Have you ever felt a pressing need to take action, even when you can’t explain why? Many believers find themselves called to particular causes or purposes that seem to come out of nowhere. If this resonates with you, you may be experiencing a ‘God-given burden’ – a stirring of the spirit to carry out important work.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: When Christians feel unusually compelled to address a specific issue or need, they often describe it as having a ‘burden’ or calling from God.
This indicates the Holy Spirit is motivating them to take action, though the reason may not be clear initially.
In this article, we’ll explore biblical examples of God-given burdens, how to discern if a burden is truly from God, what to do when you feel called to action, and more. We’ll provide guidance on responding faithfully when you believe God is placing a special assignment on your heart.
Examples of God-Given Burdens in the Bible
Moses and the Israelites
Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. This was an enormous burden that Moses initially resisted, citing his own inadequacies as a leader (Exodus 3-4). However, God promised to be with Moses and provided miraculous signs to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
Though the journey was difficult through the wilderness, Moses persisted in following God’s call.
Leading the stiff-necked and rebellious Israelites was quite a heavy load for Moses. Yet he continued interceding for them before God, even after they worshipped the golden calf. Moses’ heart for the people was shaped by God’s own longsuffering nature (Exodus 32:11-14).
The entire experience humbled Moses and created complete dependence on God.
Paul’s Missionary Journeys
The apostle Paul was intensely burdened by God to spread the gospel across the Gentile world. Though Paul was highly educated and skilled, he was quick to acknowledge that “God …called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me” (Galatians 1:15-16).
Paul was overwhelmed by the responsibility, stating, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks” (Romans 1:14). He was compelled by love to share the Good News despite enormous hardship and persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Paul’s burning passion led him on three arduous missionary journeys to spread the message of Christ. He took the gospel through modern day Syria, Turkey, Greece, and beyond. The burden to see souls saved kept Paul going even when exhausted, hungry, cold, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:25-27).
Like Paul, when our burden comes from God, we can accomplish more than our strength alone could withstand.
Nehemiah’s Burden for Jerusalem
When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem’s walls and gates were still in ruins years after the Babylonian destruction, he mourned, fasted, and prayed for days (Nehemiah 1:4). Though Nehemiah had a comfortable position as an official in the Persian empire, he had a deep burden to rebuild and restore Jerusalem to bless his struggling people.
After earnestly praying and planning, Nehemiah courageously asked the Persian king Artaxerxes to allow him to undertake the great project. In 52 days, the walls were rebuilt despite intense opposition (Nehemiah 6:15).
Like Nehemiah, we may be called to leave comfort behind and make sacrifices to accomplish what God has burdened our hearts with. With strategic preparation, trust in God’s help, and steadfast determination, mighty things can be achieved.
How to Discern if a Burden is From God
It Aligns with God’s Character and Word
A burden that aligns with God’s character described in the Bible is more likely to be from Him. For example, burdens for justice, mercy, evangelism, and caring for the poor exemplify God’s concerns. Additionally, any sense of calling should align with clear biblical truths and principles.
GotQuestions.org is a good reference for checking the Bible on important issues.
It’s Confirmed by Wise Counsel and Prayer
Getting unbiased, biblical counsel from spiritually mature Christians helps test inner senses of purpose. Fellow believers can reflect back blind spots, faulty thinking, or possible self-deception. Their detached feedback provides a kind of spiritual mirror.
Likewise, persevering prayer, both individually and with trusted faith partners, opens awareness to God’s Spirit speaking or shifting the burden. Praying in the Spirit generates clarity from God’s heart to ours.
It Produces Spiritual Fruit in Your Life
An authentic calling from God bears good fruit even during difficult seasons. As we step out in obedience to inner promptings, we can expect to see increasing measures of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Furthermore, Matthew 7:15-20 shows that discernment involves assessing the kind of fruit something produces. God doesn’t lead His children down pointless rabbit trails. Rather, He redeems their steps for good.
What to Do When You Feel Burdened by God
Commit it to Prayer
When you feel like God has placed a burden on your heart, the first thing to do is commit it to prayer. Spend time in earnest prayer, laying your heart before God. Ask Him to confirm if this burden is truly from Him or not. Ask for wisdom, clarity, and guidance on what steps to take next.
The more time you spend seeking God in prayer over the burden, the more He will make His will clear (James 1:5). As you pray, listen for God’s still, small voice speaking to your spirit about what to do next. Be patient and trust His timing and leading through prayer.
