Posted: 27 Feb 2012 08:44 AM PST
"For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him" (Psalm 22:24).
In my vocation as a minister I am privileged to be a compassionate presence for people facing a hard time. This is a sacred experience. Anyone who has comforted a loved one in a hospital bed, provided a shoulder to cry on, or visited someone who feels forgotten and alone can attest to this. Experiences like these point to the healing power of human compassion as well as a central truth of Christian faith. Though life can present us with turmoil and afflictions of many kinds, God does not hide God's face, says the Psalmist, but hears us when we cry (verse 24). Another way to say this might be that God does not remove God's acceptance, approval, or love when we are afflicted, but attends to us with kindness. This mystery of God's compassion amidst suffering is foundational to the season of Lent. During Lent we reflect on, remember, and aspire to participate with Jesus' walk toward the cross, a walk that God takes with each one of us in seasons when we feel alone, afraid, or, as the first verse of this psalm portrays, "forsaken."
And yet the good news is that this journey toward the cross is not done alone or in vain. It was for love that Jesus carried the cross, and it is for love that we as brothers and sisters in faith bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). What a sacred task Jesus has set before us. What a sacred journey that we, the body of Christ, are privileged to share. What a gift it is to receive God's compassion for us through the compassion we share with one another.
Travis Winckler, minister for congregational care and engagement