Prayer for the suffering

Lord, open their eyes to see the compassion in your eyes.

The story behind this:

My mother in law passed away in November 2007. My wife and I went up for the funeral, and stayed for two weeks as she began putting her mother's house in order. On my first day back at work, I thanked my supervisor for letting me stay away for two weeks, and told him about the funeral, the grieving and the celebration. Another colleague listened to our conversation, and I was struck by the compassion in her eyes. Weird, I thought, sympathy without words actually happens. I'd thought it was a literary cliché, a cliché from the kind of books I don't like to read much. But in real life, it's actually pretty neat!

A year and a half later our son was in a bad road accident while we were traveling in California. We got the phone call from the police that he'd been airlifted to the hospital. As we booked a quick flight home and hurriedly prepared to drive to the airport, wondering just how bad things might be, I thought of my colleague's compassionate glance and wished I could sign up for another one. Then as we got on the plane, a new thought came to me. James says that all good gifts come from God the Father. So that meant that the glance of compassion I still wanted but couldn't have because my colleague wasn't nearby, really came from God. What I'd appreciated in her eyes that day was a reflection of the compassion in God's eyes, if I could see them. That was a comforting thought. And ever since, in times of sadness, I've thought about God's compassion as I saw it reflected in my colleague's eyes that day. (As it turned out, our son had broken legs and a broken finger plus a dislocated elbow, but no head injuries and no internal injuries).

Another aspect of this story came to mind a couple years later. One of the common generalizations about men and women is that men always want to fix a problem, while women want compassion. We men are supposed to learn to listen to our wives and respond to how she feels, not just suggest how to fix it. But what, I thought, do we want God to do? God, revealing himself as "he" not "she," should be a fixer right? And who could be better at fixing things? Don't we always pray for a quick fix? An instant healing, a new job right now! But what if God chooses to not fix all our problems right away, but expresses compassion with us as we endure the problem?

So I pray for those in distress, that the eyes of their hearts would be opened to see God with them in their distress.

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