Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Paul Kalanithi (April 1, 1977-March 9, 2015) was an Indian-American neurosurgeon and writer. He was a neurosurgical chief resident when he contracted stage IV metastatic lung cancer and died. His book, When Breath Becomes Air, is a memoir about his life and illness. Paul said, “The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.” (Random House: New York, 2016) p. 98.
Every human carries a pool of pain. Paul did. You and I do. With God’s help my pool of pain can become a breeding ground for compassion that shapes me into a fellow feeler—opening my eyes to the pain of other humans around me. Compassion moves me to lift off some of the suffering I see in others by sharing the burden of that pain.
How do I lift the burden? I share in the crushing, in the suffering described by Samuel Beckett as: “I can’t go on” but “I’ll go on” in every story ever written about perseverance under pressure. Maybe it is a brief coming alongside or maybe I will be called on to go the distance, as in the case of my dear friend who has dealt with multiple myeloma cancer for over 15 years. Her journey has been difficult—arduous, impossible even—but regular weekly doses of humorous cards have lightened her load.
Lord, help me notice. Help me feel. Help me move out in compassion. Have Your way with me.