Friday, 11 January 2013
When Peace is stronger
Elizabeth gave birth to Sherry, our second son, a few minutes after being taken to the labour room of the hospital. Johny our eldest, was so happy to hear about the birth of his younger brother.
As for my wife and all at home, we were greatly relieved when the mother and child were discharged from the hospital within the normal time period. Elizabeth was in Kerala while I remained in California.
In the early 1970s, I was responsible for setting up and running a nuclear medicine department at Bay Harbour Hospital in Harbor City, California. In the course of my work, I met many of the hospital’s patients and their relatives, as well as a number of clinical and non-clinical staff members. I enjoyed working with these people and tried to provide the best services possible to the community. As a result, I gained the people’s confidence and got to know their lifestyles and values.
While I was away, however, Sherry suddenly developed respiratory problems. He could suck and take in fluid, but only at a low rate. Then he too like Johny, started to get cyanotic attacks because of choking. Soon he developed a respiratory infection that required hospitalization.
The problems multiplied. Johny needed attention at home, and Sherry needed Elizabeth in the hospital. Johny turned three while Sherry was in the hospital. Finally Sherry improved. When it was possible to manage him at home, he was discharged from the hospital. Johny was thrilled to see his brother back home.
It was only a few days later that Sherry developed further breathing difficulties. Suddenly he became breathless and blue and was rushed to the hospital.
Away in California, I was discussing a couple of bone cancer cases with my colleagues when word came that I had a telephone call. The message was a cable, relayed over the telephone, from Kerala. I knew that both of my sons were ill. As I listened to the cable, I heard the news that no parent ever wants to hear: my younger son had died!
After I received the message, I returned to my colleagues to finish the discussion, which took another twenty minutes. When it was over, I told my colleagues about the death of my son.
They were shocked. They couldn’t believe I had come back from this sudden, devasting news to continue participating in our discussion. Their love, empathy, and condolences were expressed by pin-drop silence. I finally broke that silence by telling the group that I had been able to go on because I had experienced ‘God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. -The peace that keeps your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest’ (Philippians 4:7). It was this peace that gave me the strength to do what I needed to do, despite the terrible loss I had suffered.
There are those who are skeptical about the existence of a ‘peace that transcends all understanding’. New knowledge is being gained every day. In fact, according to one estimate, it would take an average student five years to catch up on all the new discoveries made in a single day. It is practically impossible for the human mind to comprehend something that transcends all understanding.
And yet, at the moment of my greatest need, I experienced such a peace-a peace that kept ‘my thoughts and heart quiet and at rest’. Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
When I finally left my colleagues, I wanted to find out the details of my child’s death. In those days it was difficult to get telephone connection to our hometown in Kerala. I booked an overseas call to Tiruvalla, my hometown in India, thinking that I might get through during the night. I reminded the overseas operator about my pending call after I had eaten my evening meal.
In a few minutes, I heard my telephone ringing. I answered it eagerly, hoping it was my wife. But it was a local call from a troubled man I had helped and encouraged. He was going through a difficult time, struggling with feelings of depression, and he asked if I would counsel him.
After talking to me for more than thirty minutes, he thanked me and asked me to pray for him. I prayed a short prayer. As I was saying good night, I asked him to pray for me, too.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“This morning I received a cable message from home in India, informing me that my younger son has died. I’ve booked a telephone call to speak to my wife and will appreciate your prayers that the call will go through soon”, I explained.
Suddenly he began to weep like a baby. “Your problem is bigger than mine”, he said, “but you took so much of your valuable time to help me. It seems you even forgot that you were waiting for the overseas call”. He continued weeping.
“The God who enabled me to help you is able to solve all your problems”, I responded. I did not begrudge the time I spent talking with this man. I knew that if we nurse only our own wounds, we will not be able to see the wounds of others. And that is what Christ call us to: to heal the wounds of others.
I told the weeping man to trust God and not to worry. God was not only going to take care of his needs but was also going to bless others through him. In fact, I was strengthened by taking the time to help another who was in pain.
My call to India went through around midnight, and before going to bed I thanked the Lord for all He had done in my life that day.
What a wonderful God we have… the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? so that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort that God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God tenderly comforts us when we suffer. Even more He helps us to use such times to apply what He has taught us. We know that this world is full of suffering. We encounter many opportunities to help others with the courage we gain from our own afflictions.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us- they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and help us to trust God more, every time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady ( Romans 5:3-4).