By Walter Albritton

A message given to the staff of Dr. David Morrison

Cancer Care Center of Montgomery

March 16, 2006


          Weeping for others is as old as the human race. The prophet Jeremiah wept for his people and cried out for the Balm of Gilead:


            My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. "Has the LORD abandoned Jerusalem?" the people ask. "Is her King no longer there?" "Oh, why have they angered me with their carved idols and worthless gods?" asks the LORD. "The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone," the people cry, "yet we are not saved!"  I weep for the hurt of my people. I am stunned and silent, mute with grief.  Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people? (8:18-22)


            Our Lord Jesus has such compassion for the sick that he healed many of them. On one occasion he showed a remarkable kindness to a deaf man who could not speak:


            Jesus left Tyre and went to Sidon, then back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him to a private place away from the crowd. He put his fingers into the man's ears. Then, spitting onto his own fingers, he touched the man's tongue with the spittle. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and commanded, "Be opened!"  Instantly the man could hear perfectly and speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news, for they were completely amazed. Again and again they said, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even heals those who are deaf and mute."  - Mark 7:31-37


          Not wanting to embarrass the man, Jesus took him aside to minister to him. What beautiful compassion! He did not want the poor man to feel humiliated before the crowd. In much the same way doctors and nurses take the sick aside to help them in privacy. As you work with your patients, you get to know them; they become your friends. But some of them do not get well; they suffer and they die. That makes you suffer because you are compassionate people. What do you do then with your feelings? You have at least two options:

           1) You can stifle your compassion, become stoic and refuse to get emotionally involved with your patients. By refusing to care deeply, you can protect yourself from suffering when your patients suffer and die. You can say that life, like war, is hell, and that is simply the way things are. You just grit your teeth and refuse to love so you won’t be hurt. Many people prefer this way of protecting themselves from pain. Or,

          2) You can seize the moment and care deeply for your patients and help them make the most of every day until life is over. What Jesus could do was much more than you can do, but you can make a difference. You have something to offer the sick that is more important than medicine. Solomon expressed it well when he said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).  A cheerful spirit can make a powerful difference to the sick and dying. God prescribes it even if doctors do not.

          I recommend this second option. As you care for your patients, do the best you can, and leave the rest to God. He is in charge of life and death. It is not within our power to keep people alive indefinitely. Death is a natural part of life and there are mysteries too complex for our limited minds to understand on this side. Let me share a few lessons I learned in hospitals:

          1. Suffering is a great teacher. It teaches us to value every waking moment. I was brash, cocky and carefree until our son David was diagnosed with leukemia. Then my real education began. I realized what pain doctors and nurses endure in order to serve others. Dr. T. Fort Bridges and his staff were such gracious, loving people; they hurt with us during David’s 9-month battle with leukemia. Our crash course in suffering culminated one morning when Dr. Nels Ferre took us in his arms and said, “God hurts like you hurt.” We have never forgotten the compassion of this good man who lifted the dead body of our son off the bed and asked the Lord to receive his soul. A second lesson is this:

          2. We are not alone. God is with us. His name is Immanuel, God with us! My wife almost died from a terrible lung disease. Suddenly one day she was better. The doctor did not know why. My wife complained that it was terribly hot and stuffy in her hospital room. Then a cool breeze came into the room. She said, “I felt a Presence. I looked around but could see no one. But I felt someone was in the room. Then, all of a sudden, I felt well.” The doctor confirmed her wellness the next morning and dismissed her.

          You are not alone as you walk the halls of the hospital. There will be times when Christ will seem so present that you can feel his hand on your shoulder. When you are weak, He will give you the strength to carry on and you will know then that He is with you. He helps popes and preachers but He also loves to help doctors and nurses share his compassion with the sick. The final lesson is this:

          3. Gentleness and kindness are more valuable than diamonds when you are suffering. When I almost died because of a blood clot, I was on the brink of departing. I remembered Paul’s words: “The time of my departure is at hand.” I thought my time was up. But the doctors and nurses who cared for me gave me hope and treated me with unbelievable gentleness and kindness. I shall never forget those days or the kindness extended to me. It went far beyond the requirements of professional care. What they gave me was compassion like that of Jesus, and it stirred my gratitude to the depths.

          As you care for your patients, do the best you can, and leave the rest to God. Offer every ounce of kindness and cheer you possess and depend on Christ to refill the reservoir within you. The more compassion you give away, the more He will restore your supply.

          He will help you to grow in your capacity to love people – even those you can love only for a little while. As you feel pain, and shed tears, remember that our Lord was acquainted with grief. Offer your tears to Him and allow Him to turn your tears into the wine of joy. Never look for a way to avoid being hurt by the suffering of others. Remember you are made in the image of the God who hurts like you hurt. Pain is part of His plan for shaping us into the compassionate servants He wants us to become.

          As James reminds us, our life is but a shadow, like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes. While we have life, let us do the very best we can with it in the hope that one day our Savior will welcome us home with that best of all greetings: “Well done, good and faithful servant”!

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