discover the reality of the loving and merciful Jesus, who comes alongside to bear our burdens. Remember, he gets it. He’s well acquainted with anguish and isolation:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and after conquering death itself, sat down at the right hand of God. Death no longer has victory, it no longer has the final word. Through Jesus, we have the hope of eternal life. We don’t have to be afraid, for God’s Spirit resides in us, helping us bear the weight along the way. And one day, Jesus will wipe away every tear and right every wrong.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).