Friday, October 12, 2012

What Suffering Can Teach

Taking a step outside everyday life for a day or two is always good for new perspective.

Last weekend, I traveled to visit someone close to me. She is very ill, and I had not seen her in awhile. I was not sure if this might even be the last time that I see her alive on this earth.

When I entered the room, I noticed the sound of the oxygen machine running. The smells. The feel of awkward silence and sickness. It is almost like people have visible thought bubbles above their heads in situations like this, saying "Why did this happen?" and "Why this suffering?" Also, "What do I say?" and "What should I do?"

I do not have great wisdom about suffering. But I did realize a few things during this visit. I had not felt uncomfortable. I had prayed with her, touched her, hugged her, looked into her eyes and spoke words of comfort to her. I showed her pictures of the kids and told her funny stories. I made her smile. I knew she was glad I had come.

I realized that I had learned all of this from the many times when Lilli was in the hospital. I was not afraid of the medical equipment because it was familiar to me. I remember how it felt to have people come and visit us. Lilli has been in the hospital many times. I have been in the hospital a few times myself. I remember that the best things people did that brought us comfort had to do with simply being there. Flowers made the room beautiful, cards with heartfelt words and long distance phone calls were touching. Gifts were appreciated. But visiting us, hugging us, praying with us, talking with us, and simply sitting in a chair there in the room with us - that brought us comfort. People came and did small things like get us drinks or snacks. People touched and talked lovingly to Lilli (even when she could not respond), and told us things that made us smile. Many prayed. Some stayed for only a few awkward moments, while others stayed for hours or came day after day. I do not remember all of the gifts or flowers, but I do remember faces. I remember who was there. I remember who came.

When we suffer, we do not know any of the answers to the "whys?" Suffering can bring crushing heartbreak and desperate sadness.  Most of the time we cannot possibly understand how any good can come out of our suffering. Most of us try to wrap our head around the whys and the why nots.

We all suffer. All of us do. Something happens when one person who understands suffering connects with another person who understands suffering. There is something inexplicable about the experience. It is almost impossible to be prideful. Many people learn humility as they learn to accept help from others. We cannot help but see a different perspective on life. The truly important things are revealed as the frivolous fades into the background.

I love how the Bible tells us to do things that are not comfortable. Jesus tells us to look after the sick. That's because it does not come naturally to most of us. I know it never came naturally to me. Many people will use the excuse, "Oh, I hate hospitals, but I will send flowers." But I can tell you from experience that hugging a beautiful flower arrangement is just not the same.

Whenever I write something like this, I always wonder if readers think I am implying that I am better than others. Wow, I am writing this because I realize how wretched I really am. It really is true; the Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me. I am learning slowly, and just sharing what I learn along the way.

The words in 2 Corinthians say that Jesus is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. It says that He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

No one wants to experience suffering. But suffering reveals a lot in a person. Suffering refines us, and teaches us.Though I do not want to suffer, I have learned much through it. And I have learned about the God of all comfort.

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