"Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
". . . for everyone should carry their own load." (Galatians 6:5)
Two verses in the same passage that almost seem to be contradicting each other.
. . . Or maybe not . . .
How can both of these be true at the same time?
As I've wrestled with these ideas - carrying each other's burdens and carrying our own loads - I've realized Paul is actually talking about two different, although related, things here. English makes them look and sound the same at a glance.
In Galatians 6:5 when he talks about each person carrying their own load, Paul is talking about being responsible for your own life - for what you have. It's about living your life in such a way that you are looking after yourself, not choosing to be unreasonably dependent on others because of laziness or unwillingness. This is a key part of living well in community with others.
When Paul talks about carrying each other's burdens in Galatians 6:2, he is talking about those times in life when it gets really hard and those things outside "normal" life burdens. These are the times when the storms come and we might be overwhelmed. It's in these times that we need other Christians in our community to come alongside and help us carry the extra burden.
Having people be able to help us carry the extra burden is only possible if we're each carrying our own load. If we've been refusing to carry our own load, we'll likely find that others are unable of unwilling to help us now.
Unable because they're already carrying something for us that we should be carrying. Unwilling because they've watched us refuse to carry what we should. Either way, if we've placed ourselves in this position, we're in trouble. That's why Paul is so clear that we need to carry our own load, so that we can also help carry each other's burdens when necessary.