Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]. But if we are troubled and distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted and encouraged, it is for your comfort, which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same sufferings which we experience. And our hope for you [our confident expectation of good for you] is firmly grounded [assured and unshaken], since we know that just as you share as partners in our sufferings, so also you share as partners in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1 (AMP)
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I have referred to my mom’s lesson several times recently. It is insightful and encouraging. Two weeks ago tonight, as I was sitting by the hospital bed where my daddy was resting (not so comfortably) while recovering from heart surgery, I recalled the lesson. “Going though a trial is like learning a new language. You can speak to someone’s grief or pain like you could not before.”
I loved it when she said it. But that night I lived it. I learned a new language there in Vanderbilt Hospital’s care unit. And I believe this kind of language is what Paul was speaking about in his letter to the Corinthians.
The Intensive Care unit is … well, intense. It’s an eerie mix of the somber and the urgent.
The beeping noises are a disturbance and a distraction. None of it is how it should be. There should be laughing and chatting when I’m in the presence of one of the most cheerful fellas I know. He should be telling me all the stories and reminding me how to watch for the good things. His hand squeeze should be firm and hopeful. His smile should be big and reassuring.
It SHOULD be. But none of that IS.
I looked over to his bed. What a long and different night.
I SEE YOU, Daddy. You’re resting and healing. I hear you praying in whispers. It blesses me and humbles me. Even in your dream-like state, you must sense the nearness of God. I sure hope so.
As I fought for peace and joy and thankfulness there in that room, I realized that this was the first time I had been in that kind of situation. That reality in itself should have caused me to fall on my knees in worship! I know that it is SHEER MERCY. I am very aware that not every 57-year old daughter finds herself at the bedside of her recovering 82-year old daddy … for the very first time in her life. To think I have had the blessing of healthy parents for these 57 years is truly remarkable. Beyond that, they live holy and happy lives! My life is filled to the brim with the grace and goodness of God. That news probably makes it difficult for some to comprehend just how much I was struggling with faith during those long hours of the night. And I sure get that.
But I was.
I was rehearsing all the ways it was hard instead of all the ways God is good.
I was experiencing the relentless pain of suffering rather than enjoying the reassuring presence of Jesus.
I was pleading for relief for my daddy and missing the reassurances from the Spirit.
So, I made myself hum the tunes and mumble the words to all the songs. “For the Lord is good and faithful. He will keep us day and night. We can always run to Jesus – Jesus, strong and kind.” We had sung those words on the way to the hospital. I knew they were true. But my feelings pushed against those words. Not because I doubted who He is. It was because I still often lack faith to believe that His goodness and my good are inseparable. But that is my reality in Christ, and that frame of mind is what I desire and what I must pursue.
Oh I WANT TO believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.
Jesus IS better. Make my heart believe.
Researchers say that the older we become, the harder it is to learn a new language. I feel certain that is true. Words and thoughts stick in our minds. Something becomes engrained over time, and it’s hard to train ourselves to think differently. That is why we never stop preaching the language of the gospel to our souls. It is a universal language for trials and suffering. No matter the report or results of the test or the surgery, the truth of the gospel is always good news. And it is able to sustain our weak and tired hearts.
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we preach) because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. For the scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.'” Romans 10
What we see with our human eyes is not completely true. That is why we must remind ourselves of our spiritual reality. What I experienced in the hospital room was hard. There was no normal. I understood so little of what was happening. But “my reassurance, my encouragement, my consolation” was real. Though I spent some hours in fear and anxiousness, God’s presence never left. The prayers of friends and family were sustaining me. I never once doubted His tender care even though I fretted an unexpected or undesired outcome.
And now I see better.
I SEE YOU.
I now see you better, friend.
The one who waits for the outcome of a loved one’s surgery.
It is for your comfort I spent the night in the hospital with my recovering daddy.
It is so I would know what it feels like to stand beside the bed of someone so loved and wonder if everything is going to be alright.
I learned your language that night.
And I will never be the same.