Thursday

Dr. B's Red Pajamas

I never thought I'd see him again, but there he was, rolling through our office doorway, dressed in his classic tweed blazer, but with a twist -- bright red pajama bottoms.

Dr. B. always requested me as his dental hygienist.  Because of our regular appointments, I knew quite well the physical challenges he had experienced.  A tall man, always nicely groomed with a shock of white hair, Dr. B. is an education specialist at a local university. He had his first hip replacement some twelve years ago. Afterward, he walked with a cane and a limp. 

Three years after surgery, his hip was recalled. This meant he had to suffer another surgery, along with extensive rehabilitation.  Three years after his second surgery, his hip failed again. Now he is permanently confined to a wheel chair. A taxi driver delivers him to all of his appointments.

Six months ago, he was so weak and sick when he arrived at our office that he couldn't get out of the taxi. Our doctor met him at the car and directed him straight to the emergency room.  He spent four months in the hospital. We never expected him to be released.

But there he sat, dapper as usual, his dignified charm unaffected by his less than formal pajama pants. I had to hug him. 

"You don't know what I went through these past months," he said.

"I heard," I replied, "and I am really glad to see you."

While I was thinking of the physical trial he had been through, there was another trial weighing heavily on his heart.

"My oldest brother died three months ago," he said, eyes filling up with tears, "and my youngest brother died a few weeks ago. I couldn't attend either funeral. My son and his wife went in my place."

My heart hurt for this man who had suffered so much.  While up to this point I had been unable to offer him anything but sympathy concerning his physical trials, I now had a place to connect.

"While my family was in Mexico on a mission trip," I told him, "my sister-in-law died suddenly.  We were unable to make it back for her funeral. Dear friends stood in our places.  It brings a lot of comfort, doesn't it, knowing that someone is there on your behalf?"

"Yes it does,"  he replied thoughtfully.

Although my words changed nothing about Dr. B's situation, I know they brought a measure of comfort to his tender heart. There is something about the fellowship of suffering that bonds people together.  The apostle Paul talked about the mysterious power of shared pain in Second Corinthians 1:4-5, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

When we reach out to people in the name of Jesus and allow them to share both our pain and our consolation, in a small way, we redeem our suffering.  We choose, as Joni Erickson Tada often says, not to waste the pain.

If you have experienced a painful time in your life, maybe a job loss, a death, a broken marriage, a sickness, or a wayward child, and God has brought you through, be ready to offer words of hope and comfort to those around you. Be ready, as Peter admonished us, "to give a reason for the hope that lies within you" (1 Peter 3:15).

Be comforted, also, that suffering surrendered to Christ and offered up for his use is not in vain.  Instead of despairing, we can "rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:13).





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