Take Steps of Faith
Once you have spent time in prayer and are sure the burden on your heart is from God, begin taking steps of faith to carry it out. These steps may seem small at first, like sharing the vision with trusted friends or making a plan of action.
But every step of obedience will build your faith and clarity. As you follow where God leads, doors will open to accomplish His purposes. Be bold and courageous in following His call, not shrinking back when challenges arise.
Take steps forward when He gives the green light, trusting Him to equip you for the task at hand (Hebrews 11:8). Surround yourself with faith-filled people who will support and strengthen you on the journey.
Persevere Through Resistance
Fulfilling a God-given burden often requires perseverance through resistance. The enemy will try to discourage and distract you from completing the work. Expect spiritual attacks like doubt, fatigue, criticism from others, and obstacles to arise.
But stand firm in the calling God has placed on your life. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and trust in His strength to sustain you (Galatians 6:9). Surround yourself with prayer warriors who will lift you up when you feel weak. Stay grounded in the Word of God, which revives the soul.
If God called you to the task, He will equip and uphold you to complete it. Allow the passion He’s placed in your heart to drive you forward. God rewards those who diligently and faithfully carry the burdens He’s assigned them (Hebrews 11:6).
Being Patient for God’s Timing and Will
When God places a burden on our hearts, it can be difficult to wait patiently for His timing and will to unfold. However, the Bible reminds us that God’s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Here are some things to remember when waiting on the Lord:
Trust in God’s Plan
Even when we don’t understand God’s plan, we can trust that He knows what He’s doing. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Rest in the fact that God sees the full picture while we see only a part.
Seek God Patiently
Rather than striving in our own effort, we need to patiently seek God and wait for clear direction from Him. “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).
Stay connected to God through prayer, Bible study, and community while waiting.
Look for God’s Open and Closed Doors
As we step out in faith, God will direct our paths by closing some doors and opening others. But we need to wait patiently rather than rushing ahead. “Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16). Watch for God’s green lights and red lights rather than barging through closed doors.
Grow in Godly Character
Waiting times are growing times if we allow God to shape our character. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
As we wait, God develops virtues like patience, trust, perseverance, and hope.
The great news is that while we wait on the Lord, He waits with us! “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
We can be confident that God will complete His good work in us (Philippians 1:6).
Supporting Others Called to Special Service
When we feel God calling us to a particular ministry or act of service, it can feel like a heavy burden to bear. However, we are not meant to carry these burdens alone. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to support one another in our spiritual journeys and acts of service.
Praying for Those Called
One of the most important ways we can support others who are responding to God’s call is through prayer. Set aside time each day to lift up those in your community who are stepping out in faith to serve others.
Pray that God will equip them for every good work, grant them wisdom and discernment, renew their strength when they grow weary, and surround them with encouragement and support.
Offering Practical Help
Think of practical ways you can come alongside those engaged in ministry and service. Can you provide a meal, help with childcare, donate supplies, or assist with administrative tasks? Even small acts of service can make a big difference in allowing someone to fully devote themselves to God’s calling on their lives.
Look for specific needs you can meet instead of vague offers of support.
Sharing Words of Affirmation
Don’t underestimate the power of speaking words of encouragement and affirmation. Remind those serving others of the kingdom impact they are making and the example they are setting. Tell them you are praying for them and provide specific praise for the character, gifts, and fruits you see God cultivating in them.
Your words can inspire them to continue persevering in difficult seasons of ministry.
Use your personal and professional networks to connect those engaged in special service with people, organizations, and resources that can assist with their work. Make introductions, share information about funding sources or training opportunities, promote their ministry to others, and leverage your influence, relationships, and knowledge to remove obstacles they may face.
Help expand their capacity and increase their effectiveness through your connections.
As Hebrews 10:24 reminds us, we should consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Come alongside fellow members of Christ’s body with support, encouragement, and service—lightening the burden of those carrying out God’s special callings in their lives.
Our partnership advances the work of the Kingdom as a whole.
When God stirs your spirit towards action, you can have confidence that He has appointed you to carry out His work. While a God-given burden often involves sacrifice, we can trust that He equips those He calls.
By responding in faith, you’ll experience the blessing and fulfillment that comes from walking in His purpose for your life.
Through scriptural wisdom and prayerful discernment, you can navigate when you feel uniquely burdened by the Holy Spirit. Stay open and obedient to how God leads. Your willingness to serve will make an eternal difference according to His perfect timing and plan.