A Small Gift for the Suffering

When those we love suffer, our helplessness and compassion overflow in small expressions of care. We know our gift is nothing in the face of what our loved ones are going through – it cannot answer excruciating questions or heal wounds. But we bring these gifts anyway; we stand on the porch with a pot of soup.

I view this post as such an offering – not one that presumes to answer unanswerable questions or to cure heart-wounds, but an image painted with words that has been stirring hope in me, and that I wish might bring the kind of comfort soup or flowers might bring to you:

It’s a line from a tender poem mixing together with the theme from a wise book.

Snow and Grace

A friend of mine wrote a poem about snow, likening it to grace. She described the flakes gently falling at night:

All the cavernous places slowly filled and for the first time in oh so long, became the envy of all~like a setting for a diamond.

(“Midnight Snow of Grace,” sonyathompson@wordpress.com)

This image has risen as a hopeful longing in my heart as I have sat helplessly with several friends in seasons of suffering this past week.

I want to see the losses, fears, indignities, and pains of those I love filled with grace like the “cavernous places” Sonya writes about. I want these very places in my loved one’s lives – in my life – to be the places that one day shine as settings for grace.

I trust this hope has basis.

Prayer

 O. Hallesby says, “To pray is nothing more involved than to let Jesus into our needs. . . To pray is to let Jesus glorify His name in the midst of our needs,” (“Prayer,” loc. 60).

His primary metaphor for understanding prayer is Jesus saying,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him,” (Rev 3:20).

Hallesby says we pray in response to Jesus’ initiation, His knocking at the door of our hearts. We only think to pray, he says, because Jesus is there knocking. Prayer is opening the door, giving Him access to our empty places.

I see loss, difficulty, and uncertainty as cavernous places, and I have hope that when we open them to Jesus He fills them with grace so they can become, as Sonya said, like settings for diamonds.

Power in Weakness

I read this week these words of Paul:

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Cor 12:9,10).

I confess I have never understood or particularly liked these words.

But now I am thinking perhaps he is speaking of what I am trying to understand, that  the worst things we experience can make space for Christ, for grace, in our lives. Maybe, as much as I resist it, it is our weakness and emptiness that makes room in our hearts for more of Him.

I do know that I can look back at some of the trauma’s of my life – a life-threatening head injury and years of helmet-wearing, the murder of my aunt and cousin – and see the truth of this word-picture.

As I have slowly opened to Jesus these places of loss, fear, and pain in my life, these very places have become the meeting ground where I have encountered His tenderness and compassion, His love for me. My weakness and pain drove me to seek Him, and He allowed Himself to be found by me.

In this way, my emptiness becomes the only thing I can bring to the world, because as He has filled it, I have come to know Him a little better, and it is only what I know of Him that I can bring to anyone else: I trust that my cavernous places are becoming settings for the display of His grace.

It took years for me to open my wounded heart to Jesus, inviting Him to enter in. I didn’t know I could, or that He cared.

But now I hope that I will do so sooner, that as soon as a cavernous place opens up in me, I will open the door to Jesus, inviting Him into my helplessness and need. I hope I will be encouraged by Hallesby’s simple understanding of prayer: “To pray is to open the door unto Jesus and admit Him into your distress,” (loc. 145).

And I hope, then, that those very places of emptiness will fill with His grace and become settings for His beauty.

I pray it will happen for you too, that if you are suffering today, you can sit down with Jesus and this word-picture, like friends sharing soup, and open your losses and your wounds to Him. May He begin to fill them with grace, that your loss and suffering can become the very place where you meet Him most intimately and experience His love most deeply.

In this way, may every loss be slowly redeemed until it shines like snow in the sunshine, glistening in this dark world.

This is my prayer, my hope, for you and for me.

 

Image: usmc-100102-m-1298m-005.jpg

7 thoughts on “A Small Gift for the Suffering

Add yours

  1. Absolutely Beautiful! Thank you for the encouragement. I sent this to my daughter-in-law who is in great need right now.

  2. Thank you, Jasona, for this post. It has come to me as a comforting gift just when I needed it! I read your words last night after spending three hours at the ICU then sitting at home crying and praying and feeling the loss from another death. For many years I have had a cavernous place in my heart since my mother died when I was in my twenties. Then 1 1/2 years ago I found her birth family–living within an hour’s drive of us. I found a cousin the same age as my mother who had been a toddler in the same home with my mother and always wondered what happened to little Imogene whose mother died of TB and who was adopted out during hard times. This newfound cousin, Mary Lou, was as thrilled to find me as I was to find her. And gradually I learned that she was a person of faith who loved the Lord and was burdened for much of her family. We loved each other immediately and it seemed the mother-cavern in my heart began filling with unexpected beauty. Then this winter she (84 years old) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Long vigils in the hospital brought us together with all her children and grandchildren. And the cavern of suffering filled with cousins who enfolded us and we have found ourselves surrounded by family we never knew we had. Last night my husband and I stood with 16 of Mary Lou’s family members around her ICU bed as she lay at death’s door. We had each had opportunity to sit with her and express our love to her. But the grief and suffering and impending loss was creating a huge cavern that everyone felt. Then this family, with tears, each at various stages of belief and unbelief, gathered round the beloved mother and grandmother who had been their strong, caring, faithful hub and, instead of calling the hospital chaplain, asked the one sibling who had been a steady church attender, to pray. I doubt they’d ever done that before. But as gentle, simple, real, heartfelt words poured from that brother (one of my newfound cousins, who has had much suffering in his life) grace like rain–or pure snow crystals–poured sweetness into the gaping cavern of sadness. Surely every heart, no matter how unaccustomed to praying, was touched. … How can sadness be so sweet?! As you say, a setting for grace.

    1. Oh, Cathy, thank you so much for sharing this. I saved it for a quiet moment, and I am so glad I did, as it has brought tears to my eyes. I am sorry for your losses, and I am comforted by your stories of grace. Thank you. Thank you. And may the Father of mercies and God of all comfort continue to comfort you in the days and weeks ahead.

  3. Finally I am reading your thoughts on grief and suffering. Beautiful and comforting. Keep at it for the sake of those “out there” who will benefit. Love, Sandy Ewing

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